Recently I read this article encouraging moms to put aside their body insecurities, throw on a swimsuit, and jump in the pool/ocean/lake with their kids. The message was that a child will remember those carefree moments spent playing with you and couldn’t care less about how you look in a bathingsuit. The writer emphasizes that “at the end of the day, it is not about me. It is about my kids.”
Splashing around at the YMCA
I agree with those sentiments wholeheartedly. And, as someone who for a long time struggled with an unhealthy relationship with food, this line resonated with me especially: “Because when women stay on the sidelines because of insecurity, we are modeling unhealthy behavior to our children...” Amen, sister!
But I think her message about throwing on that swimsuit and throwing caution to the wind can be expanded even further. It’s not just body image that can keep mothers on the sidelines. Sometimes it’s the sheer effort involved in jumping into the game. Now, I’m certainly not trying to say that most moms are lazy – quite the opposite. All the logistics involved with getting X number of kids to the pool/beach/lake are daunting at best, and downright hellacious at worst. Sometimes just pulling into the parking lot with all family members in tact seems victorious enough – and at that point it’s pretty tempting just to spread out your towel on a lounge chair and relax under an umbrella with a stiff drink good book while your kiddos frolic in the water. Or, if your children are small enough to need constant supervision, it’s tempting to switch to auto-pilot as you relish in the opportunity to talk to any grown-up your child’s friends.
Throwback to beach trip 2012…
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely get it. Rest and “me-time” is important. So is adult conversation. Both will make you a better mother in the long run. It’s also good for your kids to not only play with other kids, but also learn how to entertain themselves with their own imaginations. Sitting back and just watching certainly has it’s place. But if you ALWAYS choose the role of spectator when it comes to your kids’ recreation time, you will be missing out on some awesome memories! Staying on the sidelines is not only a disservice to your kiddos, it is also a disservice to yourself! Whether it’s body image, exhaustion, self-confidence, or another reason holding your back, don’t spend the whole summer simply observing. Take some time to FULLY ENGAGE with your kids on their developmental level, whether that means taking a “Mommy and Me” swim class or screaming down a water slide together. Put down your phone, put on your bathingsuit, and make a splash they’ll always remember!
How does your family find a healthy balance between parental spectating and parental participation?
“Is this the same way you went with Daddy?” I asked with raised eyebrows as the undergrowth got thicker and taller, leaving nothing but a narrow sliver of trail beneath it. Big C nodded uncertainly, and we pressed on, pushing our mountain bikes further and further into the thicket, along what must have been a (seasonal) game trail. Then we hit the blackberry patch, or rather it hit us, in all of its thorny glory. (Why had I decided to wear Chacos for this “cas
ual” afternoon bike ride?!?) Big C got snagged a few times, but I took the brunt of it for him. After battling through briars for several more minutes, we eventually found ourselves at a dead end in a small clearing, at which point I realized that my phone was no longer mounted to my handlebars. I retraced my steps through the thorny mess and found it..but the mountain bike trail we were searching for was nowhere in sight.
Big C was putting on a brave face, but I could tell he was starting to get worried. “Are we lost, Mommy?” he asked quietly. “No sweetie,” I replied, “Mommy knows where we are, I’m just trying to figure out how to cut over to the real trail.” “This is not the real trail Mommy.” “I know, honey.”
Somehow we had inadvertently stumbled our way into the land of “Type 2″ fun…
For those of you not familiar with the “Fun Scale” used by many outdoor enthusiasts (climbers, paddlers, skiers, backpackers, etc…), let me give a quick synopsis…
TYPE 1: What most people think of as just plain fun, enjoyable both during the event and as a memory. Obvious examples could be clipping bolts at the local crag’, making first tracks in fresh powder, hiking along a ridge with beautiful views. TYPE 2: This type of fun is NOT enjoyable while it’s happening. It’s only fun in retrospect, and always makes for a GREAT story later. It often involves feelings of fear, pain, or danger, caused by getting lost, stuck, or forgetting something important. A sudden turn of events like inclement weather, a wrong turn, or a wildlife encounter can instantly morph a scenario from Type 1 to Type 2 fun. TYPE 3: This situation is actually not fun at all, even in retrospect, and usually occurs when something has gone terribly wrong. It’s the stuff PTSD is made of.
