Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
How many times have you been asked this question as a parent? Probably too many to count, I’m guessing.
On a recent hike with my 8-year-old (my oldest), it was asked more than a few times.
I aim to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids whenever possible. My one-year-old gets the most Mom-time these days, but it is a treat to spend quality time with my 5- and 8-year-olds individually too. On this particular Saturday, the stars aligned for me and my oldest to get away for a hike on the Appalachian Trail. It was a familiar trail for me, although it had been years since I’d hiked to the summit. Dragon’s Tooth is a beautiful, well-kept trail – a 5-mile loop in total – with a ¾ mile rock scramble to the top.
My 8-year-old enjoys the outdoors and loves to go on special “get away with Mom” adventures. She had just returned from her first ever week of overnight summer camp, so we had a lot to digest.
About a mile into our trek she started asking, “Are we there yet?” and “Are we getting close?” But how do you gauge when you’re getting close when you’re only 8, you’re deep in the woods, nothing is familiar, and you don’t yet have a sense of how far 2.5 miles is?
We journeyed onward over streams and up the mountain, taking our time and stopping to rest and chat as needed. By the time we reached the rock scramble with only ¾ mile to the top, my 8-year-old was running out of steam. She wasn’t discouraged necessarily, but I could tell in her tone that she was kind of over it. I turned on the encouragement and we kept going.
When we reached the summit, I could feel her pride in actually reaching the top. The view was spectacular and we enjoyed our snacks and water as we quietly took it all in. She was serene, as if taking a mental picture and storing it somewhere. After taking in the view and recharging, she was ready to start back down.
On our way down, we reflected a bit on our journey…What it was like going up the mountain and not knowing how far we had to go. With some hesitation, she disclosed how she sort of wanted to quit and go back before reaching the top, but she was curious and felt determined to get there. Plus, she had me by her side and she talked about how that alone pushed her to keep going.
As part of my own contemplative practice, I notice metaphors in nature and in life in general. On this day, I was struck by how this simple hike was a beautiful metaphor for so many journeys we undertake in life.
How we don’t always know how long the journey will take or when we will reach the summit.
How we deal with our inner demons when we aren’t sure that we want to continue.
How we look for signs - follow the trail blazes - for reassurance that we are on the right track.
How we summon our determination and use our reserves to make the final push.
And then, how we respond when we reach the top…do we take a moment to breathe it in, feel our accomplishment, and savor the reward?
Life is a constant onslaught of a million different journeys, isn’t it?
Some are more challenging than others. Some are happening simultaneously. Some are for fun or for personal accomplishment, while others are truly a fight for our lives.
I hope there will be more hikes with my daughter. But even more so, I hope that the experience of it lays somewhat of a metaphorical blueprint for how she may approach future journeys in her life.
I hope she will take a companion with her that she trusts.
I hope she looks for the blazes when she begins to feel lost - those signs that reassure her she’s on the right path.
I hope she knows deep within that she has everything she needs to make it: the strength, determination, curiosity, and confidence.
And in each of these journeys, I hope that each time we make it to the summit that we take some time to breathe it in, to feel the accomplishment, and savor the reward.