Yesterday a friend and I took our kids on the Provo River Trail. It’s a great trail that runs along the Provo River all the way down to Utah Lake. It’s a great public trail, popular year round with bikers, hikers and fishermen. Sometimes too popular.
Our group consisted of five kids aged 6 and under, a pregnant woman and a breast feeding woman. We had bikes and strollers and a baby in a wrap. Any parent knows the effort that goes into an excursion like this. Just that morning I transferred three car seats, attached the bike rack to the car, pumped up bike tires, loaded the bikes on the car, hunted down helmets, packed snacks and drinks, loaded and unloaded each of my three kids. Why did I do all that work? So I could share what I love (outdoors) with people I love (my kids).
Along the trail we made many stops. That won’t be a surprise to all you parents out there. We stopped to throw rocks in the water, eat snacks, get drinks and at the farthest point to sit and breast feed the baby. Throughout the adventure we redirected our kids. Stay where I can see you. Don’t go too fast. Keep up so we don’t lose the group. Watch out for other bikers. Stay on this side of the trail.
While I sat on a bench nursing Baby L, my pregnant friend scrambled through trees and up a steep slope after the older kids who were having trouble maneuvering down. Her son, almost 2, stood on the trail. Right in the middle.
Just then a biker came up the trail and had to steer around my friend’s son to not hit him. The toddler should’ve been three steps further to the right in the lane for hikers, but as any parent of a young child knows, sometimes they don’t listen no matter how many times you’ve asked them to move out of the way. As he rode off the biker called over his shoulder, “You must not love that kid much.”
Rage and anger bubbled under my skin. Although this was my friend’s son, the comment was directed at me, the only visible adult. And I felt all the judgement in it.
You must not love that kid much. Is that why I spent my entire morning making this outing possible? Is that why I try so hard to expose my kids to nature and help them learn new skills like biking and hiking? Is that why I put up with the frustration of wrangling three small people with their complaints, pains, joys and needs?
You must not love that kid much.
The truth is I make the effort to take my kids outdoor spaces because I love them dearly. Fiercely. It is my job to teach them about the world, how to live in it and take care of it. I will continue to make the effort because it is important and valuable. I love my kids that much.