Pros and cons of hiking with kids

At the beginning of the hike, before the incessant complaining set in.

Picture this: it’s a bright, Autumn day in Wales. You walk through a vibrant green meadow peppered with sheep. As you near the coast, you can hear the soothing crash of the waves as they pound upon the steep cliffs that lie ahead. You stop to watch radiant rays of sunlight bounce from one wave’s crest to the next in a watery game of leap frog. The air feels refreshingly crisp, not biting, as it whips your cheeks. Your lungs welcome the burst of fresh air that replaces the big city’s grit and grime. It’s almost idyllic, this pastoral setting – one that you could conjure up for a much-needed image of peace during hectic days at home.

Now add my children into the mix. Replace the sound of crashing waves with incessant complaining and cranky outbursts. Change the game of leap frog to one of truth or dare which inevitably ends with one child knee-deep in frigid ocean water, being told that she will not be carried for the remaining hour and a half of our hike just because she is wet. Picture this child then bursting into tears at the injustice of it all and her brother refusing to move another inch until we find someone who will teleport them to the car, which is parked miles away. That pretty much sums up our three and a half hour hike through the Welsh countryside.

An hour prior to our hike, the owner of the B&B we were staying in gave us a brochure which featured nearby walking routes. Excited to spend time outside and explore the coastline, Austin and I chose a two-hour route that incorporated views of the sea as well as hills and meadows. Perfect. If all went as planned (as things always do when children are involved, right) we’d be enjoying fish and chips in a small village pub by noon.

Armed with wellies, hats, mitts and a few snacks, we took the trail by storm, racing each other to the top of the first hill. Our first view of the coast was so breath-taking it literally left everyone speechless. Or at least I think it did. The wind was so strong it pushed me upright when I leaned forward and it was so loud that we had to scream to be heard. I held the kids’ hands so tightly for fear they’d be blown over the cliffs that they begged me to let go.

While we continued along our journey (which took 90 minutes longer than we’d planned), the kids played on deserted beaches, whined about having legs that were too short to hike and complained about being stuck with parents who liked to walk when other, luckier people had parents who liked to stay in and watch TV. Oh the unfairness of it all.

While they complained, I listened, walking all the while and trying to divert their attention to the intense beauty that surrounded us. Two hundred year old stone bridges, babbling brooks, pristine beaches and baby otters. The kids, who did have spurts in which they enjoyed themselves immensely, were basically miserable. The bonus for us? When my kids are miserable, they are often hilarious at the same time. So funny, in fact that I laughed hard enough to produce tears at a few of their comments. FYI – that didn’t help to improve their moods.

Christmas wish
Pierce: There’s only one thing I wish I could change about you and Dad. You are prefect except for one thing. You like to take too long walks. So for Christmas, all I want is for you to change.

Family revelations
Marley: I wish I was born into a different family that didn’t like to go for hikes.

What we learned
Me: Now you can go back to school and tell them all about our adventures.
Pierce: Yeah. I can tell them I had to walk for four hours and it was all my parents fault.

Being appreciative
Me: I think you should appreciate the beauty that’s all around us right now.
Pierce: I think you should appreciate the pain.
Me: What pain?
Pierce: The pain in me for going on a hike. You should feel the pain in me. You don’t even care about your own kid.

The advantages of time travel
Pierce: I wish I had a time machine so I could go forward in time and be a grownup and you could go back to be a kid and I would take you on a four hour hike and then you would feel the pain in me.

Family love
Pierce: You don’t even love me. If you loved me you wouldn’t take me on a three-hour hike or a two-hour hike or even a one-hour hike.

Hitch a ride?
Marley: Can you please text someone to pick me up and bring a stroller or a wheelchair so I can sit in it?

Marley’s cow joke
Marley: Look at all those cows. There are enough to make up two football teams. Moochester United versus Moochester City.

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