Downhill running

The Alaska sun continues to enliven our days. The only problem with it currently is because it has been so consistent and ever earlier the boys wake up time seems to be creeping towards way to early for the lazy adults. Finn has been regularly coming in around 530 am the last few days and not wanting to go back to sleep. Today however it provided us with and opportunity to get going on and activity a bit earlier. We met up with the Kam-Magruder family for a hike down south on the Turnagain arm called Falls creek. This is normally a less traveled trail, one because it is pretty steep and not extremely kid friendly, two is there is not much parking, and three is it just isn’t that well known. We knew it would be great on a day like today and with the kids still pretty early season excited about being outside the steepness just provided a chance to show them what they could do.

The way up was a bit challenging as we had some significant whining but we made it quite a good distance for having 2 four year olds. We had lunch next to a wonderful mountain stream in some early summer greenery, surrounded by tower rocky ridges and Suicide Peak looming up above us. The kids threw rocks and sticks and danced on the edge of disaster near the creek. After lunch and a short excursion further up the valley (to appease the parents who would have liked to have continued further) we began the downward voyage. 

As a child I vividly remember these down hill running events as my parents screamed repeatedly behind to slow down. I even remember some parents not allowing down hill running. As a parent now I do see the fear in allowing the boys to careen down the quite steep and rocky trails which in this case was precariously perched next to a frigid tumultuous stream. None the less at multiple points allowing them to scamper at their own risky pace had to be allowed. Despite many small scratches and what seemed like near missed steps we were nearing the bottom with out any real incidents. I was holding Finns hand for a rather steep section when he went a bit limp and smacked his hand on a rock. I nearly pulled his arm out of the socket as I kept him from sliding under my feet and taking us both down. We came out of it with a few tears but not to bad. At the same moment on a flatter section just around the bend Liam evidently went down quite hard. I do not know exactly what happened but he ended up with a decent little bleeder on his side.

As all the kids were clearly getting tired a rest, with some food was in need. Finn quit criying quickly but Liam was not happy and despite the food bribe did not want to stop crying. He said something to the fact that he was just mad he had so many cuts lately. In my mind it was just a good sign he has been playing hard but he didn’t like this. I tried another tactic and started describing some of my mildly gruesome injuries, getting stuck hanging upside down on a jungle gym with a bolt impaled in my calf, running into barbed wire snowboarding off our driveway, barbed wire catching my leg while mountain biking and my head wound as a 4 year old which resulted in my father never wanting to suture his own kids again. The short story seemed to end better and bring more laughs when I concluded with “…and what did Grandma Gayle do? ….AAAAHHHHH!!!” This was repeated with each story and eventually everyone was smiling and ready to roll.

The interesting thing is that the Grandma Gayle response was a complete embellishment.  I am not sure she ever really screamed. Maybe she did but I don’t remember it. In fact she was always quite calm. Given three boys I am sure she acquired this ability. In fact one time in 8th grade I broke my big toe (small fracture) doing a front flip at school. I hoped on one foot into her room at the high school shortly after school. I made it quite clear I knew it was broken and thought we should go see dad. I didn’t realize there was nothing to do. She may have but she was quite calm, finished her work and helped me hop towards the car. Along the way we ran into another teacher who she started talking with. I sat on some steps and made myself look pitiful. After a minute the other teacher asked what was wrong and I said I broke my toe. The teacher sort of gasped and asked Gayle shouldn’t I go get a cast or something. She was again quite calm and stated “if it is broken now it will be broken in an hour still.” This was much more her style than a unneeded scream.

I often think about her calm responses when her kids were injured. That calmness was powerfully soothing, although maybe it didn’t feel like it right away. The skill of parenting calmly is a gift, and an earned badge all at the same time. I am glad that I know so many calm relaxed parents and that we get to associate with them. We all have our fears and our special idiosyncrasies for our children’s behaviors and action but as a whole we are really lucky to hang out with some parents who can let their kids be kids. Running down hill isn’t always the safest thing. In fact it is almost a guarantee someone will end up with a scrap or a bruise or even worse. Yet, the freedom to hurtle yourself down a hill, rocky, treed, or just grass is a freedom we can really enjoy as a kid. I am glad our boys  and their friends get that feeling especially in the Alaskan sun.

Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure. 


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