Thursday, September 10, 2009

first hike of summer on the last day of summer

We finally managed to get out and hike this labor day weekend. Hiking used to be a regular weekend activity for us, something we did without much thought or preparation, but two kids later this is quite a feat, involving two sturdy kid back packs, one dog back pack, and one good friend to walk said dog, and carry our lunches. We took a lovely trail along a winding creek, leading to an open meadow with a lake view. The Tahoe area has so much forest and open space to explore, it is one of the things I love most about California, so much unspoiled natural beauty.

The kids loved it, and even managed to walk quite a lot of the way, pretending to be "Dora", exploring, and picking up "magic rocks" comparing the textures of different tree bark and examining different types of animal poop. They were so sweet, sitting on jackets and enjoying their picnic lunch, pointing out birds and insects. Apart from the brief moment when Geekydog decided to attack a fellow hikers golden retriever, it was idyllic. What took us so long to get out like this, after all we go up to Tahoe almost every other weekend?

I was pondering this, when I realized it was part of a bigger question. One that I often get asked, as a parent of two kids close in age. "Does having two kids change your life in a way having just one doesn't?"

When I was planning for baby number two I asked other parents of two (or more) this question, and was surprised by how polarized the responses were. I heard either "One kid changes your life so dramatically that having another makes almost no difference" or "Two kids is so much more work than just one, it seems like more than double the effort"

I've formed my own opinion based on our experience and on observing others. I think that the impact of adding a second child depends on how much you changed your life for the first one. You see, when Geekygirl came into our lives we didn't make all that many concessions to parenthood. Long hikes in the Tahoe national forests in the summer? Buy a baby backpack and bring her along. Cross country skiing? Buy a "pulk" for her to be bundled up and towed in (weather permitting, of course). Downhill skiing? Take it in turns, one parent skiing, and one parent looking after the baby in lodge, the resorts even provide a "parent exchange" pass for this purpose. Conferences in Aspen or Washington DC? Bring husband and baby along. Even while pregnant with Geekyboy I was skiing, towing Geekygirl in that pulk, and hiking with the backpack.

So when Geekyboy arrived, we were expecting to carry on much the same. But gradually we noticed that this time there would be some significant lifestyle changes. Two kids in daycare is like having another mortgage (and we already have two mortgages), so our freedom to spend away on more hiking packs and ski trailers was curtailed. Also with one kid, the adults can take it in turns carrying the pack, but with two kids too small to hike far alone, and just two adults to carry, there is no one to share the load. With two adults and one child, long distance travel is not too hard, but with two little ones neither adult gets a moment of peace, and it gets expensive too. This did not stop us from taking the whole family to South Africa, mind you.

Thanks to the generosity of a co worker who gave me a hiking pack that his children have outgrown, and to our dear friend Stan who shouldered the 28lb burden that is geekyboy for a few miles, we finally got out to hike, and it was well worth it.

Now I just need to negotiate a good price on a second hand double ski pulk. And build up a little more towing strength before ski season!


followthatdog said...

I think two kids, for most people, creates that load where you have to make big lifestyle changes. I know we took Django more places with us than we did with Ansel. Partly because when you outnumber them they are easier to keep in check and partly because I was just more tired.

A Modern Mother said...

First -- you go to Tahoe every other weekend?! Fab.

Second -- I agree with your math, and three makes it even harder. What really slows things down is when they are too big for a baby Bjorn and want to do stuff themselves. Snails could move faster.

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