My greatest paternal epiphany to date begins, not unusually, with Kat. He’s been putzing out on me lately. After two weeks of frigid monsoon April mayhem, May finally arrived like your first sane adult girlfriend and the weekend was going to be perfect. Cool evenings, warm days, blue skies, full waterfalls. I got some kind of text from him listing all the reasons he’s booked and I got to thinking.
The boys are now at the age where they’re just miserable to have together. 12 and 8. It means the 12-yr-old acts like a man-sized 2nd grader whenever he’s around his brother and the 8-yr-old resorts to full-throttle attack mode as a way to assert his right to personal space and then the big one gets hurt because he won’t take a hint and starts yelling and then hulks out and goes all puberty-schitzo on everybody. They’ll grow out of it in about 10, 15 years but there is a very real temptation to escape them.
You know you feel it, too, model parent readers.
But then Kat blocked off my first line of escape with excuses, so that idea was shot. And, truth told, it is horridly unfair to Momma to leave her with that muddled mess of testosterone and partially-formed frontal cortexes.
It is hard, though, seriously hard to get them all out in the green together. I can focus on keeping maybe one of them happy, safe, and comfortable at a time. (You know, I need a husband. . . ) Momma is so out of her wheelhouse in the green that she’s a passenger only – and, let’s be honest here, but her happiness and comfort is the engine of the bus. Once it runs out of gas, the vacation is way over.
It was mid-week, last week, as Momma and I were decompressing after an evening of particularly turbulent puberty – you know, door slamming and cracked-voice yelling and phone-grounding – when it hit me that there’s a way to do this.
I pitched it to her that part of Bear Bait’s problem, at least the non-biological part, was that all our family fun really did seem restricted by the lowest common denominator. By necessity, we have to keep an 8-yr-old along and so Bear Bait is probably pushing back against that. You know, quit treating me like a kid and all. I brought up the idea of a date night. Momma would take Bear Bait and, just the two of them, do whatever stuff they wanted to do. I’d take Squirrel and do the same. We’d share notes on Sunday. She loved it.
When I asked Squirrel what he wanted to do, he didn’t even have to think about it. He was very specific. He wanted:
- a mountain
- a restaurant
- a new hiking stick
- badges to earn on his new hiking stick
- a gift shop
- camping overnight
I let Momma know that Squirrel’s date night was looking like an overnight trip and she thought it was a great idea (what?) and that I should do it. I told her that it would likely mean that the big boy would want something similar when it was his turn with me. She loved it. (What??)
I went to Bear Bait and sized him up. Boy will probably be taller than me by then end of the summer. He’s already 5’6″ or so. Weighs 125-ish. He’s lost the middle-school pudge after a year of Jr. High track and taekwando. I could throw a pack onto him and he would easily outlast me on any trail these middle-aged knees could take. I pitched the idea to him and he loved it. He wanted Momma to take him clothes shopping (“without Squirrel“) anyway.
I texted Kat and told him that I was a genius. I just lined up two amazing hikes that will be fun for -me- still, after I make sure it is fun, safe, and comfortable for everyone else. . . and . . . and . . . and everyone is happy about it!
The only place I know of that fits Squirrel’s list is Mt. Magazine State Park. Next – the trip report.