Trail Markers and My Museum of Parenting Failures

#1, #2, and I spent a fabulous weekend camping in Hickory Run State Park (the Mother has no interest in camping, ever, anywhere, so the three of us got to spend the weekend together—yay for us). We headed out directly from school Friday afternoon so we could make the most of the weekend. We scrambled across the boulder field Saturday and hiked a few of the trails. Regrettably, on one of our hikes I displayed petulantly bad parenting.

#1 was excited about the trail and, like most young boys, was eager to lead the way and whenever it looked possible to ford the stream. But it was clear, to me, that the trail did not cross the stream. The first time and the second time, I simply said the trail didn’t go that way. The third time, when I must confess it did look plausible that the trail could cross the stream—the rocks were well placed for crossing and were well worn and there seemed to be a trail-looking path on the other side—I snapped: “I told you, the trail doesn’t cross the stream. Do you see a trail marker over there? No, you don’t because I see it over here.”

In hindsight I feel like an ass, a bully, and a bad parent.

Not only has #1 not spent as much time as I have hiking, he also doesn’t know what a trail marker might look like, I didn’t tell him to look for trail markers, I didn’t show him the map. No, I just barked at him for showing enthusiasm and held him accountable for knowledge and know-how he couldn’t possibly have. I missed a perfect opportunity to teach #1 and #2 something. I should have stopped and asked #1 to explain why he thought the trail crossed the stream. I could have told him about trail markers and pointed out that if the trail crossed the stream, we might expect a trail marker to indicate it. We could have looked for one on the far side. When we didn’t find one, we could have looked for a marker on our side of the stream. But instead, I took the lazy way and just barked at him.

Alas, I have yet another exhibit to cram into my Museum of Failed Parenting.

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