Stopping abruptly on the trail, Chris just stood there and listened. I figured it was because he heard people coming, an animal rustling, or the ever-elusive Bigfoot was finally making an appearance. (Don’t get my husband started on his Bigfoot theories.)
“What?” I asked as we stood there.
“Nothing, I’m just listening.”
So we just stood there.
It was weird.
And then we started hiking again.
This happened often on our ten-mile hike. I had surprised Chris by taking a day off work, requesting time off for him, and having a friend pick Harper up from preschool so that we could take a little adventure down south, to the hills of southern Indiana. He was beyond thrilled when I emailed him our plans the night before. It was a good surprise and made my normally reserved husband a little giddy. I got major wife points on this one and cannot recommend enough trying to surprise your spouse with a little adventure if you can.
On the trek through the national forest, I was reminded again and again how absolutely different my husband and I are. He likes to stop on the trail just to take in the beauty, the smells, the crisp air. I like to power-through the hike so it can be checked off my list of things to do for the day. As we hiked, Chris was constantly looking around for rocks the girls would like, where a body of water might be, or a good lookout spot. I, on the other hand, didn’t lift my eyes off the trail for fear I might step on a giant snake that would immediately jump up and attach itself to my neck, killing me instantly.
And wouldn’t you know it, how we behave on the trail is exactly how we behave in real life. Chris is never in a hurry to go anywhere, constantly stopping to smell the roses, look at a sunrise, or the starry sky. I have never seen my husband move fast. While most of the time- in the midst of real life-it annoys the crap out of me, I can appreciate it as I see our daughters picking up his habits of commenting on a pretty skyline or slowing down to notice their surroundings.
I am the opposite. I am always rushed and thinking about the next thing I should be doing. I’m never fully engaged in the task at hand because I’m already thinking about the next one. I’m efficient and organized and those skills serve me well, but sometimes to my own downfall. I don’t stop enough, don’t slow down to savor.
In a perfect world, our daughters would get a perfect mix of both our personalities, only the best parts. We could choose to pass on the traits that are healthy and leave the messy ones behind. There would be no signs of addiction in our daughters even though we both have those tendencies. There would be no short tempers, no impatience, or laziness. They would get my sarcasm and quick wit (because it’s a good party trick…) and Chris’ ability to talk to anyone about anything at any time (also good at parties). They would get my ambition and drive with a hint of Chris’ laid-back attitude. They would get our love for tattoos after they’re thirty and can make better decisions than when they’re eighteen. They would have their daddy’s willingness to serve and be a little less bossy than their mommy.
Wouldn’t it be great if it worked like that?
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I thought a lot about her toes. I imagined they would be a perfect mix of my freakishly long ones and Chris’ weirdly stubby ones. If we could just have a baby with toes that were the middle ground between ours, they would be perfect. Of course it didn’t work like that and my long toes seem to be dominant in both our daughters (those genes are just too strong, sorry Chris). But I think their toes are perfect just the way they are. Seeing my hated physical traits on my daughters makes me less harsh on myself because who am I to hate my thighs when Harper has the exact same ones and they look so great on her?
The last hour of our hike that day was in the pouring rain. We knew as we headed down that there was a pretty good chance for showers. I grumbled about it. Chris said it would be fun to hike in the rain.
I can’t wait to see what our girls become, what parts of us they want to emulate and the parts that they avoid. How much better they’ll be than we were. How they’ll fit into their world and what they’ll do with their strengths and weaknesses.
This parenting thing, just like hiking, is such an adventure.