Time is precious. Everybody says you won't believe how quickly your kids grow up and you won't believe them, but before you know it they're talking about boys and you're worrying about how long it will be before they leave for college.
I have several strategies for addressing my premature empty-nest crisis.
First: I'm living in denial. My kids will never leave. (I may come to regret this approach when they move home.)
Second: Whenever I drop my daughter off at middle school I tell her, "No boys, no drugs, no slopes over 30 degrees with unconsolidated snow."
Third: I'm making the most of every moment we share.
Feel free to take or leave my first two strategies. I'm not sure how effective they'll be. The third, though, I can't recommend highly enough.
One way I'm making the days last is to squeeze adventures in between all the rest of life. Often this means quick hikes after work and before bed. (Thank goodness we live in the Northwest where it stays light late.)
Here are my tips for making it work both the night of and the next day.
Choose easy hikes. Even if they're strong enough to crush out a hearty hike... why? That's not the point. This is all about spending time. If you're breathing too hard to talk the hike is too hard. Save the epic trips for other times.
Bring dinner. What could be better than eating dinner in the outdoors? Even if it's just PBJ and a bottle of water it becomes gourmet outside.
Bring snacks. I don't need to eat while hiking. Something weird happens and I'm just not hungry. My kids aren't like that. I load them up with (healthy) snacks at the trailhead and whenever they need it to keep them going. (Don't worry. They still eat their dinner.)
Let them set the pace. I'm sure I could outhike them (well, pretty sure, they're getting faster), but this is about enjoyment not destinations.
Talk. What's the point of hiking with your kids if you don't do more than share the trail? Even my tween will talk to me when we're on trail. And my eight year old? He won't stop talking.
Stay on schedule. If you're hiking after work you're already limited for time. If they need to go to school the next day it's really important they get home at a decent time. (I'm terrible at this. My wife routinely adds 10-20% to my hike durations. I have lots of room for improvement here.)
Remind yourself how lucky you are. These days won't last. Cherish every moment. Soon enough you'll be hiking alone while they're doing homework or listening to music or... going on dates. In the meantime, enjoy your kids.
I'm thrilled to report that I put all these tips to work on a quick four mile trip to Talapus Lake. In fact, I opted out of a hike with my buddies that went faster and farther to hike with my girls. We had a great time and all along I kept thinking about how lucky I am that they still want to hike with me.
Don't ask for tips on how to keep them interested in hiking with Dad. I have no idea. But if I figure it out, I'll let you know.