It’s a phrase I know all too well – my toddler’s words for “I want to leave, NOW!”
I try my best to coax him down the trail, but he won’t have it. He’s not hiking today. He takes one last look at me, turns around, and walks back in the direction we came, dramatically yelling “Momma car! Momma car! Momma car!” the whole way.
As I watch him walk away from me, not turning around for even a second, I wonder, “Why am I doing this to myself?”
I chase him down, pick him up, and carry him back down the trail, trying to distract him by asking if he sees any squirrels or if he can find any spiderwebs on the bushes around us. As my arms and back begin to ache under his weight, I set him on his feet and try to get him to walk beside me.
He walks a few steps, then begs to be picked up again. Up he goes, into the trusty carrier on my back. He snuggles in and quietly rides along, occasionally asking, “Momma car?”
For whatever reason, he simply does not want to be on the trails today.
There are a million reasons I can easily rattle off about why I drag myself and a young child outside to walk around in the woods. Most of the reasons sound incredibly noble.
I hike because I want my son to appreciate the big, beautiful world around him.
I hike because I want my son to grow up with a love of the outdoors.
I hike because I want my son to burn off his endless amounts of energy in a constructive way.
I hike because I want my son to learn how to continue on when the going gets tough.
I hike because I want my son to gain confidence as he navigates physical and mental challenges on the trail.
As a mother, of course I want all of these things for my son. But these things are not the things that propel me to keep hiking when I wonder if it’s worth it.
No, when it really comes down to it, I hike for me.
I hike because it connects me to the Jessie that existed before I became a momma.
I hike because it makes me a more patient, adventurous, and creative person.
I hike because it challenges me and stretches me and makes me feel courageous and capable.
I hike because it relieves my stress like nothing else does.
I hike because the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and the sweat on my brow leaves a smile on my face for days.
I hike because it is how I best take care of me.
And when I make a conscious effort to take care of myself, I feel more confident in how I take care of my family.
The whining fades away as he quietly rides on my back. I can tell he is close to dozing off as his body relaxes a bit and his head heavily rests on the back of my shoulder. I step a little more carefully in hopes that he will stay asleep and I continue on my way.
It won’t be the tantrums or the whining that I take away from this outing. It will be the small feeling of accomplishment that will carry me through until it’s time to head out again.