We recently took a trip to Big Sky Montana for a work conference for the Hubby. The kids find it funny that Dad still has to have “school,” but that is the nature of the beast with Medicine, good ol’ CMEs. On the upside, many class offerings are given to appeal to families, like the one offered at Big Sky. The Hubs had been there skiing 3 times prior to this trip, but not for about 20 years. I had never been there, and honestly was most dreading the 11+ hour drive to get there, with three kids, and boredom kicking in after 45 minutes.
We left a little before 7am ( a little less than an hour behind schedule, which for us was record-breaking) and despite one 30 minute yelling about our unwillingness to start a movie as her brothers slept, and a few too many “Are we there yets” just to be funny, the trip was entirely not too painful.
As the terrain of Montana morphed into foothills and then into mountains, the beauty was breathtaking. There had been quite a bit of snowfall, and dark masses of reaching pines stood flocked in heavy white snow. Thick falling flakes landed on a tumbling river adjacent to the road we traveled up the mountain. Abrupt rock walls ominously rose out of the earth exuding the sheer strength and ruggedness of this area. The village of Big Sky Resort finally appeared, nestled at foot of the mountains. A spaghetti pile of roads and chalets all built to admire the beauty of the mountains.
The sheer magnitude of the mountains, the beauty of snow-covered trees and the continuous sounds of Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews echoing throughout the resort area was intoxicating. Big Sky is so large I could find myself on a run, completely by myself, surrounded only by silence and nature, overcome with awe at the view.
In the base area, it was strangely refreshing to be at a place where it honestly seemed most everyone loved their job. How could you not like your job if you got paid to ski, or teach others to ski, or help people get on ski lifts or take them on tours and meet people from all over the world? They seemed happy and it permeated the atmosphere there.
One day we got to the base area and my daughter needed to go to the bathroom, but she wasn’t sure where it was and needed me. I told my oldest to go with my youngest to the ski valet and get their skis. Someone without kids would never realize the liberation of this moment. Here, in a crowded, skier-filled area, my 11 year old marched off with confidence, the 5 year old in tow to grab their skis and get ready to ski. There was no need for me to juggle trying to be in 2 places with three kids at one time. It was just such a small moment, but it hit me. “We are there. The sweet spot.” We are past diapers, and sippee cups and almost everyone can wipe their own butts. Yet we have not been afflicted by the tween years yet. Our oldest, more than once, said “This is the best vacation ever! Thank you SO much Mom and Dad.” At 11 years old, he wanted to give us hugs and BE with us. At meals they were not face down in a phone. Yet were competing with each other drawing their own version of the mountain and skiers with their 4 pack of restaurant issued crayons.
The kids, for the most part like each other. The major fights were usually over who got to push the elevator button and the sharing of the single iPad. They are growing and morphing. They still need me, but not in that all-engrossing way. They are no longer 100% crying, defenseless consumers of everything around them, but short humans full of observations and not-yet-jaded, often humorous truths.
On the ski-lift, we watched snowboarders and skiers freestyle below us, and my daughter announces “They have skills that can pay the bills!” and I just look at her and laugh at her witty declarations. After the 5 year old got done with ski-school, I asked “Did you listen well?” “Yeah… well, I didn’t listen ONE time.” he answered. I chuckle at his honestly. As I skied with my oldest, I said, “I am SO proud of you! You have learned so quickly!” And he replied, “Thanks. You should be proud of Leah too.” As much as they fight, they do really look out for each other, and I am warmed by his defense of his little sister.
Around the second day we were there, we swam in the heated outdoor pool with the kids, the steam billowing around us as we relaxed in warm water surrounded by cold white snowbanks. The kids have grown enough that my need to be on high alert at all times around water has waned. I sat with my husband watching them play and I realized we, us, our family, is in the chapter of life of a sweet spot.
And just as the steam from the pool rises and disappears into the blue cold sky, I know that this time will also dissipate sometime soon, as the kids continue to age and are replaced by hormonal, unpredictable, door-slamming, eye-rolling troglodytes. Until then, I am really going to try to soak up the moments between the fights and tears and relish in this momentary sweetness.