“Teek Ta, Teek Ta” comes bubbling up from the backseat.
“Victoria?” I ask.
“Yeah!” says my almost 2-year-old son in cheery confirmation.
We are both rosy-cheeked and smiling. Our bodies thawing in the still-warm car as we drive through the slushy, salt-covered roads toward home. We are happy and content, but our day didn’t start out that way.
It started with a cold, wet morning. All our winter clothes laid across various benches and hung from door knobs still damp from the day before. Looking at the piles of clothing, it was hard to fathom the cumbersome chore of getting ready.
This can be a daunting task during any season with a toddler but winter has an extra layer (get it?) of difficulty. I have to dress him warmly enough for the car while being careful not to layer him so much that once he’s swallowed up in his snowsuit, he has at least some mobility. It can make a person crazy trying to find that magic combination, and all the while trying to convince a very wiggly toddler that it’s all necessary.
Then there’s the rest: the snacks, books and toys for the car ride; a change of clothes; and if I’m lucky, I remember to pack warm boots and mittens for myself. All this while my son is constantly unpacking what I’ve packed, asking for snacks, getting snacks and then yelling about said snacks. There’s usually a necessary diaper change in there somewhere as well.
Building a foundation
We arrive at the parking lot and emerge from our cozy car cocoon (3 hours later) in full winter gear. The wind is brisk and sharp against us. We wander to the trailhead and see familiar faces from previous hikes waiting there. My mood and the day brighten considerably. It’s comforting to know I won’t be judged for showing up 15 minutes late, and I don’t have to stress about making a good impression because I already know everyone.
Each mother stands next to her own bundled and barely mobile toddler. I’m not the only one who had to fight to get here this morning. As soon as I join them on the dirt and snow-covered path, I feel better. I set my son down and watch him waddle toward the other kids. We are engulfed by trees that wrap around us on both sides and stretch overhead. I take a deep breath and realize it’s been awhile.
We start the hike and the pace is noticeably slower than the one that got us here this morning. I relax and lean into the conversations around me. The last dialog I had centered solely around whether or not a light was blue or yellow and the questionable smell coming from my fellow debater’s pants. It’s amazing how talking with another adult can take me out of my own head and give me a bit of perspective. I mean, maybe the light was yellow! Either way, it’s nice to know I’m not crazy.
Embracing the moment
As we continue down the path my son stops to inspect some of the grass peeking out from the snow, and as he turns toward me, he is confronted by a full running-hug from one of the bundled toddlers. He is shocked. He begins to back away and his lower lip starts to quiver with the start of a meltdown.
The sweet, pink bundle’s name is Victoria. She looks at us confused. I squat and explain to my son that Victoria only wanted to give him a hug. If he doesn’t want to hug her, that’s ok; but if he does, that’s ok too. He considers this, smiles and opens his arms. I stand back to witness the bulky, colorful twosome embrace.
We continue down the trail. My son now chasing after Victoria for more hugs, with me meandering along. The lists and chores in my head have been muted in the soft, frozen woods. This hike has given my day structure and purpose, a re-set.
I was embraced by this hike like my son was embraced by Victoria. Sometimes I am aware enough that I need to stop and take care of myself, but other days, I am so focused on the doing and the going that I don’t know or realize that I need a break until the day is over.
Making time for self-care
I don’t always get it right, but I do know this: I never regret getting outside. I never feel like I’ve missed out on something if I take an hour to work out or read a book or do … nothing. I do regret getting frustrated with my son because I am too stressed out to cope, and I do feel like I’ve missed out on important moments when I am too tired to be fully present.
This Valentine’s Day, be kind to yourselves, mamas. Take that bath, put your feet up, read whatever trashy magazine you want and remember, if nothing else, take a minute to get outside and just breathe.
Making intentional time for self-care can be challenging. Share some of the ways you manage self-care with us in the comments below.
- 10 Reasons why getting out in the cold is good for your soul
- 5 Guilt-free ways to make yourself a priority
- Motherhood: Finding a balance from work to life to hike
- Finding balance in the outdoors
Photo by Jessica Human.