Thursday, May 31, 2012

Never Never Land

As the end of May approaches, I can almost feel the excitement and anticipation for summer in the air when I pass a school. You can literally see the joy flood out of the school bus doors when they open at a stop. The end of the school year approaches for thousands of kids and with it the end of a tight schedule. The hours of solving math equations, dissecting frogs, studying US history and gossiping are now replaced with playing capture the flag, eating freeze pops, having sleep overs- MID WEEK, and running around barefoot, chasing fireflies.
Top of Pikes- Boulder Hopping

Cooling off after a 20 mile jaunt

Driving down to Mantiou Springs this past Memorial Day weekend, passing numerous schools and buses, I found it impossible to not reflect on my own end of school year experiences and how exciting the time right before summer used to be. I could remember everyone getting their yearbooks signed (“Keep in touch!”  “TTYL” “Have a fun summer!”) and talking about how awesome and relaxing life will be without the toils of school. Talk of vacations, camps and pool parties. All pleasant thoughts to keep my mind busy, especially in holiday weekend traffic. Though at some point during the weekend, a thought hit me like a slammer hitting a stack of pogs. Maybe it was the thought of my mom saying, “You’ll ruin your dinner!” as I ate spoonfuls of peanut butter at 5:34 (Typically a Ruland Family dinner hour). Or maybe it was when Brandon and I were playing leap frog, from boulder to boulder, on top of Pikes Peak. Or perhaps it was when I was singing along to Britney Spears and Back Street Boys. I’m not sure what it was, but I realized that not much has changed since grade school. I’m just a kid with a bank account now.

After a Pikes Peak run
Lost Creek Jig

I probably don’t look much older than I did 10 years ago, but I have in fact graduated college, gotten a ‘real’ job, have rent and bills to pay, but my sense of wonder and excitement has yet to dissipate. My pogs and slammers have been replaced with money. I trade gels as if they were playing cards. The slap bracelets (which I’m told have been banned due to the severe lacerations they caused) have morphed into GPS watches. My races have grown in distance- before it was from mailbox to the tree. Now it’s expanded to 50 mile out and back/lollipop/loops… I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that work is just another term for school- as soon as that bell rings, or the clock hits quitting time, its time to go home, hit the trails or play in the mountains- Done sitting inside, starring out the window waiting for recess to begin.

Growing up is inevitable. At least getting older is. My co workers tell me that all the time- especially when they hear about the 60 miles I ran in the mountains. They tell me that their knees just can’t do that kind of stuff anymore. When I hear this, I can’t help but think (hope!) I’ll still be this way 32 years from now, still plotting my next escape or adventure. Who knows, maybe I’m just some kind of Tinkerbell, lost in Peter Pan’s Never Never Land, avoiding reality, because the alternative is a bigger and better adventure. I don’t rightly know why I’ve managed to hold on to my sense of wonder while others have lost theirs. I try not to think too hard about it, perhaps so I don’t tarnish it. But I do know that I still get excited every May for the approaching summertime. Because I still run around outside with my friends- only now my playground is just a bit bigger.
So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Detached Parenting

The recent TIME magazine cover and article got me thinking about my childhood and how vastly different it was from the ones that were written about. The article described the trend of "attachment parenting." Meaning- the child is literally connected/touching/attached to the parent for-in my opinion- far too long. Some children were breast fed until the age of 7. Yikes. This method is supposed to build a strong bond between parent and child. I'm sure the article talked about several other benefits, but I got hung up on that one, mainly because my rearing was so incredibly polar, yet yielded similar, perhaps better, results. (Note: I'm completely biased here. Mom, dad- feel free to shower me with presents after I publicly applaud your parenting style.)

Very fashion forward

Growing up, my parents encouraged independence and exploration. I'm going to say that the reason for this was not because we weren't perfect angels, but rather, they wanted us to cultivate self-confidence by allowing us to learn from our mistakes and experiences. For instance, when I was 4, my family took a most epic road trip from Pennsylvania to Montana. We spent a majority of the time hiking and exploring in some of the most beautiful landscapes our country has to offer. Our parents didn’t have us on leashes, in strange marsupial looking pouches or anything of that nature. No- we were encouraged to hike up ahead. (Maybe they thought if a bear came along, we would serve as a nice appetizer before it got to them…) When our vacation drew to an end, my sisters and I had become quite good at the business of hiking, camping and avoiding dangerous wilderness shenanigans. Soon after the trip concluded it became quite apparent that we all wanted to continue exploring. We started rafting-sans parents, orienteering, hiking and camping on a regular basis. And when we couldn’t go somewhere new to camp- we just set up the tent in the backyard. A little away time from the parental units was never a bad thing, though I can’t help but think they missed us dearly and hated the peace and quite that soon took over the house upon our departure.

Our enthusiasm for exploration and consequently, independence, continued on far past our youth and has become something that is part of our character. My sisters and I have all moved away from our parents’ home in Maryland to different parts of the country. Yet, despite the physical distance it didn’t foster a sense of emotional distance. Just because we weren’t attached at the hip (or other body parts..) of our mom, we didn’t develop a rift or separation among one another. Our “detached” upbringing was something of a blessing. We grew to appreciate our time together, but didn’t feel lost when we were off on our own. Today when we visit each one another its comforting to know that a 40 mile backpacking trip is likely to be on the agenda- where I’m sure we will recount the time when I was 4 and totally smoked everyone on that hike in Glacier. We can look back on our pictures of our youth and fondly rehash our own accounts of what happened, the struggles of the particular hike, and our outfit choices (unfortunately, my parents let us pick our own clothing out). We have successfully mastered the art of doing things together, yet separately.

The point is-if there is one- that during my reading of the article, I realized that sometimes being detached or separated from the ones you love can get you to appreciate the time you spend together. I’m sure this isn’t always the case and somehow my family just managed to turn out freakishly perfect despite the odds being against us.  But, had it turned out any other way- I can at the very least be thankful we can look back on these pictures and captured moments in time with kind eyes, because I can’t say I’d do the same about some of the photos in the TIME article.

Also- Mom: can this count as a Mother's Day present?