I stood at the top of the mountain and looked out over the ocean and islands spread out below me. Snow sparkled in the sun and sank only an inch or so under the weight of my snowshoes, thanks to the perfect amount of crustiness from a day of melt. It was warm enough that my breath left no trace in the air and I had to take my hat off to cool down after the climb. Everything was white and clean and silent.
“The kids would love this,” I thought to myself. “Suckers.”
The kids missed out because they didn’t go with me. I went snowshoeing by myself. I made an effort to get them to join. I asked but they declined. One was busy playing a game with stuffed animals, one was busy reading, and truthfully I didn’t try to sell them on the idea very hard. I left them there because I realized what I really needed was to get out by myself.
Obviously, I consider it my mission in life to get my kids outdoors as much as possible. But sometimes it’s even more important to go without them so I can remember why I want them outdoors in the first place. Without kids around, I get to watch the birds without naming them, listen to the silence without pointing it out, and stand and watch snow fall off the trees as long as I’d like. Teaching is great, sharing is wonderful, but just experiencing has its own, immeasurable benefits.
Generally, I heed the parenting wisdom that states you can’t expect your kids to do things–reading, making art, getting outside, whatever–that you won’t do yourself. “Do as I say, not as I do” has been a failure throughout all of recorded history. The only flaw in that advice is that it still centers an experience around what is good for the children instead of what is good for you. And sometimes–not all the time, not every day, but sometimes–in this world of endless demands, you need to do something just because you enjoy it and because it is interesting to you. Interesting people raise interesting kids, and interesting people need to do their own thing.
So don’t apologize. Don’t feel badly. Just go. Eventually, they will follow.