Solo Parent Venturing Out


It’s spring today. After a looong week (sick kid, work backlog because of staying home for sick kid, getting sick myself and losing my voice for 4 days, and working Saturday to make up for getting behind on projects earlier in the week) I woke up this morning and had nothing to do except spend time with my toddler.

Actually, I NEVER have nothing to do, but realistically speaking it is not possible to work on computer-based tasks when my toddler is around, unless he’s napping or in bed for the evening. Some mornings I am all about strategizing for that nap-time space to get things done, but it’s hard, and it usually involves NOT hiking in the morning, because my kiddo always falls asleep in the carrier, and then there’s no midday nap at home.

Today I just thought, “You know what? We’re going outside.” And we did, and the exercise was really needed, and the toddler did fall asleep in the carrier, and that was fine.

I drove us out to Celebration Park, on the Snake River. Lots of other people were out enjoying the nice weather as well. Spring flowers are starting to show themselves: Little weedy-looking mustards, bur buttercup, tiny white drabas that are easy to ignore until you see a whole carpet of them, and some big, showy golden currant. Killdeer and seagulls were making noise along the water and we had glimpses of red epaulettes on blackbird wings, and some northern flickers took off ahead of us with their distinctive flutter-glide flight pattern. At the big wooden bridge I let little guy walk, and he toddled along on his toes, pointing at the water, at a motor boat, at passing walkers and dogs. He saw a man with a fishing pole walking by along the shore just below us and waved. On the drive home I listened to NPR on the car radio and enjoyed the feeling of just chilling out.

It was a good day, and I tried not to think too much about J. She had said she was probably going to hike Table Rock, a popular trail closer to home, with S, and with S’s kid. I tried not to focus on jealous or angry thoughts, and I tried not to let myself imagine what it would be like to have J along on the hike with us, all easy companionship, the way it used to be.

If I was being realistic in today’s imagined family hike, J would have spent the morning / previous evening vacillating between “yes, let’s go out on a hike!” and “I don’t want to go and I don’t really care where this hike is but I’ll go because I said I would.” Maybe add some “I hate our life together” tears on J’s part and an exhausting but honest conversation (started by me) in which the same issues are brought up and no resolution is forthcoming. We would pack lunch, get out to the trailhead, and J would probably be annoyed/sullen/in a state of forced cheerfulness for the entire day. If I was lucky she would mellow out a bit and we would be able to laugh at little guy’s antics, or point out the plants and animals we saw during our walk. On the drive home J would probably be messaging S, and I would be annoyed because she would look happier while messaging on her phone than she ever looked when interacting with me.

Ugh, I do not want that back.

It’s all kinds of confusing, though. I am having to reinvent my outdoor identity. For the last 10 years I have shared most of my outdoor adventures with J. On my own I have done a lot of hikes close to town, but J always planned the bigger stuff. She liked planning more than I did, and she was often annoyed  with my choices when I planned outings, so I always let her take the lead. For the most part, that pattern suited us. Now that I am on my own I feel adrift. I know how to look at maps and make plans, but I’m not as driven to get to the most dramatic, least-known things. I loved those kinds of trips when I was with J, but without her I am less willing to get into sketchy situations (this is doubly true with a kid). On my own the concept of reaching the most dramatic, least-known anything feels… a little empty? I know I have bigger hikes in me than the ones put on by the local Hikeit Baby group, and I also have more ambition and internal stamina than I am likely to put to use even in the regular adult hiking clubs in our area. In the past my personal hiking style has been in the category of “lots and lots of miles, randomly exploring.” But after having spent a decade seeing what good, focused planning can get one to, I am not sure I want to go back to being the kind of hiker I once was.

No answers here, just trying to work it all out.







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