This past weekend marked out tenth hike since we started getting out to explore the great outdoors. When this tradition started, it was out of necessity. Our two year old son was having a hard time adjusting to a new sibling, a move to a new apartment as well as change in structure at his daycare. The days were long, with many tantrums, lots of frustration and second guessing my abilities as a mother. I knew my son needed reassurance, I knew the tantrums were a way of him communicating his anxiety and angst; yet, I still found myself getting angry and cross with him, punishing him and then feeling guilty.
The idea of getting out and hiking was something I had been thinking of for a while, but I kept coming up with reasons why we could not do it just yet. I had a newborn, we were still settling in to the new place, it was too cold for my newborn, and so on. Then one day, when I was at my wits end, I decided to get everybody out of the house and I picked our first hike. A short 3 km loop that took us through bush land and small creeks and thus, started the journey of a thousand miles.
Ten hikes in, and these hikes are what gets us through the week. Though the initial goal was to get my son out of the house, I have seen so many more benefits;
- Hiking has brought our family closer. We now enjoy sitting around the table and discussing where to go next. We look at maps, descriptions of the hikes and pick one that suits us. This has made for some lovely evenings.
- We have seen so much more of the state of New South Wales just from going on hikes. Sydney alone is surrounded by beautiful national parks. You only have to drive a short distance in any direction and you are bound to find yourself in a park waiting to be explored.
- My son is calmer, and even looks forward to getting out. Outdoors, the rules are less and the space is vast. We tailor our hikes to suite my son and any friends he may bring along. We go at his pace and cover short distances to avoid fatigue and irritability. Adult supervision is still key but out there, we let him explore, throw, collect, dig etc. Its his playground.
- My son is a more confident and an agile hiker. For an almost three year old, its interesting to see how much his coordination has improved. This has in turn made him a more confident explorer who is able to assess the hike and determine what he can do on his own and when he needs help.
- We now have conversations about preserving and respecting the nature we so much love. Being out in nature has given us an opportunity to teach lessons about empathy, responsibility and respect. We stress the importance of leaving a place better than we found it for those who may come after us. Even though he is still young, I believe that its never too early to start teaching basic morals and values.
- Stronger friendships. Through our Instagram account, we have had other families ask to join our hikes. We have also met new families along the way. The hikes have allowed us to form new friendships and solidify existing ones.
Hiking as a family has done wonders for us. I am there for encouraging anyone reading this to get out and wander. Whether its in your neighbourhood or you travel away from home, the benefits are immeasurable. The hardest part is making that first step out of the door, and once you do, it will be hard to look back. Happy hiking!