This picture is lying to you. At the very least, it’s misleading you. I posted it earlier on Instagram and said something about shredding DuPont State Forest with my son. All of that is true—my son and I did shred singletrack in DuPont. We had a blast. It was one of the greatest rides of my life because I rode with my eight-year-old son, who is finally at a point where he can do real mountain bike rides. We hit fast, rooty singletrack descents and followed them up with mind-numbing gravel grinds. And we did that for eight miles. And he was a champ. I’ve ridden with adults who complained more than my son did today. The photo I posted on Instagram captured that ride in all its glory, but that’s just a piece of the story. I didn’t mention how he got bored on the long drive to the trailhead and suggested maybe we just go back home and find a pool to swim in. The photo doesn’t hint at the cajoling I had to undergo on some of the more miserable sections of gravel. I hid a Snickers bar in the cooler back at the car. First one to make it back got to eat the whole thing. Shortly after that photo was taken, my son ate it hard on a skinny. I never mentioned his tears in the social media post. Just the highlights. Just the smiles and whoop-de-doos.
And it’s not just social media that lies to us. I lie to myself constantly. Right now, I can recall all of the whining and the bribing and bleeding because it’s all still fresh on my mind. But within a couple of days, all I’ll remember from my ride with my son today will be the highlights. The big-ass smile he had at the bottom of the massive downhill. How high he hit the berms. How much air he caught on some of the root drops.
From what I understand, this sort of selective amnesia is a cornerstone of parenting. After the first child has reached school age, we can look fondly back on the baby and toddler years and only remember the cuteness while glossing over the sleepless, vomit-filled nights and the tantrums in the middle of Target’s toy aisle. That sort of selective amnesia is how we can convince ourselves that having another baby is a good idea.
And so it is with taking my kids on any sort of adventure. I quickly forget the rain storms and backpacks full of ants while camping, or the fact that I had to carry my daughter on most of the last hike that we undertook. All I remember is the joy of sharing S’Mores around the campfire and the awe on my daughter’s face while gazing on the valley below from the peak of the mountain. That’s how I’m able to get psyched about the next adventure. And the next.