I like walking. I will happily walk for miles and miles. I particularly like walking on Dartmoor, where I can pretty much spin on the spot, point in any direction and then walk that way for hours without having to worry about the bother of crossing private land. What I hadn’t realised, until I had Small as a walking companion, was that I always walked with a purpose. That purpose might vary, say, to walk a certain distance or to reach a specific destination, but there would invariably be a purpose.
Small, on the other hand, had the same attitude to walking as the doidens did; there was no purpose in the walk itself, other than to take him from one interesting thing to another. Arguably, I was doing the same thing, it was just that the things I found interesting were quite different to Small (and the doidens). I, for instance, had very little interest in horse poo, other than to avoid stepping in it. Small and the doidens loved it. The doidens liked to eat it and roll in it. Small liked to carry it around by the armful. Other things of interest included stones, dead and rotting leaves, mud, any other kind of animal poo and sticks (although many adult males retain the pre-programmed instinct to carry a stick on a walk and have impulses to thrust and parry at any dodgy looking bushes).
Small was not content carrying one or two of these things. He would keep picking them up until his arms were full and then start loading them onto me. Woe betide me if I couldn’t carry them all. Sometimes I could cast some of them away a few minutes after they had been passed to me but if I tried it with any unusual looking items it would be noticed and I had to go back and find them. The collection of interesting things would be carried to the end of the walk and would have to be placed reverently in the boot of the car, where hopefully it would be forgotten about and could be disposed of later. For the times that the collection was not forgotten by the time we arrived home, I had to instil in Small an understanding that collections of sticks, stones, rotting leaves and poo were best kept by the front door, not inside the house. Even though our smallest Small is not really small anymore we still have a collection of sticks and rocks by the front door (the rotting leaves and poo having long since decomposed).
Whilst Small shared an affinity for sticks and poo with the doidens, he lacked their rudimentary framework of obedience and loyalty. When the doidens stopped to sniff and explore everything within a hundred metre radius of the path they would eventually catch up if I carried on walking. Small did not have this ability, perhaps because he was slightly less intelligent and unable to grasp the concept or, conversely, that he was far more intelligent (and certainly more cunning and wily) and knew that if he didn’t follow me then I would eventually have to turn around and come back to him. As a result, whilst walks of miles and miles still existed, I didn’t actually travel very far. To illustrate, if I walk with my doidens they will invariably walk and run three times further than me as they chase hither and thither, back and forth, yet at the same time generally move in the same direction as me, at the same aggregate speed. With Small it was me that had to walk three times further, backwards and forwards along the path, desperately trying to get him to travel in the required direction. In fact, if I plotted my movement and his I am convinced that, on average, he would have been travelling in completely the opposite direction to me most of the time. The only time he would have been travelling in the required direction (please note that this was my required direction, not his) was when, in a desperate effort to make some progress, he had have been hoisted up and carried for a hundred metres (only to wander back seventy when he was put down).
Life had been much easier when Small was Really Small and strapped to my back. Except when he was pulling my ears or wiping sticky hands in my hair. Oh, and don’t let Really Small carry a stick.
When Small first mastered walking he wanted to do it all the time. I could not stop him. He also tried to get to running far sooner than he should have done. Downhills were the places to be most alert. Small had not worked out his brakes and just got faster and faster down the slope until his legs couldn’t keep up with his body and he crashed. If I hadn’t managed to catch him there would be lots of tears but not much learning, at least on his behalf.
Once Small had conquered walking and running and braking he gave it all up. Having sorted the mobility thing out he no longer wanted to do it. He would constantly want to be back in the pushchair or carried. He would collapse to the ground declaring, “I can’t walk, I’ve got bendy legs!”
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
To carry on reading select another category from the menu. If you would prefer to buy the book, you can do so using the links below.