Sarah Simpson column: Scaling a mountain and life lessons

“When was the last time we went up Old Baldy?”

We climbed a mountain to end August.

I’m not even kidding you!

The other weekend I got up and, like many moms (and even dads) do, I had a super productive morning while my family was either still asleep or slowly easing into the day. I went to the transfer station, I put gas in the car, I prepped our dinner and planned the week’s worth of dinners. I did some laundry… you get the idea.

So by 10 a.m. I was running out of chores. Lucky me. But my family was still in their PJs, watching cartoons and generally lazing around.

Oh no. Not today, I thought to myself. We are not going to sit around all day and be cranky with each other again. That happens in our family and I have no doubt that it happens in other families too. It’s exhausting doing nothing.

So, I figured, if we are going to be tired and cranky, we’re going to earn it!

“We’re climbing a mountain today,” I declared.

My husband looked at my quizzically.

“When was the last time we went up Old Baldy?” I asked.

Given we take photos of everything, we looked it up. Jan. 5, 2019. The kids were two (almost three) and four and a half.

They were so small. I suppose that’s why we only made it to the tower/first lookout.

This time I figure our goal was to beat that. The kids are older, stronger, and I’d like to think they’re brave too.

So after the grumbles got out of the way, we set out to climb the mountain.

We started up Old Baldy Mountain from Strathcona Heights Road. In a flash, my son was gone.

He scrambled up the first steep incline, turned left and kept going up the next.

My husband — my poor husband — kept pace and up they bolted together, leaving me, the de facto athlete of the family, to walk turtle slow with my daughter.

It was OK. I didn’t mind. We held hands and talked as we made our ascent.

I like hiking with my kids because it gives me a chance to explain to them how much control they have over their minds and bodies. Our bodies can do much more than our minds believe, I tell them.

“Strong mind, strong body, strong heart,” I say.

“But my legs are tired,” they say.

“That’s just what your brain thinks,” I reply.

I always remind them to tell their brains their legs are strong and powerful and that their body isn’t as tired as their brain thinks it is. Sometimes they soldier on, other times it’s too much and they just sit down and whine. I never worry I push them too hard because they always tell me when they’ve had enough.


Anyway, we scaled that mountain, had a short cookie break at the tower and then set out to the rock-climbing portion of the trial. It was new and exciting and such a delight to see my kids scramble up the rocks with such confidence.

To be honest, I didn’t see too much of my son and husband, because they just kept on climbing, and meeting us at every plateau.

I think I’m terrible at a lot of parenting things, but I was so proud to see my four-year-old daughter muttering quietly to herself as she climbed, saying things like “strong legs, I’ve got this, girls can do anything.” I hope she can maintain that positive inner dialogue as she grows. She sounded so composed, so mature, so grown up.

It wasn’t until coming down that I was reminded how little she still really was. While my son raced ahead, forcing my poor husband to keep up with him, I walked down the mountain with my daughter, this time at a snail’s pace, but chatting happily all the way.

We stopped just once because she had an itchy foot and quite naturally that meant taking her shoe and her sock off to scratch it.

It was after that the questions only a small child would ask began. You know, the ones from way out in left field. Those are what I wanted to share with you in this column:

“How do birds growl at each other, Mom?” she asked.

Earlier in the day I told her I saw two ravens fighting at Bings Creek Transfer station. What’s a fight without growling, I guess? I think we decided birds don’t actually growl but they sure do squawk.

The questions kept on coming.

“How long have chipmunks lived on Earth, Mom?”

Hell if I know, I thought. We just climbed a mountain and this is what you’re thinking about?

I’d been thinking about cold treats if I’m honest, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.

“Oh, that’s a good one to ask your dad,” was my chipper chipmunk reply.

We walked a little while longer, her little hand grabbing mine whenever the rocky path underneath us got too unstable. I loved that part.

“Are all hands handy, Mom?”

What does that even mean? I thought to myself.

“Well, I suppose by definition, they must be,” I replied. “And in practical terms, yes, life’s much handier with hands.”

That seemed to appease her for a bit. It got quiet after that, I figured it was because she was realizing how tired she was. It wasn’t. She’d just been thinking.

“How do body parts stick to your body?” she asked.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my copy of Gray’s Anatomy with me but I had to reply…

“So,” I said. “Do you want ice cream or a Slurpee after this?”

ColumnistComedy and Humour

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