My first subtle and creative approach to Sparkles’ declaration that she didn’t like hiking was to stop using the word “hiking.” That worked for about five minutes, then she told me that she knew very well that “exploring” meant “hiking.” I would have to think of something better.
For the next few hikes, we met people she really liked at the park or creek. When she began to protest the hike, I told her that we were meeting someone there, so we definitely had to go. My first attempt with this approach was a hike at McKinney Falls State Park with Uncle C. This park is great because it is just a few miles from Austin and it has real, live waterfalls, even if someone from Portland would laugh when we say that, because the water doesn’t fall very far. (This is the Upper Falls, the Lower Falls are a bit fancier.)
Sparkles started out pretty grumpy. We hiked along the bank of a river and she complained about her shoes and her feet and the bushes and the grass and the sun and the dirt and the trees. She also complained because I wouldn’t let her put on eighteen layers of sunscreen. (When she is grumpy, she insists on either 0 layers or 18 layers of sunscreen.)
My brother and I tried to talk with her about other things. She sort-of-liked the dramatically shaped rocks crossing the river at the falls. She sort-of-liked seeing a man catch a small fish with his fishing pole. But, after she was loosened up some, she said she really liked the Moms who were wading in the ankle-deep river with their little girls, on the other side of the falls. So, our shoes came off and in we went.
We could see dozens of tadpoles in the shallow water, along with minnows and different kinds of algae. We could feel the warmer and cooler water, depending on the water depth. She loved the cool water and her clothes got wet a little at a time, until she was soaking wet from head to toe.
When it was time to leave, you won’t believe the surprise ending for our hike. She said “I don’t want to leave!” The first picture above is her being angry with me, refusing to put her shoes back on, refusing to walk back to the car, so mad she couldn’t hike longer.
In the moment, her protest was a hassle, but inside, I smiled a little. She does like hiking. I see her face light up when she walks and explores and wonders. I might need to be subtle and creative for a while, but I trust that in time, all will be well.