The best present for Mothers Day that awaited for me at the Everest basecamp was a picture of my 6-year old doing Show and Tell on his mad mother’s challenge.
I hesitated sharing this photo. As is, I am deeply torn between the feeling of guilt of not always being there and the desire to infect my kids with the love for adventure. I certainly prefer to thread carefully when espousing views on motherhood being on my 38th night away from home and some 4000 miles away.
True, I am an outlier at EBC. In fact, I am yet to meet another mother amongst 300+ climbers here at the Everest Base Camp. Yesterday going up an alternate fixed line on Lhotse face, I encountered quite a few women feeling an instant bond. As we were taking them over on our way up I chatted to women and paused a question whether they had kids. My Vox Populi returned zero hits.
Being an outlier attracts attention and immediate (and with a bloody hard) question from absolute strangers and friends alike: ‘How do your kids feel about you being here?’ I am yet to hear a man being asked that same question.
I forgive that prying curiosity. The truth is I don’t know. This Show and Tell picture gives me hope of pride as do my daughter’s messages of cheer on my Facebook wall. With fits of modern technology, I can Facetime my kids from my tent at EBC pointing to them Khumbu icefall and recounting struggles of the day. This by no means is a replacement for being there. The saving grace for me is an absolute support of my husband and amazing Irene who has been with my children since the day they were born. As is a time-limited frame of my project.
The best piece of advice came from a polar guiding friend some 15 years older than me who has a thriving family of 4, now grown up, kids. Dixie told me ‘Stop worrying so much about hurting your kids. It’s good for children to grow up with some notion of confusion. It prepares you for the life ahead, complicated and not always straight-forward where life does not revolve around us all the time’.
I try to derive some comfort from this thought. Confusion being a good thing rather than a disorientating one. I miss my kids terribly and I can’t wait to have them as my climbing partners so as not to be torn between duty and passion.
Back to my son. He is dreaming of his first expedition and is ‘coming along’ to my next expedition. Should I tell him it’s dangerous? Silly? Imprudent? That there is little point in climbing big rocks? Should I tell him he’d rather focus on chess or read classics?
He has heaps of charisma and passion and so far it is a play… the one that taught him names of obscure peaks and intricacies of belaying. He has views on mountain rescue and 8,000 meter peaks. He is committed to passion. And so am I. And it is terribly contagious. He lives in this moment and not inside a video game. And I am proud of him. My challenge ahead is to teach him about fragility of human life and perils of body’s momentum. But what we did teach him and his sister thus far is that when going gets tough you can come to this magnificent cathedral, get in the flow, play chess game with movements on a rock face and breath deeply.