Yesterday, the US National Park Service turned 100 years old. There were celebrations all over, I am sure. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park had their own celebration, complete with a visit from our Congressman Phil Roe and Senator Lamar Alexander.
I took the kids on a hike in the late afternoon and stayed away from the morning ceremonies. We avoid crowds, as people who live in a tourist area. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike.
We did the Gatlinburg Trail, which stretches for about 2.1 miles one way. We obviously have to return, so we get a good four mile hike. It takes us two hours – just about the parking limit at the trailhead.
Yesterday was tough in terms of their attitude in school. We did have some disruptions, like international Skype calls I had to take during our school hours because of time differences etc. So once they got into play mode, it was virtually impossible to bring them back to formal learning mode.
The hike helped give us time to talk about what happened. Nothing like walking and talking, you know? Sure, we looked at nature and saw insects and fungus and flowers and birds. We noticed the word “neotropical” at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and decided to look it up. My son also stumped me with the question, “Is there any type of grass that has flowers?” – another one I promised to look up when we got back home. So yes, nature observation or nature study did happen.
But the main goal of the expedition was to calm down together, move muscles so they sleep better, and talk. Talk we did. My daughter wanted to hold hands with me on the trail, which she usually does not. It told me she knew she was in trouble and wanted to make sure she still had my love even though she misbehaved.
There’s the challenge for all parents: when you love your child and hate her behavior, how do you communicate it? Because you certainly want to let your child know that you love her even when she misbehaves. Love is not conditional. Love is indifferent to circumstances and behavior. Love just is.
But then something must be done about the behavior. Nothing really of substance came of the discussion during the walk, but it removed some of the outer layers of the motivation behind her behavior. It was later in the evening, when I was tucking her into bed, that the tears started coming and she explained some of her fears – of which I knew nothing.
As a girl, she has layers and layers of consciousness. At her age, it is difficult for her to peel them off and describe them to me. But loving efforts on my part, even though sprinkled with parenting mistakes, pay off.
So this centennial will be memorable to me for as long as I still have a brain. My daughter taught me a huge lesson in parenting and hopefully she learned the importance of obedience even more.