Type 2 fun is often memorialized in pictures, this one from Big Cottonwood Canyon…
Spend any amount of time in the Great Outdoors, and you’ll soon realize that Type 2 Fun is just a fact of life (although you’ll hopefully be able to avoid Type 3, unless of course you’re one of those masochistic alpine/offwidth/ice climber types…). In fact, almost all of our pre-kiddo vacations contained elements of Type 2 interspersed with a lot of Type 1. There was that time in the Everglades that our backcountry canoe trip went awry with heavy winds, mangroves, and manatees. Or the time that we finally made it to the top of the JHCB Wall in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the broiling sun, only to botch the walk-off and find ourselves navigating thousands of feet of rattlesnake-infested death scree. I’m sure most of you have your own tales or harrowing adventure that you love to recount around a campfire.
But back to the clearing and elusive mountain bike trail with my 4 year old…
Taken pre-blackberry patch…that’s why he’s still smiling.
The whole reason we were there in the first place was because we were trying a “short-cut.” (Isn’t that always how it starts?!?) You see, the whole family was at the park that day. While me and Big C were biking, hubby was relaxing at the playground with Baby Z, waiting for us to finish so we could trade out and he could take a lap around by himself. (Each time we go, we alternate who bikes with Big C and who gets to fly a solo run.) Anyway, we’d gotten a late start to begin with, which meant Baby Z would be running on fumes by the time everyone was finished (not to mention we’d probably be losing light.) In the interest of time, I’d decided to take a short cut that would shave off a more difficult section of trail that can sometimes cause Big C some trouble and slow him down. Hubby had done the short cut once before, and had described it to me as best he could, although neither of us had taken into account how much more overgrown everything would be at this point.
Clearly I had taken a wrong turn, and led myself and my son astray. Though it was beyond frustrating, we certainly weren’t in any sort of real danger, but I’m sure it didn’t feel that way to Big C. Just when I thought he might lose it, we heard some whoops and shouts on our right from about 20 yards away.
“Bikers!” I told Big C. “That’s where the trail is!”
One last bushwhack (no thorns this time, but apparently a few chiggers) led us to the main trail, even further up than where I was expecting to come out. Big C and I high-fived and caught our breath. I was proud of him for not panicking.
“Mommy I love you,” he said as he downed half of my water bottle. “I love you too,” I said, and we hopped on our bikes.
Though he was a little timid at first, the rest of our ride went great. We pretended we were on motorcycles trying to escape from bad guys just like we always do. We made it back to the playground with nothing more than a few extra scrapes and bug bites as souvenirs of our epic adventure.
As I recounted what had happened to my husband on the way home, I couldn’t help but feel guilty about my mistake, and wondered if I had ruined mountain biking for my son. But when I snuggled with Big C that night before bedtime, he looked up at me and said, “Mommy next time we bike let’s not go the Lost Way.” I breathed a sigh of relief!
And I also smiled, as I secretly realized that this was the first of probably many Type 2 experiences we’d have with each other over the course of his life. After all, in the words of the great alpinist Mark Twight, “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun.”
Last month’s edition of #Kidcrushers (found here) featured lots of bouldering crushers, some budding crack climbers, a newbie multi-pitcher, and even one head injury! Three lucky winners were chosen to win a prize pack from Flapjacked. This month the bar has been raised, and we’ve got some kiddos featured that can climb harder than many grown-ups I know! We’ve also got a great prize from our friends at Clif, so without further adieu, here’s #KidCrushers, Issue #3…
Here’s 13 year old Cathy K. tackling her FIRST TRAD LEAD (Cave Route, 5.4, at Table Rock, NC.) She was part of a summer climbing camp with Fox Mountain Guides (more info here.)
Photo: Karsten Delap
Sophie (age 6) and Ian (age 8) keep it all in the family on a summer day on Sunset Slabs near Anacortes, WA.
