4 Things I Learned about Motherhood by Skipping School


Wednesday was Ladies Day at Big Birch Ski Resort in Patterson, NY during the 1970s and 80s. I didn’t learn this from a commercial on TV or radio and I didn’t learn it from causal conversation around the dinner table at night. I learned about Ladies Day on a random Tuesday night while my mom was tucking me into bed. She told me to stay in my room and pretend I was coming down with a cold the next morning and she would get my 3 siblings off to school and then come and get me so I could join her and her friends for a day on the slopes.

I was thrilled.

I absolutely hated the fourth grade and would do anything to miss school. This was a chance for me to learn how to ski without my brothers and sister around and a chance to spend one on one time with my mom.

I’ve come to realize I learned just as much about motherhood during those days off as I did skiing.

You see, my mom had 4 kids in 3 years and some of us were really athletic and one of us (ME) was not. My Dad never took to skiing. So, instead of trying to teach us to ski by herself on a crowded Saturday she chose to pull each of us out of school separately on Wednesdays to “get the job done”.

Keep in mind this was BEFORE step-in bindings were invented. Standing on the side of an icy hill trying to get your child to put their ski boot back into their ski at the exact angle was not an easy task. As I mother of 2 I really don’t know how she had the patience to do it and I can see why she chose to take on the task of teaching one child at a time.

As for her keeping it secret? I think she did this for several reasons. She wanted to be certain we didn’t have a test the next day, that our homework was complete, and we really weren’t coming down with cold. She also didn’t want world war three breaking out at 7am the next morning because all 4 of us thought we should go with her that day. By keeping it a secret, so to speak, she could monitor school progress and keep these outings equal.

On to what I learned….

Independent Thinking And Owning Your Voice

My mom has always been an independent thinker. Ladies Day was no exception. It wasn’t like every other mother was heading to the slopes during the week with kids in tow. Mom was the only one doing that and I’m sure her friends may have questioned her methods. She understood that all children and families are unique. Everyone has their own learning style and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. Mom was not afraid to step outside the box or go against the grain when it came to teaching us about life. She had a way of not letting other people’s opinions stop her from doing what she intuitively knew was right for our family.

Self-Care and Friendship

Lunchtime was one of my favorite parts about our ski days. Everyone skied at different levels so my mom and her friends didn’t always see each other on the trails but they always met for lunch. There was no wine and fancy food. We were brown bagging it around an old table in the small, semi run down lodge but there was an energy around these ladies that was unmistakable. They didn’t talk about their children or their ability to parent. They talked about life beyond the drudgery of housework and homework. They laughed. They celebrated being out, being together and having fun. No agenda. No gossip. Just women supporting one another. They were taking time out for themselves and in doing so honoring who they were both as women and as friends.

Spending time with your kids: Quality really is better than Quantity

I have 3 siblings and growing up there really wasn’t a lot of opportunity for any one of us to spend one on one time with our mom doing something fun. There was a lot to do around our house to keep it going like yard work, grocery shopping, ironing, cleaning and cooking. My mom did all of these things and spent time teaching us how to do them as well. But there are only so many hours in the day to get everything done and that left little or no time for play with her. Except for ski days. Keep in mind the learning part of the ski days wasn’t always easy (see the paragraph above about standing on the side of the icy hill) but there was something really special about just being together and having her full attention. In reality my mom took me out of school 3 times that year. But it feels like we spent every week together because of the magnitude of our connection during those days off.

That brings me to the final point:

Life Long Learning and Life IS Learning

My mom didn’t grow up skiing. She learned how to ski a year or two before she started teaching us. She valued knowledge and challenged herself to learn something new every year. She wanted learning to be fun and I think she wanted us to see there was more to life than sitting in a classroom all day long. Life was short and childhood is even shorter. Whatever school work I missed on those random days off was okay. I’d learn the concepts collectivity throughout the year or I’d learn them in some other way. My mom demonstrated life- long learning to me that year. There are so many events of my childhood both good and bad that I’ve forgotten but I’ve never forgotten ski days with mom.