I am of the school of thought that a calm and peaceful approach to parenting is the most effective way to deal with toddlers. But so far, after 40 minutes of calmly debating and intermittently asking if he'd like to go outside, there has been no forward movement, a meltdown because he asked for toast and I gave him toast (yea, you read that right), and a very uncooperative diaper change.
I look first, at the clock. We need to leave to meet our friends in 36 seconds in order to make it. Then I look at my naked, food-covered son, and finally the pile of soggy clothes on the ground from yesterday.
My calm has been thrown out the window. So, I take a deep breath and try to remember that I'm an adult before throwing my own internal tantrum, assess the situation, and....yell to my husband for backup.
We are a family that spends a lot of time outside and so this January I decided that my son and I would participate in the 52 Hike Challenge just to see how we did. The thing I didn't account for was WINTER! No matter what the proposed activity is; pretending it's Halloween and eating as much candy as you want, going to Thomas land and meeting the REAL Thomas, spending the day at his best friend Reed's house and playing with his toys, nothing seems to motivate him to voluntarily leave the house.
I get it. The cold is still not something he's used to. A gusty wind can be so shocking it sometimes startles him into crying. He can't move. At. All. I know that he is warm and dry because of all the layers and the sheer bulk of him, but his tiny body isn't big enough to maintain its flexibility under all that. If he falls he can't always get up on his own and the worst offender? The gloves. He can't hold, pick up or touch anything! In short, this is a toddler’s worst nightmare!
Dressing in winter clothing literally negates a toddler from doing all of his favorite things.
Which brings me to the whole point of this blog. What exactly counts as a "hike"? This is what the 52 Hike Challenge website says: "...we'll loosely count "getting outdoors" as a hike. This includes a hike in your local park, an urban hike, a snowshoe hike on flat land (for those who are in colder climates), a trail run, a climb in the mountains, etc. If a measurement must be made, we will say a minimum of 1 mile each hike."
Ok, so based on this definition, and I know I'm not alone here, not one outing we've completed so far would count because, well toddlers.
At this point, I've put in a lot of time and effort just to get out the door to get to the hike. Most of the time we get there and after 10 minutes he tells me he wants to go. A mile, in the snow, with a toddler? No way Jose! Because you know what that means? You go out a mile, you still have to come back! I'd put him in a carrier but he's at that age where he's just too wiggly to want to stay in it but he's too little to be able to handle actual hiking in the snow for that long.
So, what's a girl to do?
Count the time you met your friend at the park to sled even though you pulled your kid up the hill and then he slid down, effectively doing no hiking at all. Count the time you went to that really cool park to check out the tree fort but ended up only getting 10 feet from the car because THERE WAS A STREAM! Hell, even count that time your kid was actually excited to get outside because it was garbage truck day but after the 15 minutes it took to get out the door you only caught it turning the corner out of sight and taking all of your toddlers motivation to stay outside with it!
Count it all, I say.
Though the 52 Hike Challenge was not necessarily designed for toddlers it's clear that their overall mission is to get people motivated and outside. So, for the love of toddlers everywhere (and their exhausted parents) count all the outings, all the attempts, and, of course, all the actual hikes!
Getting them outside and excited about it is the first step in a long road to a life of outdoor adventuring. You're doing the right thing here so go easy on the actual definition and standard of "hiking" and count the tiny wins.