File Under “Landslide”

This week my older son and I went to the open house for the high school that he will be attending in less than eight months. It is a very strange feeling, having a child prepare for high school, and it is a feeling I will go through again next year at this time. Before you know it, the nest will be empty and I will have many extra hours a week, that are currently consumed by grocery shopping and food preparation.

This is very much a Landslide Moment; I recall my high school years vividly, and here we are. HERE WE ARE. I will say this though, as a neutral comment: elective classes are much, much more interesting than they used to be. I am actually very hard-pressed to remember what my electives were in high school; drama, I suppose, and French, perhaps? I don’t recall there being too much variety but at this school there are all sorts of things: mechanics and foods, robotics and computing, financial management and marketing, drama and music, sports medicine and yoga, cosmotology and design studies, and a number of languages including Mandarin. So it is an exciting time for a soon-to-be-fifteen-year-old. It’s exciting for me as well, to see his interests take off.

Also exciting for him is the Winter Camping Trip he’s going on next week, or, as the informative email subject line read, the ENVOE 9 Winter Adventure Overnight Trip. Adventure seems to be an apt term as a group of twelve Environmental and Outdoor Education students are being bussed to Yoho in BC, and then cross-country skiing twelve kilometers with elevation gain to a backcountry cabin, where they will melt snow for drinking water and build a snow shelter, with the option of sleeping in said snow shelter. I love cross-country skiing, I love the outdoors, I love Yoho, but my god, this trip sounds like my actual personal hell. All that would need to be added would be a thousand ice zombie moths and the nightmare would be complete. The kids are packing in everything that they will need, food included, for the two night trip and honestly, it sounds dreadful. My son, obviously much hardier than I am, is very much looking forward to it, and one of my girlfriends – whose son is also going on this trip – enthusiastically recalled a winter camping trip from her youth as being one of the highlights of her teen years. I am actively working on keeping an open mind, or more accurately, thinking better you than me, buddy. 

I will say that the parent information night did nothing to assuage my secret fears about this trip; if anything, it exacerbated them. The teachers in charge are both strong outdoor enthusiasts, the dads who are volunteering on the trip also seem similarly hardy and woodsy, but the following statement was not reassuring: I will have a satellite phone in case of emergencies, but I need to point out that due to our remote location, emergency crews will have a much longer response time. They SHOULD be able to get through via the fire road, but it will take longer. Also not great was pointing out that the area is considered “low risk” for avalanches, but the nearby lake is considered “Class 2 Higher Risk” but we probably won’t spend much time around there. PROBABLY?

I had to employ my ujjayi breathing techniques throughout the whole meeting, along with figuring out how to send lunch for Tuesday and Thursday, keeping in mind we don’t have any food storage facilities.” I stared at the What To Bring list with mounting panic, culminating in a long underwear, we need to buy long underwear, and OMG wool socks internal dialogue. Rather than feeling relief at the information divulged or excitement for the adventure to come, I just felt increasingly overwhelmed, which was manifesting in anxiety about the What To Bring list. Do we have a 60 L backpack, DO WE?

I am now eternally grateful for two things: that my husband never Kondo-ed his own drawers and therefore has all the high-quality, if dated, outdoor gear he purchased back in the nineties, and that he and my son are nearly the same height, albeit with a seventy-pound weight difference. As it turns out, he had every single thing that was needed on the list, to my great relief, and it ALL FIT, more or less.

We have been having an extraordinarily mild winter, so Wednesday’s blizzard, complete with white-out conditions and high windchill, felt like a bit of a shock. That also happened to be Grade Eight Ski and Snowboard Day, when my own grade eight child was to head to Canada Olympic Park for his introduction to snowboarding. All through the day I thought of the poor, frozen children on the ski hill. I loaded groceries into the car with the wind whipping my hood off my head, thinking sympathetically. I fully expected a poor report from said child but when he got home he raved about how much fun it was, how much he loved it, and no, he wasn’t cold, why do I ask?

