A friend of mine likes to say “A change is as good as a break,” which is sometimes how I feel about parenting over the holidays. Even though traveling with my family can be stressful and inconvenient and not really a “break” for me, I still feel rejuvenated when it’s over, both because I spend quality time with loved ones I don’t see very often and because it’s just something different from our usual routine. Here’s hoping that this holiday change in routine feels like a break for you.
This week I’m thinking about how we react when things don’t go as planned, and this week that seemed most of the time, for both big and small things. From a child who didn’t nap when I expected him to, to a yoga teacher not showing up for class, to a friend’s sad miscarriage, to my husband’s surprise career decisions, to my son bringing the wrong (empty) lunchbox to school. While ranging from inconvenient to heartbreaking, these unexpected twists of life expose our ability to cope and thrive and can encourage us to develop those abilities. Something about this photo of my son exploring the shoreline at Alviso Marina reminds me to find joy in the unexpected and to breathe in life even when it didn’t go as planned.
With the weather turning cold and rainy, I’ve been getting lots of questions about cancelled hikes. While each hike leader gets to make her own decision, my children and I go out in most weather. Here in the Bay Area, where weather conditions are rarely dangerous, I want my kids to learn that when we are adequately prepared, we need not be afraid of “bad” weather. Some combination of warm and waterproof will keep us all comfortable and enable us to appreciate nature in its variety, not just on sunny days. And my children seem invigorated and excited by stomping in puddles and squishing through mud. Several studies published lately about the metabolic benefits of experiencing cold temperatures have made me even more determined not to shy away from cloudy, cold, or wet adventures. Take a step outside your comfort zone and join us for winter hikes.
Yet another benefit of hiking: observing cool nature stuff and relating it to important life stuff. My kids and I recently encountered a bunch of bones in the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Suisun City, which led to interesting discussion threads about how the bones got there, the food chain, the circle of life, birth control methods (my kids ask such probing questions!), and death. Instead of having to figure out how to have those difficult but crucial parent-child conversations, nature did the work for me, bringing up important topics organically. And because we talked as we hiked, there were no awkward moments of insecure eye contact, and the periods of silence just melted into the activity. High five for hiking as a parenting tool!