We were planning to go camping for Memorial Day weekend. However, though the weather has been outright ridiculous lately, with day after day of warm sun–it suddenly cooled off for the weekend. We had already been a little worried about bringing three kids out to the woods, and when we realized that the highs would be in the low sixties…yeah, no. The only thing harder than bringing three young children camping is bringing three freezing young children camping.
Instead, we decided to have a family outdoors weekend. We kicked it off Saturday with a hike.
Here’s the thing about our family excursions: they usually suck. When I met my husband, we shared a love of the outdoors. We would hike and mountain bike together, and look forward to the years of camping ahead of us. There was that backpacking trip we took with a church group when we were engaged, and we got in a big fight about something and practically called off the wedding, but I think that was partly the heat and mosquitoes.
But the past seven years of toting people along who basically cry the whole time have kind of put a damper on the fun.
One time, when we lived in Portland, we decided to ride our bikes down to the downtown farmer’s market. We put then-toddler Selah in the bike trailer, and hit the road. Unfortunately, then-toddler Selah hated the bike trailer, and cried from the moment we put her in it until the moment we took her out. Something about the way the back was set up pushed the helmet that she didn’t want to wear anyway down over her forehead so she couldn’t see. I don’t know if you have kids, but listening to your child wail while you are trying to do something else (like bike) is enough to make you totally lose your mind. By the time we were riding back–100 percent uphill–and the baby was still screaming–everybody’s nerves were raw. We got into some kind of stress-based argument, and I remember wishing I could bike away in a huff, except I couldn’t, because I could only go about 1 mile an hour up the doggone hill.
When Selah was six months old, we thought it would be fun to go on a camping trip with a group of friends. Tired and a little burned out, I decided to stay for the day and then drive back to have a night to myself. This turned out to be the best decision ever. Selah was used to sleeping in a crib, and not used to sleeping next to her dad. She basically cried every time she caught sight of him. All night. Our friend Jodi finally took her away at about 6 a.m. so that he could take a nap.
It seemed like our hikes usually ran into mealtime or naptime, and at least someone would fall apart. We have had some quasi-successful trips, in that I can’t remember the bad parts (or the good parts, really), and I just remember that we went.
Some Hike Somewhere with Asher
OK, Now I Remember that Selah Whined So Much about Walking in the Snow that We Dragged Her the Rest of the Way
It seems like most of our hikes, bike rides, and car trips have gone something like that ever since, so when my husband suggested the hike this weekend, I basically chalked it up to “Well, the kids will wind up forgetting all the griping and just remember the experience.” I also thought, “At least I’ll get a blog post out of this.”
We got into the car, and drove east down 50, Raffi blaring from the iPhone. I preemptively tuned out all of the noises and mostly just looked at Facebook. I eventually kind of freaked out when Raffi cycled around and started singing all of the same songs again, and we put on a “Mommy and Daddy CD.” Selah commented reasonably, “I think we did already listen to the whole Raffi album.” I failed to notice the reasonableness for a little while. But when we were nearly to Placerville, it hit me. The kids were talking to each other in the back, and Noah was silent. I think he was listening to the music. Selah wasn’t reading and making herself carsick, and Asher wasn’t shouting. I had the startling realization that I was behaving the worst among the lot of us.
We finally reached the trailhead, and started out. I like taking walks, but somehow the walks usually end up devolving into me begging and then yelling, “OK, let’s go!!” when the children stop to pick up their 11,423rd piece of trash or pinecone or slug or…And yet this time, people seemed to be moving along. Noah was in the backpack, and he was cheerful. Selah and Asher kept up nicely. The sun was shining. The weather was great. OK, we did bark at Selah when she wasted the water in her bottle by squirting it all over the place.
Keeping Noah Busy
Kids Not Too Far Behind
The trailed looped down along the river, and a nice breeze picked up–good thing, as the morning grew warmer. We had another minor water-bottle-based glitch when Asher left his by the river too far back to go fetch. He fussed a bit, and I worried about being ecoterrorists.
We stopped to play by the river at a good point–the kids were getting a little tired.
When it was time to go, the kids did not throw tantrums or try to refuse to leave. Asher made surprisingly little fuss about putting sandy, wet feet back into his shoes. Their father threw out a well-timed bribe: “Everyone who doesn’t whine for the rest of the hike gets to share a milkshake.”
I did fuss a little when I felt like we were still heading away and away from the trailhead. True to form, we were actually about 3 feet from the place where the trail forked and headed back toward the car. I have a superpower: I am able to detect when problems are about to be solved, and can throw a fit about how they are unsolvable within 30 seconds of their resolution.
We went up the hill. We passed some caterpillars, dogs, horses, and baby birds–all enough to distract the kids into making it the rest of the way.
I won’t say that the ride back was perfect. The kids were tired from walking three miles, thirsty from wasting all of their water, and cranky as naptime approached. But that’s OK! The hike went well! Everyone liked it! Even me!
Maybe this is a sign that things are getting easier. Naw, probably not. But I’ll take it.