Another brother/sister duo, Noah and Zoe pull down on an early morning bouldering session in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT.
9 year old sponsored athlete Victoria G. demonstrating the “kid beta” for Iron Man Traverse (V4) in the Buttermilks (CA.)
Merit S. from Ohio is cranking it out at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, the largest (man-made) outdoor climbing facility in the US.
Meanwhile, Caden M. is a dirtbag climber in the making!
Here’s a crusher (“Abs”) from fellow #outdoorfamilies blogger The Kid Project – I’m jealous that they spend their summer evenings playing in Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT.
As always, Crag-Daddy, Big C, and myself each chose our favorite picture, and those three folks will receive a prize. This time around the winners were: Cathy, Sophie, Caden! This month’s #KidCrushers sponsor was Clif, and each winner will receive a sample pack of Clif Shot hydration mixes! We like the ingredients in these better than Gatorade, and they taste just as good! As a parent, my favorite part is that it comes in powder form, which means I can dilute it to make it last longer (otherwise Big C would have downed his before he even got to the crag…)
As always, if you know someone who isn’t featured here, but SHOULD be, let me know! Email me a picture and caption at infoATcragmamaDOTcom, or simply tag your instagram photos using hashtag #Kidcrushers. Photos received by August 18th will be featured in a post at the end of the month – and I’m thrilled to announce that Bearded Bros Energy Bars has already stepped up to sponsor the August Issue! Yum! So grab your camera and do some family crushing!
With a 4 month old in the house, one on one fun with my son is at a premium these days. I always know his (and my) quality time tank is running on fumes when we have a day where everything seems to be falling apart. You know the kind I mean – when you feel as though you can’t do anything right, and are a complete failure as a parent. Yep, those days. You’d think that by the second kid my track record would’ve improved a bit, but now that there are two of them, those out of control days seem to show up twice as often.
We had one such day a few weeks ago, sparked by the clingy nursing frenzy that is otherwise known as a growth spurt. It was overwhelming to say the least. And while C is ordinarily very good at self-entertainment, he had clearly grown weary of playing by himself, and was acting out accordingly. By the end of the day, it seemed as though the majority of our interactions that day had involved temper tantrums, whining, and crying (and usually a combination of all three.)
That’s why I love this picture – it was taken the NEXT day, after we’d had a long talk at breakfast about what things went wrong the day before, and how we each could “start over and make better choices today.” Baby Z was back to “normal,” Big C cut me a little slack, and I went out of my way to carve out some time for just the two of us. The crag-daddy was working from home on that particular day, so during Baby Z’s 35 minute nap window in the morning (yeah I’m ready for all of these naps to start stretching out…but that’s another post entirely!!!), Big C and I biked to our local smoothie shop to grab a cold treat. The time shared together seemed to reset both of our attitudes, and reinforced the conversation we’d had earlier.
Every day won’t be perfect, fun, and may very well be downright horrible. But thank goodness for “do-overs.”
How do you bounce back when life gets overwhelming?
“Weeeeee-hooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” was the uninhibited chant I repeatedly heard from behind me on the 3 mile section of road between our house and Trader Joe’s. It was our first excursion on our brand new Weehoo, an innovative new bike trailer design from a small company out of Golden, CO.
Let me back up. A couple of months ago, Women’s Adventure Magazine asked if our family would be interested in reviewing this product for them. To be honest, while I thought the idea was super cool, I was a little unsure of how my 4 year old son would react to the Weehoo. After all, he’s pretty darn proud of the fact that he’s moved up to a “big boy bike” in recent months, and I was afraid he would think the idea of going back into a bike trailer was babyish. After all, while a regular bike trailer does a great job at transporting babies and children too young to bike, it’s more of a spectator sport, since passengers just sit back and enjoy the ride. But the Weehoo is no ordinary bike trailer…
To find out the many reasons why it’s awesome (and in no way baby-ish for big kid riders…), check out the full article here on Women’s Adventure Online. An excerpt can also be found in the summer print issue of the magazine, along with plenty of other reviews on the latest bike gadgets for the whole family, so be sure to check both out!