Well, that’s another good reminder that we are not our children and also that an important part of parenting is to not project our feelings. Based on both the opting for Winter Adventures and the enthusiasm for snowboarding in terrible weather conditions, my children are much, much hardier than I am, not that I particularly needed further proof of that.

One of my biggest failings/ flaws is my inability to really roll with the punches. I am a highly organized individual, and I kind of fall apart when things change. Last week the orthodontist office called to reschedule an appointment, which has never happened before and which filled me with annoyance. By the way, what is it with orthodontists? Me: Could I get an appointment quite late in the day? Orthodontist office: Sure! The latest we have available is 1:30. Anyway, yesterday I took my son to get his impressions, in anticipation for getting braces on next Wednesday.

First: the appointment was rescheduled because the orthodontist, who just bought the entire practice from the former, retiring, well-established orthodontists, is no longer there. I tried very hard to be sympathetic – maybe he is terminally ill! Maybe he has a major family emergency! – but all signs point to maybe he has some major financial issues or possibly some sort of shady licensing thing going on. Let’s try very hard not to think of that too much. Second: the new orthodontist Does Things Differently and so when we showed up to the office, the office that was in total chaos because the staff only found out about this big change on Monday, we were told that impressions were not to be done. In fact, the braces were going to be put on NOW, THIS VERY MINUTE.

My internal dialogue went something like, now, omg, not now, my dinner plan for tonight doesn’t include soft foods, I’m not ready, no, not now, I’m too structured, I’m completely closed off whereas my son shrugged and said, “Okay, let’s do it, just put them on now.” I should be striving to be more like this, rather than waking up in the night and fretting that this man was actually not an orthodontist and what if the office closes forever and what will we do about my son’s braces?

Breathe. Just breathe. And rewrite the meal plan for the week. The children grow up to be their own people, and while I might be afraid of changing, they are not.


  1. This whole post gave me Panic Breathing, so I think it’s clear that I can relate. I need advance notice of Major Things like braces! And contemplating sending my child into the wild to fend for herself (other adults notwithstanding) gives me fits! My mind does the Worst Case Scenario cycling, which never ends well. Especially because I am entirely too creative when it comes to Worst Cases.

    But the thing is, it will all be fine! I did things as a kid (like go to Europe with a teacher of very questionable responsibility) that seem crazy in retrospect but worked out FINE. Your son will be FINE.

    Non perishable lunch items? Sun butter and crackers? Jerky? Dried fruit? I’m out of ideas now; I hope you fared better.

  2. bibliomama2 says

    I went winter camping with much of the stuff you described IN GRADE EIGHT, I JUST NOW REMEMBERED. And I remember it as being pretty fun, so not only are we not our children, we are not who we were as children either, because the stuff you listed is making me panic-breathe now. And I think the thing with orthodontists is that it is a very cushy gig and they make their own very-agreeable-to-them hours – ours takes five weeks off in the summer! – and they give very few fucks about the convenience of their patients, although ours was very sweet when we did finally manage to get in to see him.
    I’ve been rolling with the whole Angus-not-living-here thing pretty well, and now this week I’m just suddenly not handling it at all, and his name looks weird when I type it and it feels like I’m just imagining that I had a son once, and it’s weird and January-ish and unpleasant. So I feel you on yet another Landslide moment.

  3. North is going on a 10-day school trip to Columbia in April. There are monthly parent meetings about it. I go back and forth between thinking it’s crazy we’re sending them to a foreign country without us and that it will all be fine, but I am mostly pretty chill about it. Get back to me when the trip is closer, though.

  4. The only thing worse than summer camping is winter camping.

    Oh my gosh, WAY better electives now!! I almost want to go back to high school so I can re-choose. (Not quite. And not if winter camping is involved.)

    The orthodontist/braces thing would have made me FLIP THE FLIP OUT

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