I was determined to take my boys hiking today. I felt we were due to physically work out what it feels like to be a family in transition while we looked at pretty things. We went to Malibu Creek State Park. Kid1 has had a rough couple of weeks with school, transportation to school and my childcare arrangements after school. Kid2 needs me to step up our physical activity for the sake of his health. His last physical revealed a 20 pound weight gain in 6 months. Kid3 is emotionally suffering and trying his hardest to be resilient. It looks like aggression against Kid2.
As we set out for the day, Kid1 was determined to show me his defiance by sitting in the car when we stopped for drinks and snacks. We got to the park, and headed out and he was determined to lead, not knowing where we were going. He was kicking at trees and rocks and I decided to let him go off, because he has enough of a sense of self preservation that he wouldn’t go off trail. There were several people on that trail and for the most part at the beginning, I could still see him. At one point, he doubled back to say he wanted to go home.
He set off again, and I kept pace with Kid2 who was going the slowest, and setting my pace. Kid1 was thundering off, and Kid3 was anxiously going back and forth between us as Kid2 and I were bringing up the rear. As people passed me, I asked if they had seen a teenager in dark colors wearing a beanie up ahead, and everyone noticed the angry teen that wouldn’t acknowledge them. We were heading to the Rock Pool, and it was a left turn that happens well before the MASH site (which I might just experience on my own one day). Because the MASH site was straight ahead, I was sure Kid1 was continuing straight ahead. It’s what I did when I went to Runyon Canyon on my own.
Kid2 was starting to suffer and I didn’t want him to continue that far beyond where I planned to take them. I had him sit on the trail and rest, and told him I would go find his brothers. He was happy to rest, and within a short while I caught up to Kid3. He had already turned back, to make sure I was okay. I had him sit with his brother, and started running along the trail in search of Kid1.
I can’t tell you the last time I ran, because it’s not my jam. But I ran. I was running on a dirt trail, littered with dips and rocks. I was light on my feet and I felt powerful. It might have been my irritation. When I caught up to Kid1, I had an earful for him. I let him know that his anger and stubbornness and unwillingness to seek direction made his entire family walk farther than we needed to. I acknowledged my failure to lead him in staying with the son that needed more physical support and encouragement.
I was this powerful gazelle, running along the trail toward him, but in stomping anger as we walked back together, I slipped on a rock and fell. He was angry enough and probably afraid of what used to be normal that he didn’t laugh at me. I told him I appreciated it, but not laughing told me how upset he really was.
We headed back and Kid2 and Kid3 were walking toward us because they wanted to catch up to us.
The details aren’t nearly as important as the lessons.
- The last person sets the pace because we’re a team has always been my ideal, but it’s not enough when I’m alone with the kids and there isn’t another adult to lead us.I need to take us places that are not just my choice, but destinations they would like to explore. I need to internalize the joys of the outdoors and exercise for them and I can’t do it when I’m forcing my agenda.
- Kid1 is just like me in his need to stubbornly go off on his own. I normally look at it as adventure but the cost to my team as a leader isn’t always fair.
- Kid3 is a mother hen, worrying about everyone. I spent the day trying to show them it’s my job to be mom, casually intervening when they tried to correct each other. I told them they should be getting in trouble together and they are not eachother’s parents. They can’t take my job.
- I failed Kid1 in not reining him in and leading him more closely. He is not ready to lead and I shouldn’t have let him. From where I was, I didn’t see it as leadership, but when he hit that fork that he didn’t even see, and I had to chase him down a good mile or so, it became clear he needed me to set boundaries. On the way back, he was allowed to go ahead as long as he waited at every single fork in the road for my guidance.
- More preparation wouldn’t have been terrible. I kept looking at the progression of the sun with our late starting time and wondering what would happen if we had to hike back in the dark and I didn’t have a flashlight. We got back well before the sunset and watched it from Point Dume.
- I’m fearless in life except when it comes to my boys. I was worried about the little ones when I was off and chasing my oldest.
- Hiking isn’t a family trip for good reason, and our future compromise is museums. I couldn’t enjoy the beauty on the hike. It felt like exercise and not fun.
- I’m in better shape than I thought I was and running doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
When we were heading home Kid3 went from a tantrum to complete break down and it looked like aggression toward Kid2 and a meltdown on the floor of the car as we parked along PCH. Being near the ocean was a bonus because we got through his moment and the ocean and the music I played in the car allowed me to shift back into joy before we got home. As a family, we had a collective break down. I nearly lost it, yelling at Kid3 and it was a look from Kid1 that gave me a moment to pause. (Mom fail.) Kid1 told us about the many things stressing him out the last two weeks. (Bonus for him finding his voice!) Kid2 is always the King of a Delayed Reaction, so I get to see what that will look like later. I was losing it and watching the ocean to find it. Once we were home, Kid3 admitted the divorce isn’t sitting easily with him and that was part of his need to cry and kick his brother. We’ll be heading to my mom’s house to hammer it out with that 100 pound heavy bag later. He said all he was ready to and I’m sure we’ll talk again later. We always do.
We’ll be okay, but I get to learn from what today looked like.