On my first roundup of 2021 hikes, I mentioned seeing a family hiking at Lockhart State Park. To recap, the family consisted of a man, woman, and two children aged roughly 1 and 3 years old. The younger was in a big pack on the man’s back, clearly created to be a hiking child carrier. The older was hiking on his own, wearing a toddler-sized Camelbak (something I didn’t even know existed until that hike).
When I saw that family, I had a pang of regretful nostalgia. It made me wish that Jason and I had taken up hiking earlier, and done this with our boys on a regular basis. They would have been so cute, these little guys –> all with their own baby Camelbaks, trekking up hills with us. (Photo is from 2007, Morrigan (left) aged 6, Ambrose (right) aged 4, and Laurence (middle) just one month shy of 3 years old.)
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that in reality, this never would have happened. When our boys were that little, Jason and I were both very young. We were either in school or working (or both), struggling to make ends meet. Our kids were born in very quick succession, with the oldest only three years old when the third was born. Once we moved to Texas, in fall 2005, I suddenly became a stay-at-home mom to three kids aged five and under. My job was 24/7, and the last thing I wanted to do was to spend extra time driving my kids across the state to different parks and help them along a hike. Frankly, I was desperate for time away from home, and time away from children. I was exhausted and frequently frustrated and near tears a lot. Could that have been different if we waited to have kids until we were older, with more established jobs/income, and had them further apart from each other? Sure. That just wasn’t our reality.
And in truth, we did take the boys hiking. Never with specialized gear – we couldn’t afford stuff like that! – but we did always enjoy hiking, and periodically took the boys out on family hikes.
Photo is from May 2006 at nearby Comanche Lookout Park (aged 5, 3, and 2). I took the boys out here all the time once our family became a two-car family in 2008. The boys loved this until right about when they became teenagers, at which point it was all groans and ughs and booooringggs. Heh. But I have a lot of good memories on those trails. Example: Morrigan, taking off running: “Accelerate!” Laurence, copying him but still only 3-4 years old: “Ex-Celery!”
In 2008, and later again in 2012, our family went climbing up Enchanted Rock with extended family. Enchanted Rock is a several-hour drive for us, and it’s often very crowded. It’s also a very tough park to hike, up a smooth granite dome. The boys were champs both times they’ve been. (Left photos both top and bottom are on the same spot, the plaque that marks the highest spot of the rock.)
We’ve also hiked other parks and trails around town with family. Eisenhower is a big favorite, especially around Christmas. We’ve been to multiple parts of the very long Salado Creek Trail. Ambrose took up geocaching for awhile when he was younger. And then there were the hikes in Boston and Wisconsin while we lived there. So again, it’s not like we’ve never done any family hiking. The reality is just that we did what we could, with the time, energy, and finances we had.
So yeah, maybe we never had a baby Camelbak or pint-sized kids out at middle-of-nowhere State Parks. But my initial fit of regretful nostalgia cleared up the more I thought about it. We gave those boys lots of good experiences hiking, as well as walking, biking, swimming, kayaking, running, ice skating, and other outdoor/sporty activities. And I’m okay with that.
My dad sometimes gets a bit of regretful nostalgia too, but he forgets of all the things we did do together as a family…like every birthday up until maybe I was 12 or 13, I’d have a birthday party where he’d organize games: Capture The Flag, for example, for me and my friends. And we did hike some when he was a Scoutmaster and also a leader of a youth group at our church, similar to Scouts, called Royal Rangers. I think he often forgets about that things so sometimes it’s good to look back and see, “hey, it wasn’t that bad or even bad at all.”
Generally I’m pretty good about recognizing what we did/didn’t do for our kids when they were growing up. Maybe it’s just now as they’re getting MUCH older that I’m starting to have these little pangs. Probably a lot because I had all three kids by age 25 and that’s just HARD.
But from what I have seen, you are a good mother.
Thank you. I try, don’t always succeed, but I try.