I have been eyeing the sleds for some time, but it was with the first snowfall that I took K out to buy his first sleek red plastic sled. K is 3.5 years old and this is his first snow.
K is aware of snow. As a child of the north, I have been doing what I can to instill in K an appreciation and joy for snow, which tends to be a bit difficult when living in tropical Asia for his entire life. Starting last Christmas, I purchased some winter themed books for K and told him stories of snow. We also downloaded some PBS Curious George episodes that show George playing in the snow, which really helped K to conceptualize snow and winter.
K has gone sledding before, though he was so young I know he does not remember it. Singapore had a winter play place complete with igloo, and abdominal snowman, and a sledding hill. After substituting our sandals for socks and boots and our sunglasses for thick hats and mittens, we hit the slopes. We only got about three runs in before we had to emerge back into the tropical heat outside, but he seemed to have enjoyed the experience.
The slope was packed from the other older kids who have been riding down the hill for the past two days. We had not gone sledding earlier as we wanted this to be a family affair. So after about 45 minutes of struggling to get K, M, and myself into appropriate winter sledding gear, we went and picked up mommy from work and headed directly for the hill. The hill was not my first choice, there was a much longer hill at the park in town that I had been eyeing with sweet anticipation as my own memories of racing down white blanketed hills filled my mind; but, my more prudent wife informed me that this more “bunny” sized hill would be better for K.
As I worked my way up the hill pulling the sled behind me and with K right to my side, I realized that my wife was right. I only went half way up before stopping to set up the sled for K. He is only 3.5 and perhaps the bigger hill with the longer run should wait until he is a bit more experienced. For the first run, I went down on my knees behind K holding on to the red sled, keeping the pace quite slow as he giggled away. We did that two times and then I told K that he would be going down by himself next time, at which point he said he was done. I quickly retracted my statement and said that I would continue to slide with him. We got back to our starting point, this time I put my legs around the sled to slide on my butt and halfway down the sled “slipped” away and K completed the hill by himself. He laughed and rolled out of the sled excited and I asked if we wanted to try again, this time all by himself. Oh Yeah!!
We walked back up to the halfway mark, K climbed into the sled as I held it in place. He asked that I give him a count, like a rocket ship; 1…2…3…4…5 I launched him down the slope. He sped down, much faster than his previous rides with me slowing the process, hit the bump at the end, caught a little air, and coasted out to a stop. Silence…he just sat in the sled for a moment, then threw his head back and ripped out a scream, rolled out onto the snow, hopped/danced a little circle, went back to the sled, picked it up, ran farther out into the field and threw it away, turned to me and bolted back up the hill laughing all the way. He reached me and his silly huge smile was completely infectious, as he demanded to go again by himself.
My heart jumped and I was smiling like a fool. Out of the past eight years, seven of them have been spent in hot Asia. K had only known Myanmar, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, minus a few trips to Southern California and one to Northern Michigan when we was five months old. One of the primary reasons for us to now be in Sweden was my insistence on being in a place with cold weather. I am a child of the north and love the snow and I have been wanting to share my memories and experiences of growing up in a winter wonderland with my own boys. I realize that by choosing to raise my children abroad, they will have many divergent perspectives, experiences, and cultural traits from my wife and me; but snow, snow and a love for the outdoors is a value that I really want to instill into them. Living in Myanmar, with the super hot and then super wet weather, we were not able to enjoy the outdoors as much as I would like. We were stuck in Yangon, barely a passable park available, and no forest to speak of. When we traveled to other SEA countries, we tended to visit urban areas and only occasionally made it out to the countryside. All of which contains their own beauty; just not he stark beauty of birch trees outlined in snow with green pine needles contrasting with the crisp blanket of white. K’s joy of sledding was affirmation that our family had made the right choice of moving to Sweden.
I happily told K he could go again, but first he had to run back down the hill and bring back his sled. I counted him off again and he bolted down to his red sled and came racing back to me. I spent the next twenty minutes in parent heaven, watching my son have so much fun. He would bolt down the hill, eyes wide shut, scream at the end of each ride, roll out of the sled and run it back up to me and with each ride he would want to start farther up the hill. Mean while, my wife was pulling M around in his bucket seat blue sled, fully equipped with a seatbelt, and reported that M was smiling away, content as could be. We reined in K and packed away the sleds and left the slope knowing we will be back very soon.
I would like to provide you with pictures, but a camera could never capture the pure excited joy coming from K, or the same from myself for that matter. Besides, we are in Sweden, the sun set at 3:30 so we were out sledding in the dark.