Monday, October 11, 2010

Walking, but no hiking

We had a wonderful weekend in Portland. Once again, the city seemed to pulse with exuberance: on the biking path that runs alongside the harbor; in the shops and cafes; at the public beach; on the sidewalk where the sightseeing trolley disgorge passengers. The sun shone, the air was cool, the breeze was brisk: everyone seemed chipper and happy.

Also once again, my plans to drag my children out on a hike flopped. Or, if flopped is not exactly the right verb, then fizzled.

I wanted to explore one of the easy, kid-friendly hiking trails whose names had appeared on my computer screen ever since I put the word out on Facebook and Twitter that I was determined to get my two children out for a hike this weekend. Bradbury Mountain, or Wolfe Neck State Park, or even the trails that lead off the beach at Crescent Beach State Park.

But it wasn’t meant to be. We spent Saturday morning at the boatyard exploring my parents’ new boat. After lunch, everyone rested and read. And then, when I was ready to brave some new terrain outside the city, the kids had other ideas. It wasn’t that they wanted to watch TV or play computer games. They just didn’t want to get back into the car to drive to a hiking trail, for which I can hardly blame them. Avoiding the car, which often seems important to my kids when we are away from home, is an impulse with which I can never in good conscience argue.

So I told them we needed to do something involving fresh air and exercise, and they could decide what. Holly wanted to walk to the toy store and shop for stickers; Tim was interested in a vinegar tasting at the gourmet shop down the block. (Really. Tim loves vinegar. A vinegar-tasting event for him is like the Ben & Jerry’s Scooperbowl might be for another 12-year-old boy.) Both sounded like reasonable impulses and would at least get us out doing something, if not something that exactly qualified as exploring nature. So we visited the sticker store and then the kids remembered a playground we’d discovered last spring. Forgetting about the vinegar tasting, we headed out in the direction where we thought we remembered the playground being, and found it about a half-mile later. Delighted with that option, the kids ran up and down the slide, chased each other, pumped high on the swings, and ran around some more. Then we walked back to the condo.

I have to admit that no amount of planning on my part, no amount of researching hiking trails and putting out inquiries as to other families’ favorites, is likely to change my kids’ inclinations right now. They’re just not big on hiking. And at a certain point, I need to recognize that and not make the mistake of harping on it.

On the other hand, it’s reasonable to say that as their mother, I have a certain obligation to do what I can to keep them healthy and fit, and part of that is daily exercise. So in light of this weekend’s change of plans, I’ve decided I can’t push them to do activities they really aren’t interested in, but I can tell them they have to find some form of outdoor activity for 20 or 30 minutes most days. Yesterday, Tim played baseball; when I offered Holly the choice of a bike ride, a walk, or time on the swing set, she opted for the swing set – but it was still a half-hour of good physical activity for her.

Maybe eventually they’ll come around. At ages 8 and 12, they surely can’t have formed all their opinions and preferences quite yet. I hope at some point they do develop an interest in hiking. In the meantime, I need to accept what I cannot currently change, push the regular exercise in whatever form they choose, and possibly find other people to hike with.

And to everyone who wrote to me with their Portland suggestions, I really appreciate the ideas, I’ll keep the list, and eventually, one way or another, I’ll try them all out.

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