I was terrified of having a baby, but not for the obvious reasons. I wasn’t worried about keeping her alive, her diet, the sleep loss, or her future college choices (and how we would pay for those).
No, I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I like to or stay as active as I always was in my early 20s. I was scared a baby would tie me down. I love to run, hike, explore, and eat my way around the world, and I didn’t see how having Isla would fit into that big picture.
But she had to fit because she was coming, and I couldn’t stop being myself just because I was becoming a mom. I wasn’t going to hole up for the next several years just because we were having a little one. I decided I was going to parent without fear.
Most people described parenthood to me as an expensive deep, dark hole of little freedom, no travel, no fun, no fitness. And with widened eyes, I pledged that wasn’t going to be my attitude.
I wanted having a daughter to be fun. We had made the choice to bring her into the world, so I was going to make the choice for her to enjoy it as much as she possibly could. I didn’t want her growing up hearing hints that she kept mommy and daddy from doing the things they loved, so I decided before she even arrived that we were going to stay as mobile as we possibly could. I didn’t know what that was going to look like, but I was going to make it happen. I wasn’t going to let fear stop me from living our *dream* life. And I certainly didn’t want to teach my daughter to let fear run her life.
From day one with her, we’ve pushed our limits with how much we think we are able to do with her, and every time, she’s surprised us. We’ve traveled with her all over the world, and she’s handled it like a champion…and loved it.
On Saturday, she and I went hiking for the first time alone. We usually save our hiking adventures for Samuel, but he had to work on Saturday, so I decided I was going to attempt the hike alone with her. It was a close, easy hike at Twin Falls, so I could just bail at any point if it didn’t go well. I wanted to see not only how she would do without my husband’s interactions with her, but also how I would do mentally and physically carrying her up and down the trail by myself vs handing her off to Samuel halfway through the trek. It was a beautiful experience. It pushed me physically, and it was a wonderful bonding experience for the two of us. We “chatted” up the mountain, pointing out leaves, the stream, rocks. She was super interactive and very excited about every aspect of the trek. I came away from the 5 mile adventure energized, both from the hike and the feeling of accomplishment that the two of us were able to go hiking on our own and actually have a great time together.
By Sunday, my mind was churning with all kinds of new possibilities for potential day hiking trips for us during the week. Mount Rainier National Park kept going through my mind. It’s one of my favorite places to hike, but it’s usually packed on the weekends when we are able to go with Samuel. The trails tend to be overloaded with people, and there’s nothing worse than trying to find a bit of serenity on an overloaded trail; however, if Isla and I could go on a week day, there would be half the people.
But a fearful little voice in the back of my head asked if I were pushing the limit. It was a 2 hour drive there, and any of the hikes I would want to do would be at least 3 to 4 hours, followed by the 2 hour drive home. It would be a long day. It could have potential outstanding rewards, but it could also be full of mishaps. I debated it over and over in my head. There are hundreds of little hikes close to home I could go on, but my mind was pricked with the idea of Rainier. But now that I knew I could handle the hike alone with her, I had to go.
Go big or go home…that stupid motto. I live by that motto.
We left Tuesday morning around 8am and drove to Mt. Rainier. It was a beautiful clear day and the mountain loomed in the distance, calling us. Isla excitedly pointed out mountains and lakes on the drive. Since we moved to Redmond, Washington earlier this year and have been hiking regularly, Isla has become very interested in mountains and bodies of water. She gets excited and points every time she sees one, making my mama and nature heart swell with pride and joy.
