Watching Kids Conquer Fear at the Mountain Top

Ski the snow in front of you.

“Dad, is this an easy slope ?”

It wasn’t. I had made the classic parental mistake of choosing the wrong way down the mountain. My children knew how to ski but were still beginners. One wrong turn, and we were at the top Ridge Run on Heavenly mountain. My 9-year-old Lucia and 11-year-old Liliana had no interest in the beautiful view of Lake Tahoe. They just wanted to get down the mountain.

On this sunny, perfect spring ski day, my children had progressed from the bunny slopes to the greens. They graduated from pizza and french fries to parallel skiing. Most important, they were growing in their confidence.

Then, I turned left.

There is only one way down.

Stopped at the top, we peered down the slope. I saw a perfect, steep and wide, run skiers dream of with a spectacular view of the lake. My daughters only saw danger. They glared at me with that combination look of fear and anger that only daughters can master.

Ski the snow in front of you

It was time for a Dad pep talk. We gathered ourselves at the top for a few minutes. They were frozen with fear. We reviewed how to turn, how to control speed, and how to stop if you felt out of control. I emphasized that skiing is just a series of steps that you have already mastered. Don’t think about the entire mountain. Just plan your path down and think about the next turn. Ski the snow in front of you.

We skied down in a line. Lucia in the front, followed by Liliana with me lagging behind, ready to help to clean up after any spills. Turn by turn, we slowly navigated the bumps and moguls. Coaching and encouraging, I repeated the phrase, “just ski the snow in front of you.”

We made it down safe and sound. At the bottom, we stopped. We looked up and marveled at what they had accomplished. My daughters giggled and smiled with pride. They knew this was a big moment for both of them.

Our lives are like the snow

We often freeze at the mountain top, looking down at the perils that await us. We face obstacles and fears daily. Our job, our relationship, our finances, our health, and other stressors are the moguls and bumps that paralyze us with fear and anxiety. If we pause and view each obstacle individually, we realize we can ski down the mountain with relative ease. Getting through the day evolves from overwhelming to easy.

The challenges in our life are not a steep, treacherous mountain. They are a series of obstacles that, when viewed together, seem insurmountable. Overcoming each anxiety-provoking issue calls for taking a series of simple steps that we already have mastered. We know what to do. We tackle one project, one issue, and one conflict, one step at a time.

Celebrating the wins

At the bottom of the mountain, the kids could not stop talking about Ridge Run. They were so excited to brag to their older brother when we got back to the hotel. My moment of #dadfail was now an exhilarating moment of pride and accomplishment.

We often forget to celebrate the wins in our lives. We are so focused on what is next that we miss the “right now.” Sometimes, it is best to pause and be in the moment. I watched my kids overcome adversity as they skied the snow in front of them. Then, both of them asked, “Dad, can we do it again?”

Thank you to P.S. I Love You for publishing this article on Medium.

Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingstong

Blog Photo By: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash