Adventures in motherhood with the Octagon bike trailer, a cage match on wheels
Think you’re a tough adventurer? Try two and a half miles with six kids under 3.
W hen our two girls were barely 1 and not-quite-3, my husband Nick brought home a bike trailer. It looked surprisingly small. “Do you think this is going to work?” I asked. “Or are they just going to kill each other in there?”
Half a block into our test drive, we had our answer.
“Ow! OW! OWWWW! MOMMY! Chah-wotte’s pullin’ my hair!” Riley cried. Charlotte, the toddler, was gleefully torturing her older sister, yanking on a big handful of blonde while Riley looked for an escape route. The trailer was henceforth known as the Octagon, a cage match on wheels.
Those were the days of feeling like I was never going to do anything active again without Herculean effort, when the time preparing for an outing almost always exceeded the activity itself. But staying in the house all day with two tiny kids was a recipe for insanity. So when two of my friends suggested that we take our littles and bike the Camas Road in Glacier National Park one beautiful June day, it sounded like a wonderful idea. Or at least a marginal idea, but, at least, in the company of friends.
The three of us had six kids, all age 3 and under. It took us half the morning to gather our gear, load everyone up, and get to the road. Ten minutes into our ride, restless whines started seeping from the trailers. We stopped to hand out snacks. Then we stopped because someone couldn’t reach their water bottle. Because a hat slipped down over a baby’s eyes. Because it was Tuesday and Tuesday makes people cry.
We decided to try reshuffling the kids. We put Riley with her buddy Alex, and Charlotte with 5-month-old Amos, crossing our fingers that she only wanted to poke her older sister and would leave the baby alone.
“Two hours of packing, then an hour of driving, all for a ride that lasted an hour out, and ten minutes back.”
Things went better for a while. Then Riley and Alex started arguing about when they were going to look at Alex’s book of Bible stories. Ironic? Yes. Riley decided they should wait until we got out to have a picnic. Alex, I think, was just enjoying the mouthfeel of the word NO. They yelled YES and NO back and forth so many times they forgot who was arguing for which side. Then Riley gave up on the debate and started hitting Alex in the leg with a rock. First I was appalled by the hitting. Then I wondered how she got her hands on a rock.
We had been on the road for about an hour at this point, and had pedaled a whopping 2.5 miles, but we couldn’t take much more stop-and-start refereeing. Maybe lunch would help. We picnicked with a beautiful view of the snowy peaks, but reluctantly realized the 3 year-olds were only going to decompensate faster as naptime approached, so we decided to turn around. The Camas Road is downhill on the way home; we were at the cars in ten minutes. Two hours of packing, then an hour of driving, all for a ride that lasted an hour out, and ten minutes back.
And there was nothing out of the ordinary about that day. It was just how adventuring with little kids went. But if all that sounds too familiar, if you routinely spend three hours prepping for outings that routinely fall apart within sight of the parking lot, take heart. This too shall pass. It does get easier. You will laugh about this in a few years. And in the meantime, pack extra snacks and check everyone’s pockets for rocks.
Read more from Katie Cantrell katiecantrellwrites.com.
Illustration: Highline Design Co.
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