Monday, January 11, 2010

A Little Wisdom from Nick, the Volvo Guy

I really am outdoorsy, I swear.  

In our pre-kiddo days, I backpacked for weeks on end, rock climbed some incredible routes, traveled across glaciers, and summited some breath-taking peaks.  I have the scars and the ridiculous amount of gear in my garage to prove it.  Even in my last months of pre-parenthood, Steve and I joked that our oldest son Jonah was the world's tiniest backpacker because I guided a 5-day backpacking trip at seven weeks pregnant.  I vowed that none of this would change when the baby actually arrived.  

And then I met our real-life child... who, unlike my original visions, was not always stoked to accompany Stephen and I on our many adventures.   Our first inkling of this challenge developed when, at six weeks old, we took Jonah on his first rock climbing outing.  Our plan was simply that one of us would wear our sweet sleeping child in his front carrier while belaying on the ground, and the other would climb blissfully above.  Sounds easy enough, right?  

Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Jonah got hot, wouldn't sleep, and most of all, hated standing still while strapped to one of us;  the kid needed movement.  Each time one of us would attempt to climb, he wailed.  We were all miserable, and we eventually packed up and went home.  On our way down, other climbers stared and whispered, "What are they doing out here with that little baby?".  The simple answer was, we were just trying to maintain some sense of our prior selves, and we were attempting to figure out how to include this tiny new member of our family in the mix.  

And we're still working on it.  Over the past four years, our quest to maintain our outdoor lifestyle has definitely had it's ups and downs.  Jonah's first camping trip ended with so much endless screaming in the wee hours of the morning that we literally just tore down our campsite and came home, much to the relief of the sleepless neighbors in our campground.  I've developed a deep confusion about how little boys who literally don't sit still all day long at home can whine that they are exhausted to the point of death after just 50 feet.  Twenty-two month old Eli often refuses to ride in the backpack on our hikes recently,  meaning that it can easily take us what seems like HOURS to simply move a few feet forward as he examines every leaf, flower, bug, and footprint.

But that slower pace isn't always such a bad thing, is it?  We decided to by some flora and fauna books and make the most of our snail speed.  By now, we've had some incredible experiences with our little guys outside:  some picture-perfect camping trips, some great days teaching Jonah how to rock climb, and some wide-eyed hikes as Eli grins in amazement at the mountains before him.  Steve and I are learning to embrace the idea that our excursions with our boys are often nothing more than a chance to be together as a family and a chance to be outdoors;  any other accomplishments together are just icing on the cake.  

An easy hike in Sunshine Canyon last summer included all the usual whining and fussing and rescuing Eli from hurling himself down a rocky hill.  By the time we returned to the car, we were all weary and hungry, and once again, Steve and I were questioning why we even bother.  

But then we noticed a note on our windshield.  Here's what it said:  

"I noticed your lovely family, and I wanted to share how awesomely beautiful it is to see a family together in nature.  Thanks for the beautiful memory.  Much love and blessings upon you all!"   - Nick, the guy in the Volvo

We smiled, thankful to this stranger, Nick, for reminding us that, even with all its challenges, sharing this big world with our little guys is a beautiful thing.