I cannot be described as an outdoorsy type of person. In fact, I am probably the least outdoorsy person you will ever meet. My idea of a good time is sprawling on the couch with a good book, or some knitting. Preferably in pyjamas. Double preferably with a big portion of unhealthy food.
I like this because:
1. It is not raining.
2. It is not cold.
3. There is no mud.
4. A bird will not crap on my head.
The kids are decidedly not on my wavelength, when it comes to this. Sure, they like chilling out at home (don’t even mention freaking Minecraft) but they love going out and being at one with nature. Or some hippie dippie bullshit like that.
So as much as my mind cries out for the sanctuary of my own four walls, I do my best to get the kids out as much as possible. And it has its advantages.
You see, my children are like bipedal, hairless dogs. It’s not just that they enjoy exercise. It’s that they need it.
You can tell when the cabin fever starts to set in. The signs are unmistakeable. The bickering increases ten-fold. Instead of getting up off the couch, they leap off the arm. Their eyes gleam with pent-up energy and tears preprepared for any occasion.
And the screaming. Oh God, the screaming.
That is the point when I decide that the kids need to go for a walk. Yes, like a dog. Unfortunately, we can’t use leads. And their recall is shit.
But hey, they don’t shed hair either. Or crap in the garden.
Most of the time.
We went out today, to a country park a short drive from our house. And it was fucking freezing. But overall, we had fun.
That’s where the adventures bit of the title comes in. Because predominantly, we have some pretty awesome adventures. It’s great to see the kids developing new skills, having fun and getting intensely muddy, all at the same time.
Today, Big Girl worked on a bit of climbing. She’s quite fearless, as kids go, but she’s always had a bit of a mental block in this area. I think it’s caused by the control freak tendencies she has (inherited from me, naturally). She likes to know exactly what’s going to happen next. And that includes to her feet. So no tripping, no wobbling and definitely no slipping.
I remember her excitement when she mastered the big kids’ climbing frame at our local park. She had been rather cautious about it because it has a rope bridge, which tends to swing a bit in the wind. One day, she pushed aside her doubts, and took the first step. She hesitated, and asked me to come up and help her.
Now, under normal circumstances, I would have been straight up there, without question. Despite the fact that I frequently get stuck on climbing frames because I’m too high up. (Yeah, so I’m scared of heights. What of it?) But that day I had a whirling dervish named Little Girl in my company, who had been released from the shackles of her sling and was ready to test out gravity.
With her face.
So I said, “I can’t come up there right now, but I’ll stand right next to you down here. If you slip, I’ll catch you.” I smiled encouragingly at her. She didn’t need to know that lack of sleep had left my reflex responses at an impressive level of holy-shit-my-brains-aren’t-even-attached-to-my-muscles-any-more.
Thankfully, I was not tested on this. Slowly, she edged along, step by step. When she reached the other side, she jumped up and cheered, bursting with pride in her achievement.
I may have a shed a little tear. It’s just what I do, okay?
Today was more of the same. Big Girl clambered up steep inclines and skipped along rocks. She slid down slopes and swung on branches. She called herself ‘The Explorer.’
Little Girl wasn’t far behind. Well, she was a little behind. Her legs just don’t stretch as far as her big sister’s, and she’d commit harikiri before accepting help from a grown-up. She called herself ‘Little Girl,’ which is progress considering that 95% of the time she insists on being called somebody else’s name.
Big Girl met her biggest challenge today when she was faced with a tall, moss-covered stone wall. Earlier in the day, I would have said that there was no chance she’d attempt to climb it. But I could sense that she was feeling particularly adventurous. And I was right.
Straight away she ran to it, and began to climb, gripping with her hands and feeling for footholds. Which was no mean feat, as she was wearing wellies, universally known as the shoes that make your feet feel as if they are disconnected from your body.
Before I continue with this, I must talk awhile about misadventure. With adventure comes misadventure. Inevitably. Like the time we visited yet another park, and a two year old Little Girl managed to fall face-first into a puddle that was easily deep enough to be classified as a pond.
Five minutes after we arrived. That was fun.
Or the time Big Girl had been nature-shit collecting. On the walk home, which she of course took at a gallop, she tripped and had an incident of ‘twig meets face.’ As in, the twig stabbed her right in the bit of skin between her nose and mouth (what’s that called again?)
Have I repulsed you? Well, imagine how I felt! It looked like she had a fish’s gill in the middle of her face.
Freaking gross, man.
Not to go on, but I can’t leave this one out. It happened when Little Girl was only a teeny baby, and I had taken her and Big Girl to a toddler group. Big Girl was 2.5, and was leaping around, playing and generally being super cute.
She was running around, and somehow managed to deactivate her brake function. She slammed straight into a wall so hard that she bounced off, onto her back.
In front of a health visitor, two group-organisers and about twenty other mums.
But that is not all.
I gathered her up in my arms, horrified at the enormous purple bruise that was coming up on the side of her face. People had gathered around us, and it was getting a little crowded. So she decided to do, for the first time, the thing she does every time she bangs her head, and things get a little hectic.
She passed out in my arms.
Did I mention how many people were in that room?
Traumatised doesn’t even cover it. Nor does mortified. There is not a word in the English language to describe how I felt that day. And I can look back and laugh, now. Because accidents happen and injuries occur, and normally things turn out ok.
But back then, with a toddler and a brand new baby, it was a disaster. I was so desperate to get everything right and look like I was capable and competent.
Ah the naïveté. Nowadays, I’m just grateful if we all survive until bedtime.
You can’t have fun without gathering a couple of injuries along the way. It’s a risky business, this exploration thang, but they’ve gotta do it.
But anyway, back to the wall-climbing. Big Girl gritted her teeth in determination as she pulled herself up. I’ll admit to feeling doubtful that she would reach the top. I was sure she’d give up. But on she went, and we cheered her on and shouted such motivational bullshit as, “You’re nearly there!” when she clearly was nothing of the sort.
Up and up she climbed, and eventually, she made it.
What an awesome kid. She was pretty proud of herself. She savoured the moment for a bit, and then it was time to get down.
And therein lies today’s misadventure.
Because it was time to get down.
You can be as fearless and adventurous as you like, but you have to admit getting down can be a little scary. You can’t tell how high you are, you’ve no idea how close the next foothold is, and your hands are aching.
This is what happened to Big Girl.
She was all right at first. With a few words of guidance from me, she started the journey down. All was well.
Until she managed to completely psych herself the fuck out.
She was about as close to the ground as the seat of a couch. Max. But try telling her that! She refused to look down, or jump.
On it went. In the end, she was completely stuck, limbs splayed like a giant four-legged spider. She wasn’t going anywhere.
And she was terrified. The tears flowed.
Obviously I ran over and rescued her. And after a bit of a cuddle, she was fine and off to scale another steep hill, or some such thing.
Ah, the hazards of going on an adventure. Thank God kids are resilient, or they’d never move!