Monday, September 01, 2008

Independence Mine Alaska: Independence Is the Right Word

Gold Cord Lake Trail, AlaskaToday's Labor Day post is from my favorite writer in the whole world: my husband Andrew. Writing about how parenthood often isn't what you expected, not only was kind enough to take the kids on an overnight camping trip but to then write up the experience as a post for me. It must be true love because who else would do something so nice?

***

I think we all have those times when we imagine how something is going to turn out with our children, the picture is so clear. Whether it's a perfect camping trip, vacation, help with homework, or whatever the case may be our child is looking at us with those approving eyes telling is in clear terms that we're a great parent.

Then the moment comes and it just doesn't happen with the feeling that, "Ugh, I'm just not a good parent."

The weekend I took the kids up to Independence Mine was one of those moments for me. Spencer turned eleven this year and is now officially a Boy Scout which I'm pretty excited about because it means we get to have some serious adventures together. I realize that the time for these adventures is limited before he's well into his teenage years--in no time he'll be working full time during the summer, will be off to college and things won't be the same--so I want to take advantage of this time and create those memories, have some fun, and be that great parent I've dreamed about.

Gold Cord Lake Trail, AlaskaSo here was my vision of the hike I'd planned on the Gold Cord Lake Trail near Independence Mine in the Talkeetna Mountains north of Anchorage:

Spencer can't wait to
go on the hike, it's all he can talk about. We get to the trail and have these great father-son talks. He talks about how much he loves to hike with me. We bond and remember the hike forever so when he's an adult he'll say, "Remember that hike?" and we'll both say, "Oh yeah, that was great!"

Here's how the reality goes: It's rainy and dizzly. Spencer doesn't want to wear the rain poncho because he thinks that he looks like a dork in it but he wears it because he knows he'll get real wet. I try to be upbeat and point to the ridge at the top of the mountain where we're going to hike but get no response. We start off and I try to strike up some conversation, but all I see is that dark cloud over his head and Spencer doesn't want to talk so we hike in silence. I can tell that he's miserable, but is only willing to continue to placate me.

Gold Cord Lake Trail, AlaskaWe get to the top and the view is a spectacular--we can see all the way down the valley to Palmer, the lake at the top is incredible and so crystal clear and you can see to the rocks at the bottom. Spencer stands at the top and just stares off into the distance, but doesn't say anything. Then we hike back down.

When we returned finally to the car I said, "So, what did you think . . . did you have fun?"

"Oh, it was alright."

At which point I was hit with that feeling of "Ugh, I'm just not a good parent."

Now I know I shouldn't beat myself up, I'm just trying my best, but we all have those romantic notions of parenthood. In those rare moments it can happen but it normally doesn't we just need to keep trying.

Who knows? Maybe one of these days Spencer will turn to me as an adult and say, "Dad, remember that hike at Independence Mine? Well I know I was grumpy, but I appreciate you doing those things for me . . . it meant a lot."

Maybe?

***

To hike the Alaska Gold Cord Lake Trail drive to the Independence Mine parking lot past Hatcher's Pass then go to the side of the parking lot opposite of the mine. Walk about 50 feet toward the mountain and you'll find the trail. The trail is well marked, has a wide path, and is well maintained--younger children can hike it. The trail is about one half mile to the top to the lake and is moderately steep in parts. Look for marmots poking their heads in out of spaces between all the rocks.

This is still one of my favorite hikes in Alaska.

Sponsored by Dimples and Dandelions--for the Serena and Lily Bedding Collection for Children

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16 comments:

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

I think like this way more than I should...but something in side of me tell me to keep doing it becaue when they look back, many years from now, I KNOW that these little moments, misadventures, will be what they remember...and maybe what they pass on to their own kids.

Kitty said...

I know just what you mean. It is too frustrating if our expectations, be it for a hike, doing a special craft or just watching a movie together, aren't fulfilled. Still, you just never know when things will work out great (sometimes better than expected). Those triumphs are the exception, but I think they are worth all the bother and aggravation of the other times.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I think all parents know the feeling you've described, Andrew. It's part of the game. But I think it's also possible that you're ending is more spot-on that you know. Kids remember the "oddest" things. They are unpredictable. Which is why life with them is so exciting.

Beth said...

I don't think there's a parent alive who can't relate to that!

Doll Clothes Gal said...

Thanks for a great post Andrew. I can resonate completely with all your sentiments - paretnng can be challenging and extremely rewarding all at the same time.

Maddy said...

Similarly, I have often wished that I could fast forward a couple of decades so that I could ask my boys what was upsetting them on any one particular day or minute, as their speech delays can make it difficult to have any kind of clue.

Then I remember that I'm supposed to be 'living in the moment' like all good Americans should.

I'm working on it.

Cheers

tjhirst said...

That's how our Labor Day wash-the- windows-together plan turned out. I'm not the only one.

Sheri said...

That's such a true post, for many parents. I have a son who will complain about going on Boy Scout campouts everytime, but when we ask what he actually likes about Scouts, he says it's the campouts! So you are a great dad, and your son will have great memories of the things you've done together. Keep up the good work.

Lori said...

I remember when my mom got me a corsage to wear when I won an award for the 7th grade science fair. I was so embarrassed. I glared in the pictures. I even picked at it as I was waiting to go on stage, hoping it would die. Now I'm thankful she bought it for me.

Laurie said...

That was a really lovely post and I think we all have so many of these parenting moments. We want every moment to be that perfect, ideal picture we see in our heads. Fortunately I do believe that looking back it will seem much better than it does right now.

Marilyn - A Mixed Bouquet said...

I think that he will say, "Hey, Dad, remember that great hike we had in the rain. We sure didn't expect it, did we?"

With three daughters in their 30s, one 19 yr old son, and a special needs 16 yr old son, I can say that they normally remember the positive. Another thing is that you're never gonna please them all the time!

Gorgeous! I loved our scouting years! My 19 1/2 year old is an Eagle Scout. So many great memories! Enjoy it!

Chrissy Johnson said...

oooo that's quite possibly one of my favorite places in Alaska! Thank you for the post...for both its wisdom and for sharing the raw beauty of Independence Mine and Hatcher Pass!

Heather said...

Watch out, Michelle. Andrew might give you a run for your writing money! LOL! Very well written post!

Sounds like he may have been preoccupied with some dramatic tween problem. You never know- a quiet hike might have been just what he needed to clear his head.

Sometimes an event that goes awry is remembered better than one that went as planned. Thanks for sharing!

Loralee Choate said...

I can barely get my husband to write a grocery list or read my blog let alone write something as lovely as this.

Big pat on the back for Andrew!

Dorie said...

Once when my daughter was about five, I took her to the Natural History museum. We played with the hands on exhibits, admired the dinosaur bones, etc. When we got home, I asked her what she'd liked best and she said "The Elevator" It was a 1930's style with an operator- she saw the coolness of something I took for ordinary!

Mirien said...

I was a pretty good parent when my kids were younger. It seemed that I could plan all kinds of fun outings and celebrations that they enjoyed. But in the last couple of years (my oldest two are the same ages as Grace and Spencer) more and more of my ideas seem to flop. Like last weekend's hike to Donut Falls. I just had to laugh at the complaining and bad attitudes or else I would have cried. It's quite humbling, no?