Yesterday morning we started out with a giddy sense of possibility and adventure. Today was THE day. I whipped up some sandwiches for the cooler, threw a bunch of sweaters and fleeces into a bag and off we went. Off to Mount Haleakala National Park. Ten thousand feet up, to the top of the volcano crater. Sweet!
About three months ago, Ethan's class became fascinated by volcanoes. Ethan would come home and explain to me breathlessly about the giant mountains that filled up with lava and the BOOM!!!! exploded into the sky! Amazing! So cool!! The Wonder Pets and the Backyardigans both have episodes featuring volcanoes and zOMG how Ethan loves them! This is when I jokingly mentioned to Husband that we clearly needed to take a family vacation to Hawaii so Ethan could see a real live, erm, dormant volcano. (note to self: good job not selecting Iceland as our family volcano get-away). The joke-y "hey, let's go all the way to Hawaii to show our kid a real volcano!" line turned into a real vacation idea because a.) we were badly in need of a family vacation, and b.) Hawaii, it turns out, is a hell of a lot closer when you live on the West Coast as opposed to the East. So there you go.
When we got out onto the road, I unfolded the map to its full-sized glory (no candy-ass GPS for us in Hawaii, folks. We're kicking it old school with actual maps given to us by the concierge) and realize that we're embarking on a 2 hour car ride to the summit. Having done this ride on our honeymoon, I swear I didn't remember the ride up being that long, but that's probably because I was all gooey-eyed and in love. This time, with a preschooler? The ride was slightly less idyllic. "Are we at the top yet?" "I want to go hoooooooome." Poor kid. I felt for him. But IT'S THE VOLCANO!! It's what we came here for! Must soldier on! Almost there!
We pointed out the clouds to Ethan as we rose up above the cloud line. That was briefly fascinating to him and he started wondering why we couldn't just drive home to California if we could drive up into the clouds. The fact that the drive back to California would require a car that could either fly or could drive on water, and that it would take days from Hawaii to California, didn't seem to be a reasonable excuse NOT to take a car back for our return trip. So, you know, we're taking that under advisement.
But soon the clouds below us stopped being a source of interest and his steady stream of "why" questions tapered off ("why are they clouds?" "why are they water?" "why is there water in the sky?" "why do the plants need the water?" "why is it called water?" why why why whywhywhyWHY????!!!! Dante was clearly never a parent or he would have most definitely included a "why" circle in his little collection of hells), and we were back to some serious kvetching about his general unhappiness at not being in the pool. Which, I do realize, is totally reasonable to a 3.5 year old. I know that I could check into the Days Inn on the other side of town from us at home and he could play in that pool to his heart's content (please note, though: the pools here are way nicer than you're going to find at any Days Inn, unless there's a Days Inn in Heaven, and even then, I'm not sure), but that a volcano is not really an everyday thing. But he doesn't quite get that. I know.
I hoped that when we arrived at the top of the volcano and got out to walk around, he'd be as in awe of Haleakala as he had been two days earlier when we walked on the lava rocks by the ocean at Bay Perouse. That day, he had been very unhappy with the idea, afraid the lava would be hot, wanted to be back at the pool instead, yadda yadda. But as soon as he started exploring, he was fascinated and couldn't be pulled away from the 200+ year old lava rocks, every five minutes asking what is becoming his trademark question, "How cool is that?!!" I expected he would react the same at the summit of Haleakala.
Poor little guy, it was just not meant to be.
When we arrived at the summit, it was probably 45-50 degrees at the top and windy. The type of wind that takes your breath away if you're standing into it. And the second we got out of the car, Ethan stood into the wind and got the breath knocked out of him. Damn it! I'd thought to prepare him for the "don't worry, the volcano won't erupt," "there's no hot lava anymore," and "we're bringing coats because it's going to be cold up there!" elements of the trip. It hadn't occurred to me to prepare him for the "don't worry, the wind will not blow you off the side of the volcano" fears that might arise. That did arise. The second that blast of wind hit him, he went from kvetchy whiner to full on panic attack meltdown.
It was super good times, folks. Super good.
We gave it our best shot. I carried him. Husband carried him. We tried to explain to him that he was safe and that the wind wasn't strong enough to carry him away (think he might still be a bit traumatized by this incident in which a friend's kite was picked up and mercilessly carried away by the wind, never to be seen again). He stamped his feet and screamed (and he's not a really tantrum-y kid when it comes down to it--this was full-on freak out of epic proportions for him). Trying to put him down would elicit blood curdling screams and his legs locking on my waist like a vice. So, you know, loads of fun for the whole family.
Look how happy! This is before we reached the summit when it was just super cool to be in the clouds.
It really does feel like you're on the top of the earth.
....and here's the end of the happy. As soon as we got above the vegetation line, it was all tantrums and tizzies.
So much more impressive in feet than in meters.
At one point we had to sit down and work on some old-school rocking/comforting. Sometimes the 5-S's work on preschoolers, too.
Mr. Crankypants finally won out and after about 30 minutes of trying to win him over with exclamations of amazement, we sobbed our way off of Haleakala.
I have to admit that our failure to fully revel in the awe of being atop a volcano really pinched my Clark Griswold nerve raw. Husband had to talk some sense into me as I started to "But this is what we came here for! Let's just keep going! He just needs to calm down and then he'll love it!" Ugh. It's not easy for me to admit that I was momentarily willing to put my desire to make memories and have experiences together as a family ahead of what was clearly becoming my 3.5 year old's all out panic attack. Sigh. Thankfully I eased off on the Mommie Dearest: The Vacation Edition routine, and we got back into our car.
And headed here:
We took the tour and got to feed the goats and watch the kids show off on, what else? the surf board, and then we got to sample a variety of goat cheeses. Ohdeargod, the goat cheeeeeeese!
Ethan made a friend
Now, please prepare yourself for 8 billion pictures of goats.
Has clearly recovered from the Haleakala trauma. Is sooooo happy to be around the goats.
What do I plan to do when I retire? Move to Hawaii and raise goats. Write it down and check back in 25 years. You heard it here. Retire to Hawaii and raise goats. (Husband is not 100% on board with this plan yet, but he will be...)