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We spent a lovely family weekend at the Smuggler’s Notch Family Resort in Vermont. I was there for a Saturday a.m. blogging conference (at which I learned how little I actually know), but it was also a (generously comped) opportunity for Martin and I to spend some quality together time with our kids. Our older daughters are graduating from elementary school tomorrow (how did that happen so fast?), and about to turn 12 this summer. We’ve become aware that all too soon they will rather do something (anything) with their friends than spend a weekend with us, and we want to squeeze out every moment possible before they do.
The best part of a fabulous weekend was arguably the three hours spent ziplining with Arbortrek Canopy Tours yesterday morning. We’re a pretty active family, and we figure that even when they are teens, they will still look forward to time spent skiing, hiking, snowshoeing or camping.
I’m not a nervous person generally, as long as no toasters are involved anyway, so I was pretty sure I’d be ok with the adrenaline and thrills of a morning spent above the ground. So I was a little surprised when we got up to the first platform, waaaaay above the ground, and one of our twins was being hooked onto the cable. That thin little cable.
I tried not think about carrying those two little girls inside me.
The 22 ultrasounds, countless non-stress tests, the weeks sleeping in a recliner when I was too massively pregnant to lie down. The sleepless nights. Sleepless days. Tandem nursing sessions that lasted hours. Kissed away tears over bruises, band aids on scraped knees, middle-of-the-night nightmares, sore stomachs, sore throats, burning foreheads, Emergency room visits. Marathon re-readings for many months of that irritating Beatrix Potter rhyme collection. Those damned talking Barney dolls. Walking into their first day of school holding each other’s hands. Kissing away tears over friendship dramas. Chocolate ice cream proffered over boy-related dramas. Blowing out 11 years of birthday candles. Cheering them on the soccer field even though they were terrible. Cheering them on at the pool and the ski hill because they were actually amazing.
She was a little nervous. She looked over at me and her dad. I have no idea what the hell he was doing, because my world abruptly shrunk down to her two green eyes. I knew absolutely nothing about the harness she had been hooked into by those nice, seemingly competent guides. I hadn’t personally checked her equipment (what would I look for anyway?).
A perfect metaphor for adolescence. For taking some risks, pushing yourself a bit beyond your comfort level. She trusted us to take her to a safe place, but didn’t really know what we were doing.
She was so different from her siblings. Her younger sister was boisterous, begging to go first, leaping before looking. A natural risk-taker, a sensation-seeker. Her twin dealt with her anxiety with logic — asking questions about the trolley, the carabiners, the lanyards, the load-bearing stats on the massive Eastern Hemlock whose upper branches we were visiting. Each got their comforts and challenges in different ways.
Also a wonderful metaphor for parenting, for pushing your kids off the platform into thin air. You’re 99.9 percent sure the cable and harnesses will hold, and you need to bite your tongue about the rest. The slimmest chance that they might get hurt is outweighed by their need to try, to challenge themselves on things that scare even you.
I nodded and mustered a smile. And she jumped off the platform into the impossible June green of a Vermont forest, 70 feet high in the air. The cable sang its throaty hum. A tiny squeal and she flew off, away from us, her long hair fanning out from under her helmet. She disappeared from view, hundreds off feet away to the next platform.
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.