I’m sure some of you wondered why I haven’t written in over a year. Covid has done strange things to our way of life. When the world shut down, we went hiking! Because we have two medically fragile children, we knew we could not sit at home for a year. We had to be outdoors and walk to keep their lungs healthy. We hiked most days. Usually I had at least my 5 youngest kids with me. Often I had my two granddaughters, and usually at least one or more of my kids’ friends.
I used to be the mom who would say “don’t get your shoes wet!” or “be careful!”. Over the past year, we spent so much time during this pandemic outside. We’ve had to invest in many pairs of Keens and good hiking boots. I’ve watched my toddler become a crazy climber and log walker. Our nervous 7 year old has blossomed into a much more daring spirit who is willing to forgo the “NO” and at least try.
The biggest growth I have seen this year has not been in my younger children, it’s been in my teens. At the start of this covid adventuring, one of our girls was fearful of most things and had very little sense of adventure. Netflix was the only adventure she was used to. We started off on small hikes. After 2 kilometers, they were whining to go back. Now 5km goes by in no time and they whine when I suggest it’s time to go back to the van as the smallest ones can’t go too much further. My older daughter started our hiking year in flat Vans shoes and quite quickly asked if we could buy her some actual waterproof hiking shoes with grip. Sooooo not cool but she learned the value of waterproof. We’re full fledged hikers now. Confident in our knowledge that we have learned on how to hike well.
I’ve taken my kids (ages 3-14) on some challenging hikes. 96m elevation, scaling large boulders, slippery ice paths, under frozen waterfalls, through rivers, down steep sandy hills and over downed trees. I no longer shy away from “that looks too hard” or “let’s find an easier way”. I encourage them to try. I’ve taught them to help the younger ones through some tough situations that they found challenging on their own. They have rejoiced every time they have made it through something they feared or didn’t think they could do. I have videos of them saying things like “wow, we did it!” What powerful memories they are building. It’s not about the hike. Exercise is good but challenging them to push past the pain of a blister, push past the fear of hand feeding a chipmunk, and push past the thoughts that they can’t do it is the true benefit of hiking. Letting the teens take the lead and come up with a plan to get everyone safely across the river is helping them to grow mentally and physically. The problem solving, emergency planning, and life skills have been more beneficial to them than any classroom could have given them. My hope is that my children will forever be changed by this covid year (or two) for the better. I know they have gained a greater appreciation for the environment because they point out every piece of garbage they see that doesn’t belong in the forest or river. They have learned so much about the trees, plants, berries and animals and that will stay with them for life.
My new advice for parents struggling with tweens and teens who won’t get off their stinking phones is to get them in the car and drive. Take them away from the wifi and get them into the trees. They almost always start the day asking to stay home or complaining but once in the van and on the road they cheer up and while we hike their attitudes improve. By the time we are back in the van, tired and muddy, they are laughing their heads off. We have great conversations about every aspect of life along the way. The same reluctant and grumpy teens in the morning ask the same thing every night…… “Where are we going tomorrow?”
Get hiking. Get someone in the family to download the AllTrails app and you’ll find the most amazing adventures wherever you are. You can record your hikes, find your place if you are lost and find your car again as long as you remember to hit record when you begin your hike. I in no way am getting paid to promote this app but maybe I should be because I have turned so many people to it even strangers I meet on the trails who are not sure of their location. Special thanks to my sister in law for telling me about the app!
Anyways, that is the main reason why I have been taken away from writing. I’ve been busy online learning with 11 kids and hiking when we are not online. I’m back now and I have so much new bits of wisdom to share. I hope you have found your own beautiful things to do during these dark days of covid.