Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sledding on Martin Luther King Day

I probably should have found a Civil Rights presentation or volunteer project to take my kids to yesterday. Instead, rightly or wrongly, I let them go sledding.

The snow here is nearly two feet deep right now: thick and powdery. They tromped up and down the slope in the field adjoining our house until they had made their own smooth path; then they sailed down it on their slick plastic sleds, over and over again, until more than an hour had passed.

While they sledded, I did my daily run: back and forth along the driveway and past the sledding hill until I’d covered two miles. Then I stopped next to the hill to watch them. I let the dog off leash once the run was over; it took her a surprisingly long time to work up the courage (or simply the intelligence) to hurdle the snowbank at the edge of the driveway, but once she finally did, she bounded easily across the field to where Tim was lying in the snow after a particularly good slide. Belle jumped on top of him with all four paws, but he didn’t mind. Sledding involves plenty of snow, rolling around and physical contact; one more dog added to the mix didn’t cause any problems.

“Mommy, watch what I can do!” Holly yelled over to me, echoing the words that kids universally invoke when swimming. I pulled off my headphones and focused on her. Though I thought she simply wanted me to admire her skill at deploying gravity to lie on her sled and fly down the slope, she had in fact mastered the ability to stand on her sled like a snowboarder – and all that in the short time it took me to run two miles’ worth of driveway lengths. “That’s really good, Holly!” I called back to her, and I meant it. I was impressed with her balance and her courage.

My kids always get along well when they’re sledding. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, or the exertion, or the enjoyment of the activity itself, or the fact that it’s just the two of them up on the hill, but the usual petty sibling rivalries that riddle their daily interactions when inside the house seem to float away on the brisk winter wind. Together they egg each other on, cheer each other’s best and fastest runs, commiserate over particularly messy tumbles when the sled hits a bump.

It was cold out; after an hour they’d had enough and headed inside for hot chocolate. Nothing beats sledding on a cold winter day, especially a day off from school. As a parent, I feel a little bit guilty that I didn’t make the point of the holiday – celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – more the focus of their day. Instead, I let them go sledding. They still have so much left to learn about human rights of all kinds and the many other ways that Dr. King attempted to address injustice. Next time I’ll try harder to make it an educational holiday for them.

But yesterday, for better or worse, I let them go sledding.

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