As I stood on the snowy slopes of l'Esperou on Mont Aigoual just over an hour from home watching my two heroes careering down on sledges at breakneck speed with a finish that resembled a small ski-jump, I reflected that this is what parenting is all about.
The Times held a debate recently on the joys of parenthood in the light of so many women deciding not to have children. There were many arguments against having children other than infertility, illness, etc., no doubt valid to those who wrote them and that's fine if that's the way they think. However, the sheer joy of watching intense happiness on the faces of the boys as they succeeded in handling their sledge ever better and faster was so great that those arguments, based as they were on third hand experiences and self-centredness just seemed to crumble into lame excuses.
There is no way to express the pleasure of children until you have your own since other people's kids are no comparison.
The boys had a fantastic day going up and down that slope, refining their movements and practising an elegant skid to stop. I hired little skiis for the youngest to give him a feel of skiing, and he loved trying that too, getting the hang of it within a couple of descents.
It was one of those perfect days of clear blue skies and a generous winter sun which warmed us enough not to need a jacket and touched our skin with a healthy glow. The snow was over a metre thick and packed down with all the sledges racing all over it. The village of l'Esperou was overwhelmed with the crowds from Hérault and the Gard all in search of a close-by opportunity for winter sports. The ski resort of Prat Peyrou was even busier so we kept to the lower sledging slopes, deciding to try skiing on a weekday during the holidays.
My fluorescent pink ski suit bought in Leclerc back in 1990 looked a tad untrendy, but you could certainly pick me out in a crowd! I now buy ski-wear for my eldest at the Secours Catholique where I can pick up salopettes worn for one season for 2€, and once my youngest has grown out of them, will return them so that other parents can benefit.
Seeing achievement through pleasure in children has to be one of the meanings of life.