Tonight both of you are going to bed after a warm bath, maybe some cookies and a story, and it will seem like just about any other evening. But this one is different; this night is your last one in a world of relative freedom and fun.
As soon as you step across the threshold into kindergarten, your life will change forever. And as the guy lucky enough to be your Daddy, I know I’m supposed to offer a few words of encouragement, maybe look up what Martha Stewart says to tell your kids on this occasion, and go with that.
Weekly? We’re calling it weekly? But it’s once a year, right? Well, yes, strictly speaking, we only publish our weekly update once a year, but it’s coming out during a week, so what’s the problem? Got ya there.
So what went down this year? Let’s start with Connor. This sharp little guy is in his second year of school and is kicking serious butt. The words are really starting to flow, too, as people who don’t know him are starting to understand his speech. That’s huge.
He’s also a mountaineer. He climbed the entire Flume Slide Trail in NH and has also hung bear bags, built mound fires and can dig and use a cathole. Okay, Daddy helped.
Oh, he runs. And swims. Unassisted. When the training wheels come off in the spring we’ll have a triathlete.
“Did you come up the auto road or the cog railway?” the woman asked my son Connor on the summit of Mount Washington. He didn’t have many words at age three, so he simply pointed down the mountain and said “There.” She followed his view down toward Tuckerman Ravine, which I had just climbed on foot from Pinkham Notch, with Connor on my back.
It’s a question I’d heard before, when my daughter Riley was three. That time we were at the Lakes of the Clouds hut for the evening. Again, the answer was neither; We’d hiked the southern Presidentials with her on foot for part of the way.
Yes, I’ve been climbing 4,000’ mountains with a pre-schooler in a backpack.
I may never again get the chance to sit down and do this. You are two active, precocious, lovable, beautiful children who create your own energy together, the way an intense fire creates its own whirlwind. You spin and fly and run and think, and the threshold where I can no longer keep up is rapidly approaching.
Before frustration causes me to forget what I believe when it comes to parenting, I wanted to put my promises to you in writing.
All parents have seen it. Sometimes it’s disapproval, sometimes condescension, sometimes it’s support, and sometimes it’s surprise. Our kids do something where other people are present, and we see The Look. Someone’s eyebrow raises, a lip curls, a nose flares. Behind it is a thought, usually something like, “Are you going to let him do that?”.
In my case, someone’s jaw drops open, and the thought is more like, “You must be kidding.” I love that.
On my hiking trips to the White Mountains, Riley and Connor get equal treatment on who comes with me. On some trips it’s Rye, on others it’s the ConMan. Rye has been with me on some of the most glorious trips, like the three-day overnight to Zealand and the Bonds, the Kinsmans, and the South and Middle Carter trip. She’s also been on some of the more strenuous adventures, like last year’s Southern Presi traverse and the Dry River Wilderness.
But Connor’s been on some epic trips too, like Owl’s Head, the Wildcats, and the Willey Range. He’s done a lot of the grittier stuff, like a rainy trip to Mt. Hale, enduring the fog on Mt. Eisenhower, and an overnight on Waumbek where the temps got into the 30’s. He’s climbed the North Tripyramid Slide and the Flume Slide, as well as the steeps of Wildcat Ridge and East Osceola, where he waited while I found a way into the car without keys.
Imagine an 18-mile trek through barely-traveled wilderness, past forests of birch and pine, the occasional overgrown clearing, constantly accompanied by the rush of a clear river, without seeing another person. That’s the Pemigewasset Wilderness on a Tuesday.
On Monday we got out of Dodge (Eastern Massachusetts) during mid-morning. This was harder than it should have been due to traffic and construction. In fact, it’s extremely frustrating trying to get out of a busy region after everyone is up and about. But we finally headed north, and after swimming above the Basin in Franconia Notch (coooold), and lunch in Woodstock, we headed for Lincoln Woods and set up the tent at the Franconia East campsite, started a fire, then settled in before the 8PM rainstorm began.