She stands on the bunny slope in her pink Wal-mart clearance-priced ski bib, sun burning her silhouette into my squinting eyes.
My little girl on skis.
I remember my first trip to the ski slope in western New York, about her age, when we couldn't afford lessons, so my brother tried to teach me until he got tired of helping me up. Time expired: Five minutes. The rest of the day I squirmed around on the cold snow-packed ground trying to right myself, poles akimbo, no idea what to do with the awkward things on my feet. My brother was long gone, onto bigger hills. I spent the rest of the day frustrated, in tears, mostly on my cold, wet behind.
Before I decided to spend the money on Jenna's lesson, I tried to teach her some of what I remembered, and since I wasn't on skis, I could help her up easier than my brother could me.
How interesting it is now that we're home, warm, dry, to think about how she interpreted my teaching -- "You're stressing me out, Mom!" "I'm TRYING!" "Never mind!" and other exaggerated reactions to what I thought were mild corrections and advice to keep her from careening into a barrel.
She was reduced to tears before I found someone to teach her, saying she was too "frustrated" to keep trying.
I had already seen her travel about eight feet without falling, so I knew she could do it. But something about Me As Mother instructing her wasn't working.
Everything I said was construed as criticism, even though I tried HARD to relate it as "Maybe try this," or "How about trying that." Okay, I might have lost my cool when she pulled me off my feet and I landed on my back. But overall, I was pretty easy going.
How interesting it was, then, when the 18-year-old ski instructor took Jenna under her wing, and she became a beginner skier inside of an hour.
How quickly she learned from someone other than ME, no fuss, no back-talking, no stress, no frustration. All of her beefs dissolved under the guidance of a non-mother, and she graduated to a 1+ beginner at the end of two hours.
She's getting to that age where she'll say, "Mom, stop, you're embarrassing me." I remember the first time I said it. And it reminds me. The push away, the I don't want you teaching/telling/taking/walking with/near me. You're too old. Besides, you're a Mother.
And in the next instant, a runaway five year old slams into her, knocks her down, and skis over her hand, and it's all me--"OHH Mom! OUCH!!!"
This is what age 9 is made of.
Half baby half grown.
It blows my mind and reminds me that the time with her near me is flying by. Skating, skiing, dancing, swimming, flying by.
What I say will mean less and less to her over time, until the mother-daughter tipping point when I hope she can make sense out of some of what I taught her after all.
It blows my mind to bits.