I have heard a number of parents say that there is a moment where their child walked through a metaphorical door – a time when they suddenly shed the struggles that mark the young years of childhood and the day-to-day got a bit easier.
Some days I feel like that door is in sight.
I love these young years as much as they challenge me. I love the idea of helping to shape that little human, watching her grow each day and learn new things about herself, especially what she is capable of if she puts her mind to it. Like a double-edged sword, it is both a joy to watch and, some days, utterly frustrating.
If you’ve been reading this blog for the past 5 years you’ll know that our journey to introduce our child to the great outdoors has been fraught with more struggle than happy moments. We have watched friends and peers take their kids on adventures that we never dreamed possible because, no matter how hard we tried and how low we sank our expectations, we often came home feeling totally gutted. So, we’d “give it another year”, respecting the fact that each child is different, and that eventually, our child’s strong will would translate into fierce motivation. (I say all this knowing that I was the same kid).
Dare I say things are starting to take a turn?
The other day, we woke up to a beautiful morning. We had no plans and Maya was in a good mood. Inspired by a friend, who had recently hiked up Tunnel Mountain with her young daughter, I looked at Maya and said, “Do you want to hike up Tunnel Mountain today?” Without hesitation, she gave me an excited “yes!” and bolted to her room to find her backpack. Keeping my expectations in check, I told myself I wouldn’t be disappointed if our high-point came 20 minutes from the trailhead. But, I brought along the necessary provisions to increase our chances of making it to the top (“switchback gummies” are key).
And, you know what? We did it.
I made it clear that she needed to walk on her own two feet all the way up and all the way down. If she could do that for me, we’d get something “cold and sweet” on our return (I’m never above incentives). She practically ran up the mountain, played with rocks at the top for about 45 minutes, and then the gummy rewards came into play on our descent. She tripped and fell, but got right back up. We played endless guessing games and said friendly “hellos” to everyone on the trail.
And just like that, the little baby I had carried up that mountain countless times was hiking it on her own. After all these years of patiently waiting to return to some semblance of the outdoor life we’ve been missing, we’re finally getting a taste of it.
We still haven’t quite walked through that door, but for me the hike marked what feels like “the end of the beginning.” That these young years, which I’ll certainly (and ironically) miss are about to be seen only in the rear-view mirror and I’ll have new challenges ahead of me.
And more important than us overcoming our “trials” in the outdoors as a family was the satisfaction she took from doing the hike all by herself. Yes, this opens new trails for us to tackle all together, but there is nothing that will replace a mother’s pride in seeing her daughter grow and discover the new things that come with a good sense of adventure and a willingness to try her best.