Story by

Madison Bowman

December 26th, 2017

Watching my kids explore and discover has been an absolutely unparalleled experience for me; the great joy of my life.

They are always learning, wherever we are. But as we've visited national parks this year—as we've climbed mountains and listened to rangers and read interpretive signs together, as we've watched bears snatching salmon out of the air and touched glaciers and examined tide pools—I've been witness to a shift in them, a physical change in the way they relate to their environment, in their ease amidst wildness.

They are never more curious, more imaginative, more playful, than when we're surrounded by nature. And that is a tremendous gift to be able to offer them.

Doing this trip with kids means we move slowly, cover fewer miles, field dozens of requests every hour for snacks and water. We coax and prod and stop for each caterpillar. But we also hold small, dimpled hands wherever we walk.

We play games and tell stories and make jokes about nonsense things, silly a good 80% of the time; and we carry warm, sleepy bodies back to our little home at the end of every day, recounting how the wonders of the world keep presenting themselves, moment by moment, whenever we're watching for them.

The best part of this trip, hands down, is watching my little nuggets become more aware of the world around them and their place in it. They are endlessly, rapturously curious; they crave attention and affection and own those needs without shame.

They are thrilled by their own accomplishments and equally thrilled by each other's accomplishments. They are my teachers. In other words—little zen masters, miniature sages, tiny Buddhas covered in spills from whatever we had for lunch. I like them a whole lot.