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Parenting. It is hard. It is a thing that I never think I am doing right. In this age of social media, I am inundated with various parenting articles all telling me I am doing it wrong…or at least I could be doing it A LOT better.  I have a messy house, mountains of laundry, a sink full of dishes, dog hair in the corners, a blanket of dust on all surfaces, and ratty hair. My son doesn’t have fun activities lovingly handcrafted by me presented to him upon waking. Some days we do well to paint, or even eat lunch. At the end of the day, I am so anxious for Dustin to walk in the door to take over the parenting responsibilities. All the articles I read tell me I am a bad mom. I should have a tidy home, lots of time to put together fun new work for my son, have dinner prepared by 430,  and be grinning ear to ear when my husband walks in the door, greeting him  with gratitude and a kiss. Fail. This parenting thing…I constantly feel like I am not doing it well enough.

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A few weekends ago as we drove through Breck a festival sign caught my eye. It somehow brought up the duck race in Estes and Dustin asked the question, “Why haven’t we done that with Drake again?” I answered without a second thought, “Oh it probably happens when we are starting to spring fish or during high country season.” This small exchange caused me pause and made me ask myself, “Are we doing it right?” It is no secret that I didn’t want to be a parent. Dustin and I chose to have just one so we could still live a life we wanted to live, not a life centered around our children. Despite having a little one, we still have spent our spring and summers doing what we like to do. Our entire summer is designed around our weekends in the high country. We don’t do fairs, festivals, or other typical summer time “family” activities. Is our lil man missing out? Are we doing it wrong?

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A lot of people would tell us we are indeed doing it wrong. If someone said we are depriving Drake of all these “kid” experiences I would kindly tell them to shove it. In this regard, I don’t think we are doing it wrong. He’s not deprived. Make no mistake, I am not a perfect parent. I have lots of room for improvement. However, I feel exposing Drake to the natural world at every opportunity is a parenting win for us. My viewpoint is cemented every time I read an article about “Nature Deficit Disorder” or how the lack of the play has so negatively impacted our children. Sure, Drake doesn’t know how to navigate an iPad or know TV characters, but he can identify a caddis and a stonefly. He knows the difference between the various Colorado conifers and can identify several alpine wildflowers. He begs to play in the Arkansas. He picks rocks out of the river and looks for bugs. He touches. He feels. He smells. He sees. He listens. He learns.  His interest is naturally piqued by the wonders of Mother Nature. I don’t feel like he’s missing out; I think he’s getting a different experience. An experience I would have killed for. My Dad always gives me the same advice when I am struggling with a decision or approach,  “Will you regret it at the end of your days?” I know without a doubt I will never regret this decision, and will never hesitate to share with Drake why I chose this particular childhood for him.

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When I think back on the years since Drake has been in our life, our best memories are made during the summer. All of these photos are from ONE month…ONE month. Those other nine months that fill the year are a blur with the occasional highlight. The highlight always being a day on the river or a cool weather hike. I am sure the time will come when Drake isn’t as interested in heading out with us. He will want to play his video games, hang with friends, play baseball, smooch his girlfriend, or whatever else interests him. Until then, however, we will continue to “deprive” him of all those, what I deem ordinary experiences, and provide him with the extraordinary. The kind of extraordinary only Mother Nature can provide. Dustin’s response to why we haven’t been to the duck race was “poor Drake.” After some reflection, my response is, “Lucky Drake!”

Until next time,

Stephanie

Written by Stephanie Mullins

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