My daughter and I went hiking for two days this week, taking advantage of the school holidays to get out. On our first day, we summited Little Mount Peel. Several years ago the whole family hiked the same track, though not to the top. In those days, my husband and I pulled the kids along behind us. Encouraging them on, waiting for them while they took breaks.
These days, it’s the other way around. I determined we would go at my pace, not the 14 year-old rock climber’s pace. She pulled me up the mountain, stopping occasionally to let me catch up. (Where did she learn that bland, patient smile, calculated to hide her boredom?)
I wish I could be as oblivious as the children I used to pull up the mountain.
Though I hiked behind her, I was still out in front, assessing risk, calculating her need for food and rest, figuring hiking times and return times, keeping an eye on her warmth. I was still the worrier, still the responsible parent.
When the kids were young, I dreamed of the day they could keep up. Now I fear the kids’ ability to get into trouble has outstripped their ability to manage risk. Not surprising. That’s what teens do.
But now I dream of a day when I can simply hike, without worrying about anyone’s safety but my own. I will go at my own pace, stop when I am tired, sit on rocky outcrops for hours contemplating the patterns of ridge lines in the distance. Perhaps once again I will experience a place fully, and not through the fog of parental responsibility.