Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I'm not a very brave person. I'm one of those people for whom taking risks feels great--when I can bring myself to take them. I am getting better at pushing on my comfortable limits, but you'll never find me sky-diving or bungee jumping or offering to speak publicly on any occasion. Ever.

But I want to raise a boy who isn't afraid to be brave. Who doesn't see the fear in his mother's eyes and shrink away from taking chances or facing his own fears. Bugs? Creep me out. But when we encounter a colony of ants writhing in a pack on the ground, I take a deep breath & talk to him about the amazing community they create & how they work together as a team. When a bee flies around us, I try not to spaz at the fear of being stung or the worry that we still don't know if Ethan's allergic; I just tell him to walk away from the bee & leave it alone--it will only sting him if he scares it.

Today, when we were climbing up giant rocks on our hike, slipping on leaves and sliding through caves (yeah, that's what I said. Sliding through caves), I told myself to take some deep breaths, hold his hand & not let him see that the part of me who shies away from taking risks was hyperventilating just a little bit.

We met a couple of girlfriends and their kiddos today at Castle Rock for an amazing hike. For the most part, it is an easy walk. Clearly...

when the 15 month old can handle it, it's a pretty easy hike, no?

The kids had an awesome time from the get go, and our traveling minstrel even brought the music with us...

chicks dig guitarists.

Today he took a break from being John Lennon and announced to me that he was "Jack Johnson...or maybe the guy from The Who." He's got a wide range of musical interests, clearly.

When you name a park "Castle Rock," it's probably because there are a lot of rocks in the general area. And perhaps stumbling upon one really giant rock or rock formation is the climax of the hiking experience. That seems reasonable. This is the first set of rocks we found...

there was much climbing of rocks.

As we continued, the hike became rockier and dicier. Nothing truly dangerous (unless you were being utterly reckless, which we weren't), but there were enough steep-ish grades and piles of slippery leaves to cause more than one of us to more than once slip and fall on our butts or stomach as we were venturing up the hills and rocks. Very minor & without anything that could remotely be called an injury. Most of us took it in stride. Ethan, his mother's son, tapped into his fear and on more than one occasion, lost his proverbial shit over the slipping and falling.

Ethan did a lot of "I can't"'s and ran through his entire repertoire of whines, from a whimper to a scream, quite literally. As most of his friends moved ahead with the hike, Ethan and I often found ourselves staying behind to hash out how and if we were going to forge ahead, conquer the fear or call it quits and head back to the car.

It was hard, as his mom, to know when to give him a gentle push, when to leave him be & when to suggest (erm, threaten?) to just leave if he didn't decide one way or another if he was going to move forward or just sit down and cry. I didn't want to shame him into moving forward; I didn't want to shame him if he decided he didn't want to go further.

But I was frustrated. Mostly because I saw my own fear in him. My own unwillingness to keep going when I've stepped out of my comfort zone. My own tendency to whine, "this is haaaaarrrrd," and give up. That novel I've always wanted to write? It's haaaarrrrrd. Losing the extra weight I'm carrying around by sticking with a running routine and giving up chai lattes? It's haaaaarrrrd.

As we approached THE Castle Rock, Ethan and I told our friends to go on ahead as we sat together--Ethan screaming and crying; me, taking deep breaths and asking him if it was time to go or if he was going to power through and see the big rocks with his friends. I was preparing myself to make the walk back to the cars by ourselves. I know that if I was the 4 year old in that scenario, it's the choice I probably would have made.

But my boy? Is brave.

Castle Rock, meet Ethan. He's all kinds of brave.

I'm assuming all these rock formations were formed by glaciers because of the smooth surfaces and weird holes in the rock--they are like ginormous ball and socket joints. Just the right size for preschoolers to climb into...

into the cave he goes...

blurry action shot...

seriously, I'm claustrophobic and breaking into a cold sweat just looking at this picture, and I can't believe I let him shimmy his way through that little cave-y space, but he LOVED it.

taking a little break in one of the giant caves that the kids turned into the "house"--this was one of the bedrooms.

once you get past the CRAZINESS that is that rock pattern, check out my kid navigating his way through that pile of rocks--with his friend Mika, who may or may not have a touch of a Dora obsession (note the back pack).

Seriously, WHAT makes a rock look like that?

Aaand, back down again...

time for a drink...

which way to the parking lot?

I have found that motherhood challenges me in a million ways every day. Letting Ethan find his own footing on the slippery rocks and steep hills, trying to figure out when to nudge him to move on or move backwards, or when not to say anything at all, but to offer him my hand and let him decide, is something that's complicated by my own sense of fear. Our day was not flawless (of course I didn't catch the screaming tantrums on the camera because I was too busy looking for a tree stump to kick in frustration) and the pictures only show part of the story, but he was so proud of himself for being so very brave that I'm fairly certain the memories that stick with both of us will be of how happy he was climbing to the top of Castle Rock, not the angst that got us there.


Anonymous said...

you guys have done some great exploring this year! that looks amazing. what a great lesson for e too. oh, and selfishly? i want you to write that novel!
kita (too lazy to sign in)

Anonymous said...

beautiful area, nicely written, and great pictures.....but is Ethan hiking in crocs? No wonder he was slipping!