Saturday, February 19, 2011


In a fit of what only can be described as a radically unfounded enthusiasm for the outdoors we decided to take the kids tobagganing. Living in BC means ridiculous cost of living,  receiving way below the national median salary, but also that mountains are about 30 minutes away, turning the 1000 mm of rain we get at sea level into wonderful, if soggy, snow.

Capitalism dictates that where there are parents desperate to create 'memories' for their children there are cramped ticket booths at the end of interminable lines ready to charge money for it. And they do. For bringing your own sled to go down the mountain. Gravity is apparently a premium resource.

We borrow tobaggans from the neighbours, who have kids who are quite a bit older. This should have sent off alarms for me, cautious dad that I am. But on the other hand, I want my kids to be more or less fearless, and adventurous about things, so I don't really give it a second thought. It's a board, that you sit on, to take you down a very long sheet of ice. If that doesn't say safety I don't know... it does sound suspiciously like the sport that poor Georgian died doing in our Olympics.

We get there, pay the fees, and stand behind the impromptu lines. The hill looks kinda steepish, kinda longish. I do have all the coordination of a inebriated stork in a hurricane, but I figure I can keep things under control. I'm the Dad, for crying out loud. Evolved over the millions of years to, if nothing else, protect the young. From sabre-toothed tigers and rampaging bison and the odd rampaging tribe.

Nothing to it.

But somewhere in the profoundly careful part of me, there are doubts. Serious doubts. I'm the sort of geek who can sprain his ankle if the sidewalk he's strolling on hasn't been professionalliy resurfaced in more than say, eight days.

Owl Jr. and Mrs. Owl go down on a narrow bottomed contrivance, it cuts into the snow and doesn't go terribly fast. I think, oh, this isn't so bad. 

A younger teenager takes his turn, he kneels on his tobaggan, and it just screams down the hill. I suppose being on his knees increases the speed and possibility of quadrapelegia should he hit a large tree. Whee. There's something familiar about his trip down, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

We go down, and geez, it certainly feels faster when you're on the sled. I brake with my feet, sending snow spray everywhere, we do a little 360 at a very slow speed and spill out. The worst thing is that snow gets into Owlet's jacket. She doesn't exactly enjoy the snow down her neck but wants to go again.

We go down a second time. I slow down again. Except I guess not enough, or we hit a bump. In any case we spill, but don't necessarily get untangled from the tobaggan, Owlet's hand gets dragged across the aforementioned sheet of ice that masquerades as snow and she's screaming.

We get up.  Somehow through crushing guilt and impenetrable sense of failure as a dad and a person, I keep my wits, much to my surprise. I find the injured wrist, but I don't know what's happened yet, just that Owlet is really giving her lungs a proper workout. There's echoes off the mountain, I believe.

First thing's first, I go through basic range of motion, nothing broken, whew. Then I pull back her coat sleeve and really look at it. There's a patch about the size of a dollar bill that's completely white, and I know that a nice swath of skin has been left on the hill.  In about 2 minutes there's going to some serious blood. Gotta get her to the medic tent. We trudge up the mountain to the saddest excuse for a cafeteria I've ever seen and I spot some offical looking teenagers standing around. I ask politely where the medic is, they call one in.

During this waiting time her wrist starts bleeding and it looks ugly. The teenagers are terrible at hiding their shock or their welling pity but I'm keeping things cool yet concerned. At some point they realize that hey, I'm the dad, and maybe they shouldn't overreact. One can really amp up the suffering of a kid's injury by overreacting.

She's actually much more concerned with what the medic is going to do. At this point her body is throwing so much stuff at the injury I don't think she's feeling anything. I spend all my time comforting her that the medic won't give her a shot or something equally horriifying.  Never mind that her entire wrist is eclipse in a pool of red, the medic might put on a BAND-AID. Her chief concern is a Band-Aid that's removed too quickly, something she did herself and still remembers. The things that cause anxiety in kids are weird, funny, and familiar.

At some point another dad comes in with his son, who has some blood in his mouth, he biffed it good as well. He's about the same age. Owlet is then used as a pacifier for that kid, "Oh, look at her, she's much worse", well, at least something good came out of it.

The medic finally arrives, patches her up, and we go for ice-cream, because that's the only rational response to mild childhood trauma, in my book. While watching Owlet wolf down her vegetable oil frozen ice cream synthetic it suddenly dawns on me that the tobaggan that the hotdogging teenager was using was the same model  as the one we used: stiff, flat bottomed, built for maximum speed.

We'll have to go up again, if nothing else than to stave off a phobia of hills, lineups, and tobaggans that I'm sure has taken root in Owlet. But at least I know that my enthusiasm for the outdoors is indeed, unfounded.

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