Becoming a mother was what I wanted, above all else, 12 years ago. Warm fuzzy thoughts of caring for a baby consumed my mind and I was willing to give up everything else for the title of ‘Mum’. I don’t have a ‘baby changed everything’ story. She was a pleasant addition to what we were already doing. We could kind-sorta keep doing the outdoor thing. The main difference was the size of what we were doing when she was along. We shrunk from doing all sorts of amazing adventures, sometimes on quite a grand scale, to small, pint-sized adventures. And to be honest, that was what was hard. It was then, and it still is now.
I have a vivid memory of being one week away from the birth of our first child. We had some good friends come and stay with us for the weekend and like usual, there was an adventure planned. What was unusual was I wasn’t going. My big belly wasn’t fitting into a wetsuit, and a canyoning trip on an unchartered creek with the necessity for jumping and rapping over waterfalls was not what the midwife ordered. To this day, I remember the way I felt hanging out in our living room enjoying the company of my friend and her little one, but it being so foreign to me to be socializing in such a sedentary way. I was used to being social in the outdoors on some shared adventure and doing the hangin-out thing afterwards. I felt a little out of my league chatting over a cup of tea, knowing the boys were out in the wilderness somewhere.
Fast forward to now. This year, I only have one child at home with me during the day. Recently, I had a burst of commitment to get outside more often since it was just the two of us, and theoretically easier. After layering up for the cold, we drove to the trailhead, and I hoisted my two year old onto my back in the backpack, and began snowshoeing. I had gone literally 5 metres when her little voice started chirping in my ear, “Go home”. She didn’t say it once; she was on repeat. What I was doing was so small and it wasn’t working. I soldiered on, walking all of about ½ km through the forest to a clearing, to have a snack, take a picture and head home. I felt discouraged.
I have gotten very used to this scenario. It is my ‘normal’ now. But the pang of desire to be out there, doing it too, hasn’t left me.
With five kids, small is the name of the game. I often feel like we don’t actually get ‘anywhere’. It can be wearisome to motivate others, or scale back the activity to what is realistic instead of what I want, when we are altogether. I always want to get to the top, or go further or faster, and I get grumpy internally and forget easily that it supposed to be about fun for everyone.
Here are 3 things that help me to not feel like everything is so mini!
1. I BECAME A PHOTOGRAPHER
Photography is a technical and creative challenge, so when the outing is not particularly stimulating for me, trying to get great pictures feels really satisfying. It comes with the added bonus of preserving memories.
2. WE PLAN & COMPLETE ADULT SIZED ADVENTURES WITHOUT THE KIDS
Semi-regularly we leave the kids with a babysitter or friends/family and go for a quick blast. In the winter that is usually skiing – downhill or XC, and in the summer, mountain biking. Because of where we live, these are activities where we are only gone for 2-3 hours. Once a year, we aim to go adventuring for 3-5 days, just the two of us. We haven’t managed this every year, but we try!
3. WE VIEW THE ‘SMALL’ AS PART OF A BIGGER GOAL
The little things are the building blocks to bigger and better things. Our kids gain skills and confidence, and have lots of fun (usually!). We figure this needs to be normal life if they are to enjoy adventures as they get older. They are less likely to want a life in the outdoors if we wait until they are teenagers to introduce them.
I am talking to myself when I say “embrace the small”. Both the adventure and the people. Get out there and enjoy 🙂