Something My Kids Taught Me on the Trail

When we are new parents we assume that the life lessons flow in one direction. As we get further along on the journey, we realize how much this parenting gig teaches us about ourselves and the life that we want to build. Kids can teach us through their own hard-headedness or by surprisingly keen observations of their own. I’ve experienced both.

A few summers ago when my older two could finally say sayonara to training wheels, there was much anticipation for trail riding. We loaded up the four bikes and one carriage onto our vehicle to drive to the trailhead. Once there we unloaded, geared up, strapped the baby into the tow-behind on daddy’s bike, and we were off. Perhaps we had high hopes as the parents of what the kids could do. Hey, they always seemed to have endless energy at home. But not too long into our ride there started to be some complaints of, “This is hard” and, “When are we turning back?” Just when we thought things would be smooth sailing, we had a new challenge to overcome.

The year they got a bike upgrade

Endurance Test

That summer and the following one, I learned a new kind of perseverance. It had nothing to do with my ability to keep pedaling even when I was exhausted. This was an endurance test of my patience and good humor toward my child. Bad attitudes can spread quickly. A parent should be the one who is a barrier to stop the spread, if I may borrow the phrase. If I let frustration take over me, then the crumby ‘tude would rapidly become the overall spirit of the outing. It was vitally important to maintain my good attitude in the face of complaints and stubbornness. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t always do it perfectly. In many of those instances, I was hot and tired too. I just wanted to get back to the trailhead too.

Three Easy Steps

So what did I do? Step one is to always take a deep breath. Step two is to think about all of your child’s good qualities that will help them endure the challenge of whatever ride or hike you are on. In this case, I remembered my daughter’s love of reading. We had recently read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. In the story, the main character Salva has to walk across a dessert with his uncle and others to escape war. Salva’s uncle helps him by encouraging him to just reach the next bush or shrub tree in front of them. When they reached that spot, they picked a new goal. I knew she would get my reference when I said, “Just get to that bush up there.” We kept going in that fashion all the way back to the trailhead. Once you’ve landed on a good motivator for your child, don’t be afraid to engage them with it. Step three is to tell your child how much they accomplished and how proud of themselves they should be at the end of the ride or hike!

Happy Trail Girls

Lessons in wisdom seem to always sneak up on us when we least expect it. Or maybe I should be better at expecting the unexpected. Either way, getting out on the trail together is going to whip you into shape emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. The challenge is always worth it as we become better versions of ourselves every day.

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