As a parent, I’ve definitely had to change my expectations when it comes to hiking. And not just in shortening the length of our hikes, like I thought. Sometimes you just have to give in, and realize it’s not going to happen the way you planned and that’s OK.
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I (foolishly) thought we could just “sneak in” a little hike on a Sunday afternoon with our 1 year-old and 3 year-old. We got a little cocky because we take them hiking almost every weekend, even in the winter, and are usually moderately successful. We’ve watched our daughter gain confidence in her climbing abilities, explore the natural world around her, and sometimes even beg us to go hiking.
But on this particular day, we clearly lost our minds and forgot everything we know about parenting. We decided to have our 3 year-old daughter, Lane, skip her nap and go for a hike instead. We quickly learned that this was a terrible idea and after 3 minutes of hiking, things took a turn for the dramatic. (See right.)
Luckily, children are resilient. While we weren’t prepared for Lane to skip her nap, we were prepared with an extra pack she could hop into and an abundance of snacks and water to boost her morale. After being carried up to Sunset Ledge from Lincoln Gap, she insisted on walking down by herself and she spent the rest of the hiking learning to identify birch trees and asking questions about moss.
For us, there’s no sneaking when it comes to parenting. We know that we are a lot more successful when we plan ahead and hike in the morning, but sometimes the weather is too nice and you just need to spend time in the woods, even if it involves some meltdowns and extra snacks. The nice thing about having two children on a hike with you is that the chances of one of them being happy are pretty good. And whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5 hours, it’s important for us to spend time outside as a family.
To avoid a meltdown on our next adventure, I’ll probably wait until after the hike to tell her we can get ice cream. She expected someone to be waiting at the top to hand her a chocolate scoop with rainbow sprinkles, which is a pretty understandable reason for a meltdown.
If you are thinking of taking a hike with your children, consider looking at our suggested day hikes or checking out The Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont. GMC also has a Young Adventurers Club, where you can hike with other families that have small children.