The surprised librarian stopped the song, “Is he all right?”
“Yessss. He just doesn’t like singing.”
I sighed. But the reading didn’t go much better. Instead of eagerly jockeying for a position in the front row, my son buried his head against me and refused to look up until the ordeal was over. Finally, the stories ended, and my son ran to the car. Things hadn’t turned out exactly the way I had hoped, but the morning was indeed over.
Which is how I ended up hiking to the top of a mountain with two preschoolers and a little white dog. We just couldn’t watch any more TV. Breaking up fights about toys would be more than I could bear. Another walk around the yard was out of the question. But we had to do something. Storytime? Hmmm. Maybe not. How about Waterrock Knob? Of course. It was an obvious choice.
As we began to climb the mountain, returning hikers looked at me with pity. “You’ve got your hands full!” they would say sympathetically before turning to skip on down the mountain. Some couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything. They just looked, raised their eyebrows, and kept going. The usual comments about it not being much farther somehow didn’t seem to apply to me.
I didn’t have high hopes. How exactly I was going to carry them both up and down the mountain, I didn’t dare think about. What we were going to do when potty training went awry and I didn’t have spare clothes was another potentially dangerous issue. I had already made up my mind to ignore all the whining and complaining that would definitely arise. “I’m tired.” “Let’s go home.” “I’m hungry.” “I’m tired.” “Can you carry me?” “ I’m thirsty.” I knew it was all coming, and I was mentally prepared.
But, once again, things didn’t go exactly the way I had planned. My little guys ran up the mountain, only stopping to climb the rocks in the trail. They pleasantly agreed about who could be the leader and when they wanted to rest. They chased after the dog. They looked at the plants, the pebbles, the view, and the sky. They listened to the birds, and we talked about the dead trees. They took shortcuts and jumped out of the bushes to surprise me. They sat on the bench at the top and drank from their little water bottles. They held my hand, and they laughed and smiled and played.
After a while, I began to let down my guard and really see my sons run about and explore. I relaxed and enjoyed climbing the rocks and being a part of their little world. As we went back down the mountain, the three of us jumped down each of the log steps in the trail. I smiled at the expressions of the upward bound, out-of-breath hikers. When they expressed surprise at my little mountain climbers, I nodded, “Yeah, we’ve done pretty well.”
We made it back to the car and drove back down the Parkway. As we passed through a cloud bank and descended into Maggie Valley, I thought about how well our morning had gone. Storytime would have been fun, but I would take Waterrock Knob any day.