It was dinner time, and frustration was high. Cooped up inside all day, I was anxious to get my two preschoolers outside before the sun went down. Deep into the shortest days of the year, that literally felt like a race against time. My daughter awoke from her nap just before sunset, and both kids seemed completely uninterested in pulling themselves away from the toys in the warm living room. Feeling the resistance to my suggestions we go outside, I gave up, and turned my thoughts to dinner.
A little while later, just before dinner, my daughter announced, “I want to go for a walk!” My reply that dinner was almost ready put her on the verge of a meltdown (note: that doesn’t take much at 2 ½.) For a moment an internal argument raged something like this: Dinner is almost ready. But Curt is here and could finish it for me. It seems so late. But the clock says it’s only 4:45p.m. It’s dark. But it is a full moon tonight. When I told them we would go for a walk today I meant earlier. But I did tell them we could go for a walk after nap. I don’t really want to go out in the dark and cold. But they are asking to go walking after dark…shouldn’t I encourage that? Before I knew it I heard myself say, “Okay, let’s go.”
Dressed in boots, down coats, hats, and mittens, with the snow tube and sled in tow, we took off down the dirt road toward our usual destination, the lake overlook. Our boots crunched on the icy snow. The moon made flash lights unnecessary. It was huge and so bright it made moon shadows of everything: bushes, trees, us. My daughter excitedly pointed out stars. My son found Venus and had a million questions about planets. When my daughter spotted Venus on her own a bit later my 4 year old son knowingly informed her, “That’s not a star, Riley. That’s a planet.” Then we heard a train whistle in the distance, so clear and loud in crisp air.
On and on they walked in the darkness and solitude of our rural neighborhood. No hesitation. No fear. Just excitement and wonder. It turned out to be one of those “magical” outdoor experiences for us.
A few days later my kids again wanted to go out just as the sun dropped below the horizon. This time I didn’t hesitate. They stayed out until long after dark, playing by the glow of the twinkling Christmas lights hung around the house.
I’m glad I listened to them that chilly night, and also glad we discovered something to appreciate about midwinter. The shortest days of the year allow my early-to-bed kids a chance to see the stars and experience the magic of night, all before dinnertime!
ABOUT HIKE IT BABY
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. With more than 300 communities across North America, they firmly believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors, and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. To learn more, visit HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. To support their mission and further their programming aimed at supporting families, donate here.