Oh, I had high expectations for my son’s first hike on a particular trail in the Black Hills. I was so excited to take him into the forest and let him see the tall stands of ponderosa pines, smell the warm sap and damp pine needles, and observe the pretty little ferns, mosses, and flowers on the ground after a wet winter. It’s a trail that has been a part of my life since I was his age.
I thought he would love it.
But he didn’t.
He cried and wanted to go back to the car, even from the all-terrain stroller we had him in. When we did take him out of the stroller to walk on the level path, he just wanted back into the stroller. He said it was strange, this forest.
And I felt as though I had failed in some way. I know that three-year-old children often develop unusual fears that they eventually grow out of. But my son has only known Houston and desert California as home; South Dakota is a place to visit for summer vacation. So he hasn’t been immersed in the forest from his earliest days as I was. And so, it is strange to him, this place that is home to me, where I am most happy of anywhere on this planet. I also see hints of my own sensitive, cautious personality in him, even though he seems much more social and outgoing than I ever remember being.
(And if the forest is strange to a boy who has already been outdoors a lot, I wondered, how strange must it seem to urban children who have few, if any, experiences to be in wilderness?)
A swarm of tiny moths on the wooden bridge over a (breathtakingly-frightening- for-a mother) river chasm distracted and cheered him for a bit. But when that was done, he was ready to go back to the car. My husband hurried off on the trail with him while I lagged behind and saw how truly comfortable my little nephews and niece are in the woods.
My son loves the Pacific coast, the park, and playing in the sand in our backyard. I will try to bring him into the woods more often, so that hopefully someday he will see what wonderful landscapes they are as well.