The new breed of mountain men: more cute, less mountainy

If having children means one thing, it’s saying goodbye to your simple pleasures. This is why I don’t read anymore. Now, when I want to relax, I go to the kitchen and pour apple juice into a plastic cup. What do I do for fun? I pour apple juice.

Another simple pleasure I’ve missed is walking in the woods.

Up until now, there’s always been one kid  too small to make a worthwhile walk in the woods. Strollers are fine for neighborhood walks, but only the jogging stroller could be useful in the woods. We have a jogging stroller, somewhere. It’s been banished to the basement for eight years as part of my wife’s prejudice against vehicles without steerable wheels.

Baby carriers? Nope. Not gonna do that to my walk in the woods. I am precious few years away from needing someone to carry me. I’m not going to waste this time pounding the final nail into the coffin of my posture.

Last Sunday, when my wife proposed going for a walk, I said I would like to do that very thing, in the woods. In the following silence, my family looked askance at me, wondering with their eyes if there were not sidewalks in such a place.

Buster, the adventurer, was first to sign on to the expedition. I knew I could count on Big Man to join as soon as he saw the two of us putting on our shoes. Big Brother was reluctant, having reached the age of philosophical objection to the act of walking for its own sake.

Since no neighborhood kids were playing outside, Big Brother caved in to going with us. The only detail remaining between us and the woods was the traditional parental argument over adequate apparel. A day in the mid 50˚s, brings out the sharp differences between Mom and Dad over the necessity of hats and gloves. Mom won, and the boys started out overburdened with accessories that will hinder them developing into proper mountain men.

Mom is lukewarm to anything having to do with nature, but fearing hats and gloves would be discarded the moment we were out of sight, she decided to come along.

It was a beautiful day for an adventure.  People got dirty, but nobody fell into freezing cold water, though that temptation was present. The boys learned that steep hills become slippery slopes when covered with fallen leaves. I discovered there is still at least one biting insect flying around our parts in mid-November.

Best of all, nobody required carrying, not even me. Big Man was standing on heavy legs by the end, but he soldiered through. Maybe he’ll make a mountain man yet, despite how cute he looks in his winter hat.

At the end of the day it was unanimous: we want to do this again. Now, if I can only get them to read with me, we may rediscover the simple pleasures.



Dads need to go outside and play in the fresh air too, apparently

Now that warmer weather is dipping its toes into our part of the world, the children want to be outside, which is generally a good thing but sometimes inconvenient.

At seven, Big Brother is competent to be outside by himself. Out of context, this would be a really good thing. I could tell him to go outside and play whenever I need a minute to think, or not be pestered by 1,000 questions about tornadoes, or rekindle the romance with my wife. Okay, I may need as many as two minutes.

In context, Big Brother has little brothers. The moment Big Brother even smells fresh air, Buster is at his heels, and Big Man is forming the conga line behind Buster. It’s like outside is giving away free candy and nobody wants the other kid to get it all.

Our street isn’t a terribly busy one, and Buster and Big Man are good about staying out of it, but it’s still a street and Buster and Big Man are still four and two, respectively. Four and two happen to be some of the least trustworthy ages.

When Big Brother goes outside, it begins a chain reaction, ending with me dropping whatever I’m doing and following everybody else. Outside is good, but it is certainly not giving away candy, and sometimes I have things to do in the house, like studying for my next tornado pop quiz.

I hate keeping the kids indoors, but it can’t always be helped, and we’ll have our own organic tornado if I let one go without the others. Neighborhood kids are good at asking Big Brother (and his necessary coattails) to come out and play at inconvenient times. It’s difficult explaining the dynamics of why he can’t go out by himself, so it’s nice when there’s a handy excuse for keeping him inside. Something like “He’s doing his homework right now.” or “Dinner is in three hours, so he has to get ready for that.”

It wouldn’t be so bad if they would stick together once they got out there, but they have different interests, aside from their monolithic desire to be outside. They all have vehicles to ride and two will want to go different directions down the sidewalk while the third heads out cross-country. The good news is they will all stay in one place when they start fighting over who gets to ride what. Then, there will be tugging and yanking, and maybe some crying, which is a good way to keep track of where they are.

Outside is especially tricky at this time of year when the days are long but school is still in session. It’s mean enough to make a kid go inside, but to then make him go to bed is downright cruelty. I know this because I’ve been told so every night this month. It’s totally “not fair!” I’ll consider that while I wait to get old enough to come and go as I please.