After a weekend of Halloween festivities capped off with an up-all-night, sugar-fueled sleepover with friends, he was probably ready to crawl onto the couch and spend the balance of his Sunday staring at NFL RedZone and insisting he wasn’t tired. A few days ago, I’d pictured today going down much like that — the forecast said rain and I knew we’d all be ready to give each other our space, keeping our crankiness to ourselves and enjoying a day of downtime before gearing up for a new week.
But the sun came out. And it unfolded as a crisp, clear fall day. And we couldn’t bear to spend it inside. So we rallied enough to pile into the car and crossed our fingers for a second wind.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived at Devil’s Den State Park just south of here. To no one’s surprise, Colt had fallen asleep in the car and wasn’t thrilled to wake up and go hiking. Jeff and I exchanged a look as if to say, “well, here goes nothing.”
He stomped. He kicked at the leaves. But he kept moving down the trail. We didn’t ask him any questions, and we didn’t insist that he do anything but stay on the trail. More stomping. It was a death march. I was second-guessing the whole thing. What was I thinking? We should all be home in our comfypants right now. I could be half-napping/half-watching-HGTV rather than herding a cranky 7 year old through the woods, willing him to enjoy it.
“Daddy, do you think the Royals will win the World Series?”
“I don’t know, Buddy. More baseball to play.”
After that, no stomping. No kicking leaves. No insisting he was bored.
As we hiked, they talked about the World Series, they talked about college football, they talked about NFL football. Colt jabbered on for almost three miles.
He was still tired and cranky, but we’d found common ground. We could be out enjoying the sunshine AND talk about sports. I was reminded of all the miles Jeff and I have spent together backpacking. We’ve spent most of that time talking about things other than backpacking. Being outside doesn’t mean you have to “just” be outside. In our case, we take marriage, parenting, and Seinfeld jokes with us to the woods. We hike, and chat. We also spend plenty of time not chatting at all, but drinking in the fresh air and the scenery and the time spent not checking email.
As far as he’s concerned, he outsmarted us by talking football instead of having fun our way. Little does he know that talking Daddy’s ear off about rankings and predictions and bowl games and stats — while we crunched through the leaves — was always the point. Whatever’s on your mind – take it to the woods. Don’t look now, Buddy, but you just learned how to go for a hike.