Early on in the pandemic, we began going on family walks most weekends. It was something we could do to get out of the house, and these walks gave some structure to our days.
I can’t say all my kids loved it, but we can never get 100 percent agreement on anything. After some initial grumbling about getting in the car, they’d generally tolerate the experience, and everyone got some fresh air and exercise.
Now, as almost all of our activities have ramped back up, I am aiming to keep family walks in our lives. This requires some strategy. I don’t think any of my children are individually over-scheduled, but there are four of them who are old enough to be enrolled in things. Four times a small number gives you…a bigger number.
So my goal is to look at each weekend ahead of time and figure out how best to preserve a chunk of open space. This past weekend we had soccer and swim on Saturday morning, and softball evaluations, church events, and tennis on Sunday. But all our Saturday stuff was done by lunch time. So we made plans to drive to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, which I had heard good things about, and which — despite being 75 minutes from our house — I’d never visited.
It was a lot of fun! We hiked a “River of Rocks” trail that had the kids scrambling on boulders, and playing in a rhododendron grove by a stream. Since there was still snow in patches, but the air felt like spring, this added a whimsical element to the walk. Plus, we saw hawks circling near a lookout.
We got in the car at 12:45 p.m. We got home at 5:45 p.m., having had the “big adventure” I aim to experience each week.
While Saturday afternoon worked this time, my guess is that in future weeks Sunday afternoons/early evenings will be our open space for trips/walks/adventures. Fewer events get scheduled then (since it’s a school night) and we are consciously choosing not to re-up something that had been scheduled on the later side. It might not always work, but some weeks it will. And some other weeks, soccer/baseball/etc. will get rained out, which opens up space for indoor options, as long as I have thought through contingencies.
In any case, weekends generally need not be either/or. It’s possible to make space for garden-variety kid activities and family outings. But doing so requires looking at the whole weekend landscape ahead of time and thinking about what would work. I’m pretty sure if we hadn’t had a plan to go to Hawk Mountain right after lunch on Saturday we would have wasted quite a bit of time figuring out what to do, negotiating decisions and so forth. And then a 5-hour chunk of a trip might not have seemed possible. By making that plan ahead of time, it turned out there was still time for a walk.