What toddlers taught me about hiking and self-care
My family and I are enjoying our Summer. We have been hiking, camping, and enjoying the Alaskan outdoors. We usually avoid hiking due to our boys being young and not wanting to deal with complaining, crying, and melt downs less than half way through the hike. However, this Summer we decided to bite the bullet, take a risk, and go hiking with no expectation of completing the hike but just enjoying the time out in nature. Below I am sharing with you what I learned from my toddlers as a result of taking a risk.
It's about the little picture
I don’t know if you are like me or not, but I am the type of hiker that is after the victory, conquering the mountain or completing the hike in good time. I really enjoy getting to the top of the summit and typically I pay little attention to the in-between. My toddlers are very different and they could not care less about the finish line. During our hike, they only saw the in-between. They noticed every little detail about each step and made sure to educate me about it all. Every fallen leaf, funny shaped rock or the tree that looks like an octopus along the trail. Immediately I recognized they knew something I must have lost a long time ago, the in-between matters and may even matter more than the finish line.
To say that my little guys are slow, when hiking, is an understatement. My youngest (the 3 ½ year old) is abnormally slow and not just when it comes to hiking. He is on a different time zone than everyone else. He moves at a pace that only a turtle can appreciate. So, I knew before even leaving the house, for our hike, any expectation of completing the hike in a timely manner was unreasonable. Knowing this allowed me to prepare my mind for flexibility and appreciate whatever may come. As we started out I thought I might find myself getting inpatient, but slowing down and walking with my 3 year old really opened my eyes to how powerful something so simple as slowing down can be. I was able to enjoy his sense of wonder. As mentioned above, the little picture really mattered to my little guys and I was able to appreciate the little things like the tree my little guys pointed out that looked like stairs going up the mountain. With each step, my little guy would say thank you tree for the stairs. At one point, we were stopped on the trail and observing leaves with caterpillar trails left on them. I would have never noticed had they not been pointed out to me. My heart was humbled more and more as I witnessed my kiddos enjoying their hiking experience and enjoying their family at their pace.
· Joy can be found in noise
Again, I don’t know if you are like me or not, but I assume most moms of toddlers really appreciate quiet. I appreciate it so much that I workout without music. I run and just enjoy the quiet. I will clean my house without any music or background noise, if given the option. One of the things I appreciate about hiking is the quite I get to enjoy. Needless to say, there is no quite when toddlers are involved. I anticipated this and thus prepared myself for noise. I anticipated being annoyed by all the noise and just dealing with it. However, that was not the case. At one point my older kiddo started singing (very loudly because he has no gage for loudness) and I found my self joining him and singing very loudly-and enjoying it. In addition, my husband joined in loudly playing a game with the boys regarding snake holes (there are no snakes in Alaska, by the way). So, each vole or squirrel hole they saw my husband would tell them it was a snake hole. And they began yelling at the top of their lungs—dad it’s a snake hole!!!! To which he would reply (very loudly) SNAKE HOLE, watch out. It was awesome to watch my husband and my sons connect in that way and I was not annoyed by their noise at all. I was able to just be and appreciate their excitement and their beautiful imaginations.
· Distance doesn’t matter
As mentioned before, I did not anticipate my boys completing the hike so I was prepared for a premature turnaround. However, by slowing down and letting them walk at their own pace they were able to complete the hike. We reached the summit and I was so proud of them. They didn’t seem to care about reaching the top, but I thought it was a pretty big deal for little guys. We spent some time at the top and just enjoyed the view from the summit. And of course, they tested the limits and almost sent me into cardiac arrest a couple times. While reaching the summit was not the goal of this hike it was cool to experience this with my husband and our kiddos.
· It's all a big deal
The little picture, slowing down and enjoying the moment all make up the experience and the main thing I learned is- it is all a big deal. I was taught by my two toddlers to appreciate the here and now because it is all that matters in the moment. I could have missed many opportunities to connect with my husband and children had I not enjoyed the moment and the people I was blessed with.
Our kiddos can teach us so much if we slow down and allow them to. When we let go of the need to control the situation or the outcome we become open to possibilities of childlike wonder, breaking out in song-just because, and noticing God’s creation in such a beautiful way. Some days my toddlers have me questioning my faith, but on this day, they helped to increase it.
It’s about the little picture
Find joy in the noise
Distance or the finish line don’t matter- it really is about the journey
It’s all a big deal