A Walk in the Park

The other day, feeling a bit frustrated that we hardly ever get out much anymore, Scott and I decided to pack up the kids and go for a hike. Right off the bat we have different ideas about what constitutes a proper hike. Scott is of the school that it is not a real hike unless you are several hours away from the city in an area remote enough to ensure that you do not see any other people at all. That’s how we used to hike and camp—before we had kids.

But now with two children, ages 1 and 4, I would prefer to keep things easy, close, and simple. I really just want to get out of the house for a few hours, move our bodies, and breathe some fresh air. Usually, this debate stops us dead in our tracks and we end up going nowhere. But this time, Scott accedes to my request for simplicity and we decide to check out Tryon Creek State Park (a mere 20 minutes from Portland).

We plan to leave first thing in the morning. But we forget that with kids in the picture, if you are not powerfully motivated and on a tight schedule, time slips by at ever-increasing speeds. A relaxed cup of coffee (or three), feed the kids, get them dressed, deal with a few meltdowns, Scott reads the paper, I check my work email and respond to a few things…before we know it, it is 10:30 am. We begin to feel a bit stressed about losing the day, so we rush everyone toward the door. Everything packed? Sippy cup—check! Snack for the baby—check! Diapers, wipes, baby carrier—check, check, check. Let’s go!

But before we can leave, Gabe reminds us that we’d promised to make hot cocoa for the hike. Argh! “Can’t we skip it this time? Have some when we get back?” Nope, a promise is a promise. So we make the cocoa, find a thermos, and get everyone buckled up in the car.

Yes! “Scott, we’re doing it! We’re out! Isn’t this great?” We begin to make plans for a nice post-hike lunch and maybe a stop to a fish market where we can pick up something for dinner. “Hey, maybe we could even get a pint! This will all work out…so long as Levi takes his morning nap while we’re hiking.”

We get to the trailhead and can’t believe how quick and easy it was to get there. But the parking lot is pretty full and there aren’t any spaces left. Fortunately, we see cars parked along the shoulder and there is plenty of room for us. Scott parallel parks into an opening and promptly backs the car into a tree. Normally he is a superb parallel-parker; however “that tree just appeared out of nowhere.”

Ok, the car’s dented. It’s our first major dent in the five years we’ve owned it. “It’s a bummer, but it could be worse,” I say. “No, that’s really pretty bad,” he replies. “Well, anyway, we’re here now and we’re gonna have fun. Let’s just let it go.” But I can see he’s going to think about it for a good, long time.

I put the baby in the carrier on my back and we start walking. “Now just go to sleep, Levi. Night, night.” It’s already well past his nap time and we can tell he’s super-tired. The hike is lovely, though crowded. Scott gives me an “I told you so” look and I pretend to ignore it.

Gabe loves the hike and runs this way and that proclaiming everything, “Beautiful!” and “Glorious!” Levi loves the hike too. He loves it so much he doesn’t want to fall asleep and miss a single thing. “We really should do this more often,” Scott says. After about 45 minutes, we decide to stop on a wet log for a cocoa break.

Gabe wants to stay there and drink cocoa all day. We watch a worm slowly crawling across the path. Whenever someone comes by, Gabe or I position ourselves to protect the worm. After about 20 minutes, he’s almost across, when Scott decides to get something from the bag. He walks across the path and…SPLAT!...steps right on our worm friend. “Oops.”

Levi decides he is not only tired, but cranky. We quickly finish our drinks, pack up again and head back toward the trailhead—very quickly, because by now Levi is having a full-on meltdown.

“Ok, let’s revise the plan,” I say, as we trot along, “If Levi naps in the car on the way back, we might still be able to go out for lunch. I bet he’ll crash as soon as we get him in his car seat.”

We get to the trailhead and people are beginning to stare. By now we’re practically sprinting, with poor Gabe struggling along behind. We find the car and I buckle the kids in while Scott takes another long look at the dent. Then we’re on our way. Levi is still crying.

As we approach I-5 and are motoring down the ramp, we realize the highway is at a standstill. Not even crawling, just stopped dead. We’re stuck. We sit on the ramp for a good five minutes before the traffic begins a slow crawl (about 10 feet a minute). Levi continues to cry, and cry, and cry—for the whole hour it takes us to get home.

We skip lunch, skip the fish store, and skip the pint that Scott and I now need so desperately. Once home, I rush Levi to his crib and he immediately falls asleep, sucking on his fingers.

Scott asks Gabe what he thought about the hike:

“Good. But I did NOT like the car ride home.”
“Yeah, neither did I.”

“What was your favorite part, Gabe?” I ask. “The cocoa!” he replies. Oh.

Gabe goes upstairs to play and Scott and I collapse on the couch.
“Why do we even bother?” I ask. No answer.

[Pause] “Want to try it again next week?”



Miss Laura said...

I have sooo been there a zillion times! You know my physics theory, right? Distance = Poop Squared x Zippo Extra Clothes. Translation: The distance from home is directly proportional to how big a diaper will be blown out times no extra clothes. This also holds true for meltdowns and traffic jams. We once had a screaming 2-year-old throw up carrot cake all over a rental car on a narrow rural road and when, after many miles, we finally found a driveway to pull into, the ONE car we'd seen in ages turned into the driveway behind us.

Unknown said...

Laura's the one who does math in our family ...

Glad you found time to return to the keyboard. Jenny Wren!

MightyToyCannon said...

You may appreciate this list of Toddler Super Powers recently posted at McSweeney's Internet Tendency:


Jenny Wren said...

Laura, you are so right. I tend to be bit of a daredevil and venture out way more often than I should without a diaper bag. I've definitely been burned a few times. Thanks too for the anecdote. It's nice to know that we are not alone in feeling that the simplest things can end up being ridiculously difficult.

Great list, MTC. The one that's the biggest cause for complaint in our house? "Deafening shrieks!"