If you’ve been following my geocaching rants for a while, you’ll know that my son Miles (6) has been my constant caching companion for the past couple of years. Since he was 4 1/2, I’ve been able to blurt out “Let’s go grab a cache!” and he’s been ready to hit the trail at the drop of a hat. Rain or shine, urban or deep woods, he’s been game to go. When he got old enough to realize that most geocache prizes were more like geo-crap than actual hidden treasure, it didn’t matter – he knew it would still be an opportunity to climb trees, get muddy, play with sticks, find bugs, vault fences and run scrambling down a dirt track, getting his ya-yas out.
A few months ago, all of that started to change. Somewhere along the way, he began to realize that every hour out hiking was an hour not building Legos or making stories at home. And while he was good for five-milers from a very early age, at some point he figured out he could claim to be “tired” after the first 200 yards, and even that passive resistance (laying down in the middle of the trail) was an effective way of brining an excellent afternoon outing to a grinding halt. I’m not positive, but think he learned this from watching other kids do it on group outings. Big ears, and alla that.
It’s a drag. What for the past couple of years had seemed like the perfect father-son bonding activity had often become a wrestling match when it came to getting out of the house. Of course, he usually had fun once he hit the trail, but his little power plays to resist the very idea of going out have become both more strident and more devious. Along the way we mutually recognized that a certain amount of negotiations would do the trick: “If I go geocaching with you today will you play Lego Star Wars with me tonight?” (an excellent deal for me, since I secretly love playing Lego Star Wars).
But even that tactic may be losing its effectiveness. After Amy informed him that we were going to do a big hike tomorrow, he apparently complained: “The last day of Thanksgiving vacation, ruined by a hike? Why do you guys even think I like it? I’m not even an outdoors kind of guy!”
Ouch. Why don’t you just put me in a resting home right now, little squirt? Our Ultimate Bonding Activity, totally up-ended. OK, so you’re not into geocaching anymore. I can live with that. But “Not an outdoors kind of guy?” Where did you even learn an expression like that? And is that an example of genuine self-knowledge, or just an extension of increasingly sophisticated rhetorical ploys to let you stay home and play? And how can I make hiking feel more like play to you?
Well, Sid the Science Kid recently told you all about the importance of getting a good dose of cardio daily, and you seemed to buy that. But Sid or no Sid, just don’t wound your dear old dad like that, eh? Ouch.