Remember me? I’m the mom who packed up her 5 month old and headed out on a backcountry fishing trip in northern Canada with my husband in the post “A Floatplane, A boat and a Baby”. I also said something to the effect of we wanted to take the attitude that ‘this baby was joining our lives and not the other way around’.
Well, it’s a year later and to be honest I am doing a slow head shake to “year-ago” Laura. Was I right? Somewhat. Hear me out.
The Realities of Adventuring with a Toddler: A Mom’s How-To Guide
That attitude is totally realistic and doable when your baby is in the ‘blob’ stage. That is, they can’t roll over. If you put them on a blanket in the middle of the floor they’ll still be there if you turn around to grab a coffee. Naps can be on the go in a stroller or carrier and bedtimes don’t need to be strictly enforced.
Today we have an active, strong-willed and inquisitive 1.5 year old daughter that wants no part in sitting still, requires one nap during the day (or hell hath no fury) and bedtime is 7 pm or you best be prepared for a Captain Crankypants the next day. Take our toddler on a boat today and she spends a good portion of her time trying to pry the life jacket off and if you turn your back she would run off the boat or end up with a treble hook in her hand in 2.5 milliseconds.
I expect this sounds familiar to most parents of toddlers, and it can make taking family adventures tedious, unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant. So you ask, what’s changed in a year? In a nutshell, sleep, baby mobility and food now dictate how we approach any trips.
Nowadays, our biggest hurdle to accomplishing family adventures are deviations from her normal schedules and sleeping arrangements. Honestly, sleep has always been a struggle for us since day one. Despite our best efforts, she didn’t sleep through the night until she was 13 months old. Not even once. Add alterations to our normal daily routine and it becomes a struggle.
For instance, this spring a pleasant stay at the family cabin on the lake turned ugly when she outright refused to sleep in a playpen in the corner of a room. No amount of rocking or back rubs would help and it ended in a 2 am screamfest that resulted with me finally pulling the pin and driving home while muttering expletives. Although we’ve always tented, from that night on we decided we would need to adapt future outdoor sleeping arrangements for everyone’s sanity.
We purchased a 1981 camper that required some TLC, but that kid sleeps like a rock. Worth every penny. For now, we’ve become the ‘glamping’ family I used to mock. I’m not saying we’re not willing to sacrifice naps or strict bedtimes on occasion, but if it happens too frequently our daughter’s evil, much crankier, alter ego rears its ugly head and it’s just not worth it.
Another major shift has been getting our toddler from point A to B. These days, our active toddler wants no part in sitting in the awesome off-road worthy stroller we purchased, or being in the comfy soft structured carriers. However, she’ll happily be carried in the backpack carrier from MEC. Go figure.
When she insists on walking (more often than not), it takes about 45 minutes to get a few blocks because of all the puddles that need to be splashed in, rocks and twigs that need to be collected and raspberries that need eating. We’re more than happy to let her take her time exploring and getting dirty, but this means we’ve significantly altered our expectations on hike length or difficulty.
Lastly, when we had an infant, a meal was a boob away. Now, we’re our daughter’s mobile snack pack mules. Any sort of outing, walk, or hike requires copious amount of snacks to ensure she remains happy. L’arabars, Cheerios, goldfish crackers, and cut up fruit are in our bags at all times. Snacks can usually right an adventure that looks like it’s beginning to go sideways.
How do you deal with all these changes? To help new parents out, I’ve broken down your baby’s development into different stages and created a handy diagram.
Blob Stage – Give or take 0-5 months. This is your window! Your baby naps on the go, doesn’t require solid food yet, and likely doesn’t crawl either. It’s essentially a cute eating, pooping and crying meat sack. Adventure away!
Semi-Mobile Stage – 6-9 months. Your baby can likely turn over and roll (and might be starting to crawl) but usually doesn’t go anywhere quick. Adventures are totally still doable but you might have to work more around naps and need to bring solid food.
The ‘Uh Oh’ They’re Mobile Stage – 9 months on- This is a fun time! BUT life as you knew it is over. Kidding! Your main job moving forward is to make sure your child stays alive by not tumbling down the stairs. Adventures will likely have to fit more around schedules and may get cut short. Still lots of fun, but keep your expectations in check.
Do we still go fishing, camping and hiking? You bet! Is it an endeavor to plan and execute these trips? Yup. Are they as hardcore or as adventurous as we were envisioning? Not really, but that’s OK.
The level of our family adventures will grow with our daughter. With some adjustments and LOTS of patience we are working at nurturing her long-term love of the outdoors. That is what we believe matters the most.