I am shifting my gaze between her and my little guy as we lumber down the trail shuffling after our kids. I am trying hard to make eye contact as I stifle a yawn. My mouth and face contorting trying to play it off like I’m just, I don’t even know, stretching my face? That’s not even a thing. It’s awkward and conspicuous and clearly a yawn, but I don’t want to seem rude.
I like this woman. She is telling me how she and her family ended up in Wisconsin all the way from South Africa. I am intrigued to hear that she was a hiker back home and was bit early on by the “travel bug”. Something in her beaconed for the States. She traveled here alone and ended up in Utah falling in love with the red and orange sandstone of the desert, sunny days, and the outdoor culture. Once she met her husband and had her daughter she, like so many I’ve met here, moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family. Another transplant looking for a community.
This is the second or third time I’ve met and walked with this woman but I still cannot remember her name. Like so many other moms I’ve met recently we all fade into the background so our kids can be the focus. We are known only as “blank’s mom”.
I’ve settled into this role now and find a sort of comfort in the anonymity. It’s not about me anymore. No one is looking at the outfit I’ve worn for the last 3 days or my bed head or counting my 4th cup of coffee.
In asking about the kids and their interests, ours come up only inadvertently, almost forgotten. I stumble over simple questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?”, especially this one. What do I do? My brain seizes as I sift through a typical day of early wake-ups, spilled food, dirty diapers, playdates, and laundry. None of it seems significant to mention. So, instead, I steer the conversation back to the little guy or the other moms.
In doing this I get to know these women, the story behind Oscar’s Mom or Lena’s Mom. I feel a bit like a detective piecing together the long-forgotten background stories of these amazing mothers.
All mothers have a background story, of course, but I have found that Hike It Baby mothers in particular tend to have some of the most adventurous and inspiring stories. It’s as if I’ve found a secret group of badasses masquerading as moms.
Hike It Baby is an organization that was formed to get families with zero to school-aged children outside and to foster a love of nature. It’s a place where families can find support and community and it’s been a lifeline for us since moving back to the midwest.
We catch up with a few of the other moms on the trail. They overheard Armani’s mom’s story and chime in excitedly. Reed’s mom talks about growing up in the Philippines, “…camping trips on Samal island as a teenager, complete with motorcycle rides, moonlit swims at waterfalls, and sleeping 50 ft above the ground in balete trees.” She is quiet and reserved and tells me that she has moved a lot, that’s it become a bit of a hobby. She seems confident, fearless. I offer stories of my life in Asia, hoping to connect, excited to have found someone else to share that experience with.
In answer to the “What do you do?” question, Finn’s mom tells me about Hippotherapy, something I’d vaguely heard of but thought was something only practiced in places conjured by Dr. Seuss, and of course, done on hippos.
Her whole face lights up when she tells me about working with horses (duh!) to help her patients with emotional healing, motor skills, and coordination. “The horse has a way of grounding us and keeping us in the present. I always feel better after being at the barn…” She goes on to tell me she works part-time now so she can be home with her two kids. To have such a significant career while also caring for not one but two small children I find to be truly incredible. I really need to up my game!
We stop abruptly at a creek, that requires much inspection by the toddlers. As I am musing about how great this is, Wesley’s mom tells me how this creek has transported her back in time to her simple and rustic upbringing in Northern Illinois. “As a kid, there was this small forest preserve, nothing fancy but the highlight at the path entrance was this tiny natural water spring with the purest water!” We talk about her move to Utah and her love of the mountains. Something in me brightens, she gets it, a fellow lover of mountains!
As I struggle with the flimsy straps of the car seat against a very willful and wiggly toddler, I am still marveling at Wesley’s mom because she is also Analaya’s and Everet’s mom. Even with 3 kids she never seems frustrated or overwhelmed. She is the kind of friend who listens to you vent about your frustrations and then shows up at your door with soup for that cold or that book you were talking about, like some kind of altruistic magician.
I’ve known these women for only a short time, and on a good day can even call a few of them by name, but they’ve become my friends and community. Hike It Baby has made these friendships possible and linked us in ways I will forever be thankful for. See ya on the trails guys.