Growing Up Outdoors (Part 2)
Welcome to Part 2 of a three part series from our guest blogger, Mary Finley! Mary Shares her story of raising her kids to be outdoorsy through all of the challenges and changes that life has thrown their way. Missed Part 1? Check it out here!
Having spent much of our own childhood enjoying nature and the outdoors, I knew when I gave birth to my son in 2001 I wanted us to be active in the outdoors as much as possible. We spent the days of his early childhood enjoying long hikes and enjoying running free in nature without a care in the world. If this sounds a bit too easy and natural of a transition to parenting outdoors, it’s partly because it turned out to be exactly that. I had raised a mini-me with my dad’s love of the great outdoors. For my son, it was in his blood.
Eight years later, I was married to someone new, and living on a rural property twenty minutes from the Shenandoah entrance station I was excited to be expecting my second child, a baby girl! I envisioned us, girl power style, hiking all those same trails, her brother leading the way! Funny things happen when you think you’ve mastered parenting. You get a second child… I found myself once again coming off bedrest, but this time I was also injured from a difficult birth experience (breech births are not mom friendly) and now with an active eight-year-old and a newborn. I will spare you the levels of difficulty it took to get through that first year, but know that if you are a struggling new mom, you are not alone, and you will get through this, mostly because you can and every day the sun rose I got up and forced myself to keep going. Days turned into months, and slowly I crept toward the end of the hardest year of parenting I had faced.
I slowly began being able to walk further, this time using the stroller as a walker helping me creep toward normalcy rather than running through a natural recovery like I did the first time. See, that’s the thing about parenting. Each and every experience is unique. We all trudge through our mental and physical struggle and balance it with the days we soar on parenting victories. In our best moments we create a village of other parents who lift each other up and create a community of love and support, and let’s be honest, on our worst days we criticize, judge, and struggle to continue, and all too often that criticism and judgment falls on ourselves as well as others. Each day we get through and pick ourselves back up and recommit to that community of love and support, to and for ourselves as well as others, we win. That includes forgiveness and acceptance. Something that took a long time to get a hang of for myself, coming off the birth of my second child. I had to accept what I could and couldn’t do physically and forgive and accept what life had handed me. Slowly but surely, it came, and with it a greater depth of complicated understanding of myself, parenting, and life.
By the time my daughter was school aged, I had recovered enough physical ability to start hiking again. In those in between years, I satisfied myself with long drives to overlooks where I could still see out at the world I loved to hike and explore, desperately waiting and working slowly toward a time where I could physically do it again. If you are new to getting outside, or physically easing into or back into physical exercise, don’t give up. Start small, it will come slowly, but in time you will amaze yourself. Slowly that time came for me, and it coincided with the realization that my oldest was suddenly going to be in dual enrollment soon (the last two years of high school taken with community college credits). It was now or never to fulfill those dreams I had of traveling, van life style, with my kids. Seeing all the world had to offer, sleeping under the stars, and hiking across new unseen places.
I discussed it with their dad (my second child’s biological father). He was a teacher working full time, we had a dog, and truthfully, obligations, but I had switched to homeschooling my kids several years earlier and it appeared it was now or never. We got his blessing, and he begrudgingly agreed to walk the dog as soon after work as possible, water the plants, and basically make sure the house was still standing upon our return. Their dad had agreed, with the promise that we would be back by his birthday, June 3rd. I discussed it with my mom and am privileged to have the most adventurous parents ever. My mom’s response was, admittedly, not typical of most parents, but so typical of mine. She responded, “You are finally going to travel again!!! I didn’t think I’d ever get you back out on the road. What can I do to help? I know! You are turning 40! How about I give you gas money for your trip and maybe a bit to stock food? I am so glad you are finally going to do something again!” I wasn’t expecting to get called out for my struggle with recovery, fear that I wouldn’t physically be able to do it anymore, and my fight with anxiety and depression over my recovery after the birth of my daughter that had dragged on for years, but her financial support meant my “dream” trip had suddenly become a reality trip.
Stay tuned for the final installment of Mary’s story!
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