Spending Your Time
What I learned from hiking with my 5 year old
In wake of the atrocities in Israel these last two weeks, I chose our weekend plans in memory and honor of all the innocent lives lost and families affected by the recent war in Israel, and Gaza. Last week, I listened to The New York Times podcast sharing one of many stories of a brave Israeli family with children, 3.5 and 1.5, waiting in a bomb shelter for nine hours without a peep, no food, no electricity, and listening to terrorists shoot out their home. Since then, I’ve heard many heroic and horrendous individual stories about people caught in this awful, AWFUL situation. This war feels personal, despite me writing from the comfort of my living room sofa, in a country that prides ourselves of diversity, for the most part, and allows my interfaith family to hang a mezuzah at our door without feeling scared to be Jew-ish (before these last couple of weeks).
When horrible things happen that warrant immediate prayer, outrage, grief, overwhelm, fear…—my miscarriage included—I find it’s easy to default in prayer to God, “Why did this happen?!” One lesson spiritual contrarian and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor preached was, as a self-confessed “terrible” pray-er, she finds it more helpful to listen during these times. “What does this mean, God? Tell me.”
After my miscarriage, when I listened to my anguish and grief, I heard my deep desires to care for a new life—and my readiness. This post is about my prayer of listening following the atrocities of the recent Hamas terrorist attacks and the ensuing war. My listening prayer—one of the many things I’m taking from these horrific events—is:
Spend quality time with the people you love.
Last weekend, instead of taking our son to go blow off some steam at a trampoline park or playground for an hour (admittedly, I can’t stand doing either), I packed up a picnic, filled the bladder of our hiking backpacks (arguably one of the best gifts we’ve ever given our son!) and hit the hiking trail. We totally disengaged from the world. Ollie (age 5) and I walked 5.5 miles. Just us. And nature.
It was a tough walk for him, but man I’m glad we did it. Here are some takeaways and tips from our hike together:
-The best thing you could ever give your children, or someone you love, even yourself, is the gift of your time. Our journey quickly became less about our 42/min mile pace (the hike took 4-5 hours!) and more about what we spent our time doing together. I thought about how often I actually spend my time with my son instead of letting time spend us. We’re usually running around from school, to practice, to dinner, checking off the hours as we go.
-Hiking with a young child reminds you that achievement isn’t linear. Achievement happens in all directions, even backwards. Even slowly. This translates well into life and is a great reminder for me, as an adult.
-Every mile is different. Each mile presented it’s own lessons, challenges, conversations, joys, and laughs. Just like the seasons in our lives.
-We sat on a log and enjoyed sharing a juicy Sumo orange while we watched a furry caterpillar crawl past us, measuring how far she went. Wonder is therapeutic.
-There’s something that resets us when we immerse ourselves in nature and see beauty in the ordinary.
-A sense of humor is developed (even in a child!) when boredom happens. I felt so proud of Ollie for his trail pranks. “Look mom, a parrot!” (Running ahead of me to lead the hike.)
-Since Ollie is 5, we played a game on the hike that we made up called “Big Tomato, Little Tomato.” Remember the joke, “What did the big tomato say to the little tomato?” (Answer: Catch up)? Once I noticed our mile pace was 42 minutes (!), I knew I had to keep a pace for Ollie, but also give him time to rest and discover rocks, leaves, take snack breaks, and beat trees with sticks. The “rule” on the hike became, the hiker in the front gets to be the big tomato. If you were the straggler, you were little tomato playing “catch up.” This seemed to incentivise Ollie to keep up in a fun, competitive way.
-Bring toilet paper. 😅 And snacks.
-Give each other a trail name on the last mile. Make it funny and related to your adventure. Mine was, “Mommy wiped your butt twice.” You can guess what Ollie’s name was. It’s in our nature to rag on each other. If you’re a kinder parent, there are plenty of other pleasant trail names to pick.
-Even if your pace is a 42 minute mile, stop and enjoy each moment. Listen when your son wants to play music on the trees, leaves, and rocks. Breathe when he wants to count each post on a barrier wall that stretches for a quarter mile.
-I have heard a lot of parents say their children do not enjoy hiking. From personal experience, I know that if you give them their own hiking backpack, some snacks they love, your undivided time, and follow their lead, you will likely each leave feeling rewarded.
-It’s not about the finisher time. It’s about spending time. The goal should be the journey.
Sending our love, prayers, and unconditional support to everyone affected by the recent and ongoing tragedies. My heart breaks. My hope and prayer is that religion can continue to create beautiful bridges of understanding, appreciation, empathy, and compassion across the globe. I believe in a world that is safe to celebrate diversity and stronger because of it’s ability to see, understand, and experience the world through various cultural and religious lenses. This is what I teach our son, on our hikes, on our travels, and while spending time together.