Toddlerhood – The unhindered “with my inability to regulate emotions, I’m going to do whatever I want because I have no understanding of consequences yet” phase. It can be adorable, entertaining, and appalling at the same time. For a lot of parents, it’s a fluid existence where sleep becomes elusive (if it hasn’t already) and well laid plans rarely work out. You’re often left trying to make sense of things. Time spent in the mountains isn’t the same as it was, but take your little one outdoors and everything becomes a gripping adventure. My husband and I have been at this for over two years. We’ve accumulated some insight we’re ready to impart.
Harnesses and ropes are not just for climbing up steep, vertical slopes. They are also useful for keeping your toddler away from steep, vertical slopes.
Your ability to multitask improves exponentially.
Trail snacks are of the utmost importance. You may not always need them, but they can be critical to surviving an adventure with a toddler.
Epic adventures come second now to epic meltdowns. They are real. And they can be far more epic than anything you’ve accomplished in the mountains.
Putting on and taking off layers somehow takes 10x longer for someone who is 1/5 your size.
In fact, everything takes at least 10x longer than it used to.
Toddlers need to run. A lot.
When you spot another family on the trail, you make eye contact and smile ear to ear as they get closer. You may both be wrangling your kids and not get a chance to exchange words, but you brush past each other knowing ‘they get it’. It’s an implied comfort.
Hanging out outdoors with other adults is a luxury.
There’s a parent-toddler contract. No one told you about it, no one warned you, but you signed it, you’re bound to it, and the conditions change all the time. Usually without any warning. The toddler is also not bound to it.
You have a high tolerance for risky/questionable playground antics, especially when it involves climbing up something steep.
While you used to enjoy peace and quiet when immersed in nature, silence is never a good sign with a toddler around. It means they’re up to something and it’s probably no good.
Some days can be harder than the most difficult mountain you’ve climbed.
Everything is a phase – sleep regression, sleep progression, picky eating, good eating, favourite activities, least favourite activities. Everything.
Despite your best efforts to make the most of it, shoulder season hits harder than it used to.
The idea of ‘ultralight’ goes out the window when your backpack now contains a 25+lb toddler.
An adventure may end less than 5 minutes beyond the trailhead. Adaptability, resilience, and plans B, C, and D are key.
When looking for a quick and easy way to entertain your toddler, just add water.
A 5km loop can be a very long hike once you realize 0.5km/hour is an actual pace.
The overwhelming feeling of success when they go down for the night with only one attempt. You know this can only be attributed to all the time spent outdoors.
“You can’t stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this – what is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There’s an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”