Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Traveling with Little Kids

Dawn in Jackson Hole
 With a sunrise like that, I knew it was going to be a great day.

As we drove north, I had to stop to snap a picture
The Grand Tetons at dawn. It was going to be a fantastic day. We were meeting Heidi, Sam, and their kids in Yellowstone National Park for two days of touring, then headed east to Cody, WY, to see the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West.

This is what I had pictured in my mind:
All of us admiring nature's beauty, stopping to see wildlife and snap pictures, hiking around mud pots and geysers, filling out the Junior Ranger booklets to earn patches.


It didn't work out that way.

Our first stop was Old Faithful, and we arrived just as its pressure was ready to blow.
Kids got seated and ready
And she blew spectacularly.
And Hyrum turned to me and said, "Is that it? Isn't that like the fountain in Fountain Hills?" We walked a little farther down the boardwalk, but it was easy to see that they weren't terribly interested in more geysers.

That was my first clue that this adventure would not be close to what I had envisioned.

The kids had no interest in filling out the Junior Ranger packet. Their interest in museum displays was directly correlated to how many buttons there were to push, how many lights lit up, or how long the video was. There was very little interest in how the park was created or why the elk in the park live shorter lives than those outside it. They ran from display to display, punching buttons and running to the next before the soundtrack finished. Micah did care more than the other kids, I must admit, but even his interest waned more quickly than I had hoped.

Initially, this made me sad. We were seeing one of the greatest wonders of the world, for crying out loud.  Mud pots are COOL! Geysers are AWESOME!

But we're hungry! But I'm tired! But I need to go to the bathroom!
It was right about the time I captured these girls helping each other in the bathroom that my whole perspective on this trip changed.

This trip was not about what I wanted or what I envisioned. I had planned this trip for them--to create their memories and spend time with them. My ideas really were irrelevant, and as long as I kept that perspective--trying to make it the best trip possible for THEM--we had a great time.
My view changed--from nature's wonders to the amazing way my kids love and take care of Heidi's kids. Nathan wants to do everything "Hammer" (Hyrum) does, and Hyrum loves to be his big buddy.

When Nathan saw Hyrum on top of this pole, of course he wanted to do it, too. Hyrum just wasn't quite tall enough to help him.

Micah would swoop in to carry this chubby guy around, push the stroller, or help get kids in and out of the car.
Instead of parading the kids past endless mud pots, we elected to spend our time in West Yellowstone. We caught an IMAX movie (listening to Ellie's endless questions about why the baby mammoth died and would she miss her mama? were more entertaining to me than the movie), did a little wandering around a gift shop, and spent most of our day tooling around the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
Hardly anyone was there, and the kids loved it. This telescope was broken in the on position, and they all wanted to look through it at the giant bears.
Watching Sam and Heidi parent their little ones brings me great joy. They are extremely patient and take the time to teach their kids why they should obey.

Micah begged to use my camera, and he got the best wildlife shots of the day.
All of the animals in this facility have been rescued in some way. The eagles had been maimed and could no longer fly, and the bears had all been slated to be euthanized because they had become such dangers to people. It's unbelievable how big they are.
Yes, Micah took this picture.
And this one. Proof that I really was on this trip.

This is how I want to remember the trip--little ones surrounding me, begging to hold my hand, and happy to be together. It didn't matter that we missed seeing bison in Yellowstone or that we only stopped for one geyser (it WAS Old Faithful) or that we didn't complete Junior Ranger activities.

What matters is that we were together.

Those grizzly bears reminded me of my boys in so many ways.

Wrestling and hugging and throwing each other around in the pool, just like at home.
These little brothers are headed down that same path.
See how Jonah watches everything Nathan does and wants to copy him?

For a small fee (like $2/person), kids are allowed into the bear enclosure. When the bears are removed, duh!
They are taught a little about grizzlies and then they are each given a cup of food that they can hide for the bears to find.
Micah and Hyrum took their responsibility seriously.

This was one of the coolest things we did on our entire trip. The boys got into the whole hiding thing.
Hyrum even asked one of the volunteers to help him stack heavy rocks to deter the bears.

After spending the night in tight sleeping quarters that weren't exactly what I had expected, we all headed back into the park. We still didn't see many bison (many five), and after stopping to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Sam guided us to a place where a mama bear and her two cubs had been sighted multiple times over the last few days--feasting on an elk carcass.

Somehow, it was a little anticlimactic after seeing the bears at the rescue center the day before.
Something about that drive made Hyrum car sick for the first time in his life. In my desperation to find a place for him to puke, I dumped a box of granola out before I even thought about how bad it was to leave food for the animals in the park. Don't know which was worse--puke all over the road or granola. We left both, I'm afraid.

Our destination for the day was Cody, Wyoming, and the Buffalo Bill museum.
It started out with the kids excited to see what was inside.
What made Hyrum think to put his head in that hat? Love it.
This part of our trip was nothing like I had imagined. The kids cared very little about the museum. They kept touching untouchables and running through quiet exhibits. All three of us adults were tired of it pretty quickly.

I was mostly concerned as we made our way through the western art wing--until we reached the end. At the end of the long gallery is a makeshift studio, and the kids each found their own chair, some paper, and colored pencils.
Each child drew what they wanted, and they sat quietly coloring for over half an hour.

That thirty minutes was heaven--for adults, because we weren't constantly worrying and chasing and reprimanding and running; and for kids, because they were being kids.

We left without seeing one entire wing of the museum. And guess what? It was okay.

We found a park for lunch, and those kiddos climbed and ran and played and ate and got to be kids. And then what did we do? We found a movie theater that was playing "Inside Out." Ate popcorn and candy and ran around on the back row of the theater where we weren't disturbing anyone else.
After Heidi's kids were asleep for the night, we left my cell phone with Micah and the three adults had a peaceful dinner out. I was happy to spend most of those few days focused on the kids, but it was nice to have time to talk with my adult kids. I love having adult kids--love hearing their perspectives and opinions on adult stuff. They're pretty cool, and if they weren't my kids, I'd pick them to be my friends.
And grandmas get to buy stuff they wouldn't buy as moms--like cookies as big as your head. Don't you just want to pinch those cheeks? Then kiss his face off?
The two days didn't end up like I thought when I watched the sun rise over Jackson Hole, but those two days are some of my favorites of the entire trip--and hardly anything followed the plan.

It was so much better than the plan could have been.

1 comment:

  1. The Tetons are beautiful and Yellowstone is amazing...and you get Kudos for making the trip about the kids. It is hard to do when you also are excited to see so many things...such as NATURE. Still it looks like a fabulous time.