National Parks

National Parks. National Parks with 2 little kids. 2 little kids who have not camped before. No problem. They’re going to love this. Easy, no sweat. We got this. 

You have to be brave first before asking the kids to be, which I forget from time to time. Had to give myself little pep talks here and there (like the one above) along the way. In preparing the itinerary for this 6 month adventure, which truth be told, we did a little before leaving but most once we were on the road, it was an understood that we would see some National Parks. I’m not sure why that was, it just felt like part of what a cross-country road trip entailed. Having not been to any as a child, I was really excited to watch the kids take it all in, on top of having my own experience. Yellowstone and the Badlands were the two parks we settled on mostly due to the fact they were en route, and taking some recommendations from friends as well. How could we not?

One thing we had already learned on the journey was, don’t make any promises to them. Just never know how things will roll out. So we were very careful not to say, “We will see elk, wolves, and buffalo at Yellowstone.” Let nature run its course, and stuck with the facts. “We will be camping. Sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags. Won’t that be awesome!” (I always like to brainwash myself and stay optimistic.) Camping was a promise we could keep, fingers crossed the weather cooperated with us. And then it all became real. Pull up to the gates, and the conversations we were having started to come to life right in front of us. 

There had been a lot of juggling of “stuff” leading up to those entrance gates. The food stuff, the clean vs. dirty clothes stuff, the homemade sign stuff, the games stuff, the work bags stuff, the cords stuff, on and on. So many things, and not one of them mattered once we set foot in those parks. The kids forgot about all the distractions we brought in their backpacks. We forgot about all the electronic stuff and got to unplug. And all of a sudden every experience felt longer. In a good way. 

Time opened up for us. There was nothing to rush for. So much to see and appreciate. Sitting in a line of complete standstill traffic, on a two-lane road, with no way out, nothing to do but wait. It was heavenly. The kids were asking great questions. We were all looking around trying to figure out what it could be, eagerly awaiting the answer. Put the car in park. Hop out and look around. Go back to the car for the camera, because it was just too beautiful. And then ended up standing in a wide open field with a herd of hundreds of bison for about 30 minutes. Felt like 3 hours. It was hard to get the kids back in the car. I think they would’ve slept out in the open fields under the stars had we let them. “When would I ever be ok with all of these circumstances back home?” I thought. 

Now don’t get me wrong, 3 and 5 year olds still have the capability of being 3 and 5 out at the National Parks. Kaleb had an epic meltdown at the Badlands which started when he was overlooking a prairie dog’s hole (or house, as it is). The recovery rate changes though. The resilience factor has increased, so had the number of distractions. I felt that the fact we could count on 1 hand the number of meltdowns we remembered on this trip…has to be a good thing.

Everything changes at National Parks. It’s not just the air and the landscape and the pace, which could be a whole different blog post. It was what mattered to us. What took priority to our kids. And truly letting the experiences be the thing that mattered most. I can’t wait to go to more Parks as Us 5. Thinking the Tetons should be next!  

Us 5 ~ with love

Jonathan Gordon