A couple of weeks ago I received a question from reader Patricia T. that really made me stop and think. She basically wanted to know specifics about how life has changed for us since adding another child to our family. In her words – “…I’ve had so many people tell me that the second one really shuts your life down. Now, I’m trying to take that with a grain of salt, b/c I think we (I’m assuming she meant outdoorsy folks) are cut from a different cloth. But it still worries me. What’s your take on this?”
I wrote a lot about the adjustments our family made to our routine during those early weeks of Baby Zu’s life. I wrote some practical posts about how we find time to climb, and how we kept our sanity during the first month. I also wrote some reflective posts about love and expectations. I reviewed all sorts of baby gear, from Boba to PeaPod, and I got really sentimental once or twice. I even wrote a post entitled “Why the 2nd Baby is Easier…and Harder.” But now that I’ve got one kid that’s going to Kindergarten in the fall and another that’s morphed into a toddler seemingly overnight, I feel like I might have a little more perspective from which to revisit that question. (And probably even MORE so when I’ve got a 6th grader and a 2nd grader, or a 10th grader and a 7th grader, or heaven forbid one in college and one in highschool…but don’t rush me!)
So with that said, here’s how our climbing adventures have changed over the years (and how they’ve stayed the same.)
Pre-kids. Meet at the gym after work. Climb until our fingers fall off, then go home and eat a late dinner. Repeat once or twice a week.
One kid. Meet at the gym after work with child in tow. Alternate who watches child and who climbs. If we have an extra partner we can rope up, if not, we boulder.
Two kids. It’s now unmanageable for everyone to be in the gym at the same time, so we take turns. Someone climbs after work, we eat a family dinner together, and the other person climbs after the kids go to bed (more on that strategy here.)
Pre-kids. No plan needed. We climb wherever we want, whenever we want. Outrageous, I know.
One kid. Biggest change is that we need to make sure we have an extra partner lined up, preferably one that doesn’t mind extra belay duty. This frees up hubby and I to take turns watching kid when we’re not climbing. Multi-pitch climbing is obviously out, but as long as the base is not terrible (huge drop-offs, etc), we can pretty much go craggin’ wherever we want. A long approach is not a big deal because kiddo rides in a carrier. Gear space is at a premium.
Two kids. We definitely still need an extra person, although mostly just for the baby, as the older child is pretty independent and doesn’t need constant supervision at the crag (if both kids are very young, this is where things could get crazy…a 4 year age gap between our children was NOT by accident!) In addition to the cliff base, we also have to consider the fitness of the youngest pair of legs in regards to the approach. Long hikes in will take us sometimes twice as long as our climbing partners (if climbing as a party of 3, one parent will usually go on ahead w/our extra partner, while the other strolls along with the kiddos.) We didn’t think we could bring any more gear to the crag…but somehow we’ve managed to double it. Quite often we work non-climbing outdoor activities into our trips as well – hikes, swimming holes, picnics, etc. Sometimes those end up being the most memorable parts of the trip!
AT THE CRAG
Pre-kids. We climb as long as we have daylight and sometimes end up hiking out in the dark. We do what we want, when we want to. Freedom!!!
One kid. High mileage days are difficult to manage, except on days where baby naps a lot at the crag. It’s impossible to predict which days those will be, so we have to take it and run with it when it happens. We usually average 5-6 pitches per day, and tend to stay in the same area all day rather than flitting from one side of the cliff to another. (This meant that we started shifting more into a “project” mindset – trying multiple times to send rather than just moving on after one attempt regardless of the outcome.) When the other parent is on kid duty, it’s pretty easy to relax. We finish our day before sunset, and kiddo usually konks out on the hike back to the car, which is welcome because we’re probably having a late dinner and that quickie nap will hopefully get us through until bedtime without a meltdown.
Two kids. If we can squeeze in 4-5 pitches over the course of a day, we’re psyched. In addition to climbing, belaying, and caring for the smaller child, we also need to spend time with the older child; who, although very good at independent play, still needs to connect with mommy and daddy several times throughout the course of the day. Things can get overwhelming pretty fast, especially if either child is feeling clingy, tired, hungry, frustrated, temper tantrum-y, etc. We end up hiking out between 4 and 5 pm usually, depending on how difficult the end-of-day trudge will be for 5 year old hiking legs. Both kids are running on fumes by the time we get to (later than usual) bedtimes, and we find ourselves so exhausted that we often go to bed at the same time they do.
When it comes to our climbing lifestyle, it was far bigger of an adjustment to go from no kids to 1 kid than it has been for us to jump from 1 kid to 2. Cragging with one kid required a major change in our planning with regards to how much we rely on other people, but we already had that mindset once #2 came along. If I had to sum-up the hardest part at this particular stage of the game, it would be the stress of being pulled in so many directions at once at the crag. (Baby needs to nurse. Time for me to climb. Child needs help finding a spot to poop in the woods. Partner needs a belay. Baby needs diaper changed, then help going down for nap. Baby’s asleep, I should climb…right after I read with older child. Baby’s awake and hungry. That reminds me, I should probably eat something too! And so on and so forth.)
But despite the new level of shenanigans our family has risen to over the past year, the one constant has been that it’s always seemed worthwhile. Both kiddos love being outside, and the older one starts asking when we’re going climbing again long about Thursday of every week. And as long as everyone’s happy, we’re gonna roll with it! There may come a time where our current lifestyle doesn’t work for our family, and if that happens, we’ll or course shift gears. But for now, we climb on!
I’d love to hear from other families out there that have added 1, 2, or even 3 or more kiddos into their crag-family dynamic (and I’m sure Patricia T. would appreciate other points of view as well!) So please, feel free to share some thoughts, tips, or experiences below in the comments!