Sharp Rocks at the Bottom: How Parenting is Exactly Like Hiking
I can vividly remember the day my two-year-old, who was occupying a bathroom stall with me, announced loudly, “Mommy you have a fuzzy butt!” Moments like these find you doing a quick, "How did I get here exactly?" life assessment. And there’s something about sitting on a log in the middle of a forest eating fruit snacks in 85-degree humidity while the sweat puddles beneath your underboob and you are literally tethered to a two-year-old that will produce just such a moment. It dawned on me, my friends: parenting is a lot like hiking.
Before you write it off as simple elevation induced lunacy, follow me on this.
You can’t possibly prepare enough. Trust no one who tells you that you can.
Read all the books, download all the apps, ask Siri if you want to, you still won't be prepared the first time you realize your toddler stores goldfish in the front of his diaper for later consumption. And he just shared with you. Oh sure, we studiously read over the reviews on alltrails.com, we collected first-hand accounts from friends of ours with children. Semi-pro tips: a) trust no one that claims to be a parenting pro. No. One. Professional level parenting is as awfully good of an oxy-of-a-moron as awfully good. b) The people who have actual children are the real MVPs in your arena.
And when that arena includes falls in nature with sharp rocks at the bottom, you want to hear from those who have gone before you. And returned relatively un-impaled. Because in parenting un-impaled basically translates into prepared enough. We knew we couldn't possibly prepare enough, and we were right because the truth is...
You can almost always use more gadgets
You can barely trip on the internet without landing on a “gadgets parents don’t really need” listicle. All I am saying is that day on the trail I would not have turned down a transporter beam, and you can bet that isn’t on any “Top Ten Things To Keep in Your Diaper Bag” lists trending right now. Also, I once entertained my one-year-old during a lecture with nothing but a roll of scotch tape and a sock so never underestimate the power of random crap in your diaper bag. So, if your baby screams during diaper changes and you want to try a wipe warmer, don’t worry about getting someone else’s opinion about whether you actually need that wipe warmer. Add it to your cart and ask questions later because...
There is more than one way to do it all
If you happen to be chatting with another parent and they should happen to mention that they use a wipe warmer, and you don’t, you don’t actually have to give your opinion about the fact that they don’t need a wipe warmer. They use it. They like it. It works for them. Ipso facto they need it. We passed many parents trailing it up that day in the mountains. Everything from toddlers perched happily atop a caregiver’s shoulders to a fur child cradled delicately into a Moby because they had a broken paw but he loves to hike and I am not crying you’re crying! Ahem.
Anyways, the beauty and sometimes also the terror of the parenting and the hiking journey is that it is solely and entirely your own so if you need the wipe warmer, go ahead and get it and I will be there cheering you on because if you want your baby to have an eighty-eight degree bum so do I.* And you should always...
Listen only to the people cheering for you
There will always be naysayers. Always. And if you listen to them, they become the only voices that you hear. In the delivery room, they have you only listen for your birthing partner, the one encouraging you and reminding you when to breathe. Throughout my fifteen years of this parenting journey, the hardest times for me by far have been when I began listening to the critics, and the same was true on the trail that day. Our toddler is a move it out of the way, push it, pull it, climb on top of it, keep on trucking kind of a toddler. He likes to move, he likes to be physical, it’s just his personality. It is as much a part of him as the sarcasm that courses through my veins and the humor I use as a coping mechanism because I can't eat goldfish anymore. On the trail that day, he joyfully clambered up layers of the lava flow and he hopped happily over tree roots and did it all on a leash because of sharp rocks at the bottom and impalement (see above).
And believe me, many people had opinions. About. It. All. About the fact that he was on a leash, about the fact that he was on the trail, about the fact that it was such a far hike for him, about the fact that he was still trucking along.
Tired of it yet? We. Were. Too.
And truthfully, as a postpartum survivor, those all too familiar feelings of doubt and overwhelming under qualification and failure and everything unkind you can say to yourself, started filling my brain. They enveloped me, I couldn't find my breath. My strength was gone. Until. Until approaching a steep section on the trail (which was not on alltrails.com by the way,) a round of mountain bikers stopped to let us by. I was bracing myself for it, the comments, the criticism, the scrutiny. This is what happened. The first biker nestled into a corner at the bottom of the hill saw my son and exclaimed, “Wow! Look at him go! Way to go Buddy!” and put out his hand for a high five and he high fived my son. The next one above him put out their hand and cheered, and the louder they cheered the sturdier my footing became, the more powerful my strides. And the higher we climbed the louder they cheered, and they all gave him a high five.
So whether you are parenting or hiking while parenting, listen for me. I'll be waiting and I will remind you to breathe, give you a high five, and some fruit snacks. Unless you would rather have some goldfish.
*I actually never used a wipe warmer for any of my babies, but see how easy it is to just encourage someone even though you didn't do it yourself? Nose Fridas on the other hand...