We've always been the hiking kind of family. During the lockdown, we hiked in abundance. My pictures of such adventures were also in abundance. You know what else was in abundance? My annoyance.
Since I'm typically the one behind the iPhone, I don't have picture proof so you'll just have to take my word for it. I get snippy, frustrated, and sometimes loud when we're hiking with the kids.
"We are not going that way."
"Don't touch that!"
"I'm not finding you another walking stick."
"Stop hitting your sibling with your walking stick."
"No more walking sticks!"
"It's just a bee."
"Please don't grab the snake!"
"No, we're not done yet. We're going to hike forever."
In spite of all this, we really do love hiking! And have found it more than worth the headache that sometimes ensues. I feel the need to share this because I don't want all my nature-y pics to lead you to thinking that hiking is all kicks and giggles. It's important, in my opinion, to be prepared for the potential reality of hiking with kids. Personally, I have a much easier time enjoying life with my littles when I leave my rose-colored glasses at home.
Now that we have that established, let's get on to why on earth hiking is still worth the effort. I believe everyone should be hiking, especially while the kids are young. Here's why:
No, this does not happen immediately. And there will be some hikes that leave you feeling like nature has been ruined for everyone. Don't give up! Because each walk through the woods really is making a difference. Point out interesting things. Listen to the sounds. Let them venture and climb and touch.
I've noticed that not only do we as a family have a stronger appreciation for nature as we hike more, we also are less fearful. The kids were literally chasing a snake the other day. Without fail, they all come home a dirty mess. Venturing off the path or following a faint deer path is their favorite. This stuff used to add to my headache, but even mama is learning and growing. It actually fills me up now to see them explore the scary and unknown... usually.
Hiking is healthy.
Nature is so stinkin' good for your health! If you are still quarantining and you're not getting outside, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Hiking is an amazing way to take advantage of the healthy benefits of getting outside. You're breathing in the miraculous properties of fresh air, soaking up all-natural vitamin D, and getting exercise that is essential for both physical and mental health.
Let your kids take their shoes off once in awhile. Even join them! Grounding is a thing that we should all be doing. Remember! You're not hiking to be done hiking. You're hiking for the experience and all the benefits. This means take your time and let your kids linger. It's good for everyone's health!
Hiking now means easier hiking later.
Hiking with littles is hard. Straight fact. But hiking with teenagers could be just as headache-inducing, if not more so! If you put off hiking while the kids are young, all you're doing is putting off the inevitable frustration. Teenagers whine more, complain more, mope more than 5 year olds (typically). And are much harder to distract with pretty flowers and toads. If you make hiking a priority now, when your littles think climbing a tree or wading in a creek is the greatest thing ever, your future self will thank you.
Hiking doesn't involve screens.
As wonderful as technology is, I get super frustrated with how obsessive my kids can get! It's exhausting. In fact, I get super frustrated with how obsessive I can get! Hiking is an opportunity to completely leave screens at home. If you're in the habit of handing your phone over to a complaining child, first of all, STOP. Second, leave your own phone in an inside zipped pocket of your backpack where you'd have a really annoying and inconvenient time getting to it. Emergencies only! Make screens a non-option while hiking and you'll be surprised how much fun you all have! (You could go my route and not have anything on your phone your kids care about so they never ask for it. Then you can get some great pics!)
We all glean the benefits. We all enjoy ourselves! (Outside of those moments...) You can't have a kid too little or too grown up for a hike (despite what they may think). And did you know that kids are much more likely to open up to you when they don't have to sit and look you in the eye? The random conversations about theology and corona and poison ivy and remember-whens we've had on our hikes are alone enough to make hiking worth all the effort.
Sure, there's headaches. But we keep going, gleaning, growing. It's worth it. I promise.
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