Winter is always a bit of an odd season for me. I personally love the winter, love getting outside and enjoying the purity and stillness that nature gives us. In any other season, sitting outside in nature gives you an immediate and overwhelming awareness of life surrounding you. In the winter, when most everything is slumbering beneath a blanket of snow, you can truly get a sense of solitude and calmness. In the winter, everything is undiscovered, trails newly untrodden, and there are things to discover everywhere. For a nature nut, winter is wonderful for all of the ways that it isn’t what you’d normally expect.
However, wintertime with little kids brings a whole different set of challenges, staying warm, being the primary one. Navigating icy trails or too-deep snow is another. Legs get tired sooner. Fingers get cold faster. Progress ebbs to an even slower crawl. Free range kids are wonderful, but in the winter, they need a little more shepherding, a little closer attention paid to them. It changes the ways that you explore and adventure in the winter.
So, once the doldrums of winter (a.k.a February) set in, it’s natural (for me anyways) to start to look forward to greener times, when adventures are easier, and “I have to pee!” is solved by going behind the nearest tree or shrub.
As anyone who knows me can attest to, I am totally the sort of person who bites off more than I can chew. There have been more than a few occasions where I’ve marched Finn off into the wilderness, only to discover that he can’t quite make it back and I end up piggy-backing him out again. My plan for last year was to camp once a month between May & October, so 6 times. We actually made it out a grand total of twice. That’s depressing, right? 33% success? What’s the point then? Why not set the bar low, keep your expectations more in line with what you can honestly expect from yourself? Modern life sets up so many hurdles and obstacles to even the best laid plans.
I’m going to say, though, that this line of thinking is totally wrong, especially with kids and nature, because kids don’t understand limitations, not when they’re imagining and dreaming. Every mountain is climbable. Every creek and river can be crossed. More importantly, for a child, every adventure is something important in and of itself. It’s not an opportunity to check something off of a list, or to make a quota that looks good on someone’s silly blog. Every adventure is a thing in and of itself. Last year, we had two awesome adventures, and this year, we will have more adventures. And since that idea of “more” doesn’t come with a limit, or a number, why not let yourself dream a bit? Plan big?
The itch is starting to return to me. I look at our camping shelf downstairs and remember the times they were used in the past, and I daydream about the times in the future that we’ll use it again. I look at pictures of mountains and stream and want to take Finn & Declan there. We’ve started to talk about it a bit too, about the adventures we’ll have, and the places we’ll go. They got so excited, they couldn’t wait, so last weekend we had a little indoor camping experience. I pitched a tent in the playroom and we pulled out their sleeping bags and foam mattresses, and slept under the stars. While I was laying in between them, singing their bedtime songs as they fell asleep, I looked up at the roof of the tent. Both boys had brought their Twilight Turtles into the tent with them. I watched those stars over my head, and I sang another silly bedtime after another, and I dreamed about summer, and lying outdoors, with real stars overhead, and the evening breeze blowing through the trees. I dreamed of the places we would go, and the adventures we would have.
February isn’t a time for plans. It’s a time for dreams.