I chose to go to Sunrise in the northeastern corner of the park at 6400ft elevation. It is the highest place you can drive in the park to picnic with several trails leading up into the mountains and meadows. It’s a drier and less popular place than Paradise but still packed with beauty. We took Sourdough Ridge Trail to Dege Peak to chase some stunning views for lunch. Isla immediately pointed out the mountain in the distance, and was fascinated by all of the flowers and butterflies on the ridge trail. The final .3 trek up to Dege Peak where it breaks from the ridge was steep and rocky but manageable even with her on my back. As soon as we turned the final corner for the view, I was struck with amazement and yelled to Isla that we were queens of the world. I couldn’t help myself. The 360 degree view from Dege Peak is phenomenal. It takes your breath away the minute you arrive. You realize just how small you are and how big the world is. And who doesn’t need a reality check every now and then? My heart surged with joy. I was so glad I took Isla up there, and I chastised myself for even doubting my wanting to come. It was such a special moment for the two of us that I will cherish for years to come. It was the first time the two of us scaled a peak by ourselves, and I’ll tell her about it over and over again. I’ll tell her about how many butterflies we saw and how many flowers she touched. I’ll tell her how we ate our sandwiches while we took in the view, and she bravely swatted at bees. And I’ll tell her that fear doesn’t have a place when it comes to adventures for the two of us.
What are you fearing as a parent? What are you limiting yourself to with your children because you’re afraid?
It doesn’t have to be something crazy like scaling a mountain…I’ve been pushing the limit for a while now. It could be something as simple as a family vacation with a longer car drive, or a restaurant outing, or a park outing.
Believe it or not, I used to be fearful of driving in the car with her because she would scream and scream in her car seat. Yes, just running to the grocery store with her gave me anxiety, but then one day I decided that I wasn’t going to let my fear stop me from living out basic simple life chores. Our grocery trips turned into bigger trips. And she finally stopped crying in the car. We overcame the fear and hassle of restaurants, air travel, and long car rides by just doing it. Every time, we tried a little of something, and then we would try more and more until it became second nature to her. Now when Isla sees an airplane in the sky, she points to herself because she wants to get on it. She brings our suitcases out into the kitchen because she wants to go on trips. She loves her hiking backpack. And she actually gets excited by car trips.
Before I had Isla, I had no idea what I was getting into as a parent. No one does. I was scared, scared I wouldn’t be able to go and do, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The life we’ve made with her is nothing like I originally envisioned, but it has turned into something way more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I have the best travel buddy. I love watching her explore and conquer new things. I can’t believe how much we are able to do with her just because I dare to ask myself, “why not?” I’m grateful for every day the Lord has blessed me with her because she’s made life grander. Seeing our adventures through her eyes as made them that much more spectacular. God knew exactly what I needed in a daughter. She’s fearless, full of energy and full of life. She’s up for everything I throw at her, and I’m up for everything she throws at me…(most of the time).
In the last two years, I have done more with Isla than I ever thought was possible. She’s been on 15 or more airplanes. She’s been on bus rides around Spain and boat rides around Venice. She’s played on beaches from Florida to Hawaii. She’s hiked trails and mountains from the United Kingdom to Washington State. She’s paddle boarded, cycled, and ridden a pony in between. And let’s not forget the cross-country road trip (yes, all 3,000 miles) she handled like a boss at 18 months old. She’s done all of this with a giant smile plastered on her face. She may not remember all of this, but I am convinced all of this is impacting her as she is growing up. I truly believe exposing her to so many different things at a young age will encourage her explorer heart and make her a stronger and less fearful adult. So if you think you can’t travel with your little one, think again.
Every time I’ve pushed myself as a parent, it’s made me feel stronger as her mom and as a woman. It’s built confidence in her and myself. I look forward to what the two of us will conquer today, tomorrow, and next week. It’s been an adventure with her, more than I ever dreamed having a child would be.
So mamas (and dads), I encourage you to get out there with your little ones. You can do so much more with them than you realize. Maybe you go try that restaurant you’ve been dying to try, or maybe you plan that trip you’ve been dying to take, or maybe you just go on a nature walk with them and explore your own backyard a little more. The world is yours and teach them that its theirs too. Parent without fear. And by doing so, teach your child how to live without fear. Without fear, who knows what they’ll be able to do in this life.
Never stop exploring,