Monday, May 6, 2013

The Shenandoah Mountains: working in partnership

After over two months of coastal lands, the mountains were calling him. We drove inland to the George Washington National Forest and reached the Shenandoah National Park’s scenic roadway, the Skyline Drive. When we arrived at Big Meadows campground, I was pretty excited to find out it was the Wildflower Weekend and that there were wildflower identification hikes, spring birds identification hikes and even garlic mustard picking hikes! But for our girls, guided hikes, in English (a language they don’t master yet) did not rhyme with fun, especially after the few experiences they had in Southern Utah, namely the memorable one with Ranger Jon.

I could have gone by myself, but what I was really after was to spend time in nature with my family, so we decided to hike from the campground to Lewis falls. While we hiked a couple of miles alongside the Appalachian Trail, our girls happily climbed every boulder and fallen big tree we came across, build dams on flowing spring rivers and smiled from ear to ear. My little free wildflowers! Mathilde exclaimed: It smells like fall, winter, spring and summer at the same time! And we had to agree. The mix of last fall fallen leaves, the young leaves opening, the crisp cold air and the warm sun made for a delicious smell that carried memories of all the seasons. So very different from the coast air we got accustomed to for the last couple of months!

As I watched my girls run and play in the forest, my heart filled with joy. That was so much better than dragging unwilling children to a interpretation hike in the name of education, making them feel powerless (and bored for 2 hours, and probably grumpy... and totally closed to learning anything anyways...).

Making decisions together as a family makes everybody feel heard and in control of what is going on. This is something that is really important to us. Children so often feel powerless and controlled by adults, and that leads to all sorts of stress and unexpressed tensions. We believe in working in partnership with our girls and we are all the better for it.

The hike back up from the falls was hard and up the whole time. It was longer than we all expected and Mathilde was tired and done with the hiking. She complained quite a bit. It is convenient when kids suck it up and play it strong. The twins are old enough (and strong enough) that they are fine doing harder hikes, so they were fine, but this was hard for Mathilde (and for me!!). JF was so patient with her. He towed her and gently talked to her. We played charades and kept trying to lift her spirit. When we saw the end, Aïsha came and grabbed her hand and they ran to the end of the trail. This is how partners do it!

 :: Those two. They are always laughing! ::


verdemama said...

Yes to unguided hikes! A big yes to partnerships and everyone being heard! Beautiful photos.

Joanna said...

love it!