I am shifting my gaze between [the woman talking] and my little guy as we lumber down the trail, shuffling after our kids. I am trying hard to make eye contact as I stifle a yawn. My mouth and face contort, trying to play it off like I’m just, I don’t even know, stretching my face. That’s not even a thing. It’s awkward and conspicuous and clearly a yawn, but I don’t want to seem rude.
I like this woman. She is telling me how she and her family ended up in Wisconsin all the way from South Africa. I am intrigued to hear that she was a hiker back home and was bitten early on by the “travel bug.” Something in her beaconed for the States. She traveled here alone and ended up in Utah, falling in love with the red and orange sandstone of the desert, sunny days and the outdoor culture. Once she met her husband and had her daughter she, like so many I’ve met here, moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family. Another transplant looking for community.
This is the second or third time I’ve met and walked with her, but I still cannot remember her name. Like so many other moms I’ve met recently, we all fade into the background so our kids can be the focus. We are known only as “Blank’s Mom.”
I’ve settled into this role now and find a sort of comfort in the anonymity. It’s not about me anymore. No one is looking at the outfit I’ve worn for the last three days or my bed head or counting my 4th cup of coffee.
In asking about the kids and their interests, ours come up only inadvertently … almost forgotten. I stumble over simple questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” Especially this one. What do I do? My brain seizes as I sift through a typical day of early wake-ups, spilled food, dirty diapers, play dates and laundry. None of it seems signifiant to mention. So, instead, I steer the conversation back to the little guy or the other moms.
In doing this, I get to know these women, the story behind Oscar’s Mom or Lena’s Mom. I feel a bit like a detective piecing together the long forgotten background stories of these amazing mothers. All mothers have a background story, of course, but I have found that Hike It Baby mothers in particular tend to have some of the most adventurous and inspiring stories.
We catch up with a few of the other moms on the trail. They overhear Armani’s Mom’s story and chime in excitedly. Reed’s mom talks about growing up in the Philippines, “…camping trips on Samal island as a teenager, complete with motorcycle rides, moonlit swims at waterfalls, and sleeping 50 feet above the ground in balete trees.” She is quiet and reserved and tells me that she has moved a lot, that it’s become a bit of a hobby. She seems confident … fearless. I offer stories of my life in Asia, hoping to connect and excited to have found someone else to share that experience with.
In answer to the “What do you do?” question, Finn’s Mom tells me about Hippotherapy, something I’d vaguely heard of but thought was something only practiced in places conjured by Dr. Seuss, and of course done on hippos. Her whole face lights up when she tells me about working with horses to help her patients with emotional healing, motor skills and coordination. “The horse has a way of grounding us and keeping us in the present. I always feel better after being at the barn…” She goes on to tell me she works part-time now so she can be home with her two kids. To have such a significant career while also caring for not one but two small children, I find to be truly incredible. I really need to up my game!
We stop abruptly at a creek that requires much inspection by the toddlers. As I am musing about how great this is, Wesley’s Mom tells me how this creek has transported her back in time to her simple and rustic upbringing in Northern Illinois. “As a kid, there was this small forest preserve, nothing fancy, but the highlight at the path entrance was this tiny natural water spring with the purest water!” We talk about her move to Utah and her love of the mountains. Something in me brightens; she gets it, a fellow lover of mountains! And even with three kids, she never seems frustrated or overwhelmed. She is the kind of friend who listens to you vent about your frustrations and then shows up at your door with soup for that cold or that book you were talking about, like some kind of altruistic magician.
I’ve known these women for only a short time, but they’ve become my friends and community. Hike it Baby has made these friendships possible and linked us in ways I will forever be thankful for. It helps get families with zero to school-aged children outside to foster a love of nature; and it’s a place where families can find support and community and it’s been a life line for us.
How has spending time on the trails with others benefited your family? Share with us in the comments below.
Brenna Jeanneret is a stay-at-home mom raising a tiny vegan in the Midwest. She loves getting outside, horrible puns and probably drinks way too much coffee! She writes about plant-based health, getting outside with her son and general momming around in the Midwest on her blog. To read the original blog post, visit Brenna’s blog here.
Photos courtesy of Brenna Jeanneret.