I really believe that by being outdoors, children can acquire a large amount of skills and develop great confidence, self-esteem, and pride. At the beginning of our walk, it was drizzling a little and we were met by a large pathway of thick mud with the river running alongside it. We avoided the deep part, but the inevitable happened. Before we knew it, the boys' feet were coated in a thick layer of mud. (But a bit of mud doesn't phase us.) Before long, the pathway became a bit more interesting and the boys took the lead, navigating their way over rocks and negotiating alleyways of limestone carved into the rock.
One thing we try to do as parents is to take a step back to allow independence when dealing with outdoor obstacles, such as climbing over a fence or making their way over tricky paths. We really believe that by doing this our children learn how their bodies move and work in ways which will encourage their balance and awareness. We assist them when they need help, celebrate when they are successful, and manage the risks we take ensuring they are safe but challenged.
The paths on our walk were pretty tricky and it took us awhile to allow the children to navigate them. I find that when the path has more obstacles, the boys stay more interested and engaged as they are focusing on what is coming next. Unexpected snow started to fall as we approached the first waterfall. We watched the snow falling, dissolving into the water on its way down. We caught the falling snow on our tongues, watching it land on our gloves, at which point Tom reached into the rucksack for our warm hats and discovered a puddle of hot chocolate at the bottom. The flask had broken when it hit the floor. We decided to continue anyway (minus the hot chocolate.)
Our goal on this day was to reach a waterfall we would be able to walk behind, something we thought would be a magical family experience. The path continued and the weather became more stable. The boys were intrigued by the tangled roots of the trees stretching across in front of us, and loved stepping in and out of the roots and balancing on them. We asked the boys where they thought the roots were coming from, and they tried follow them back to the source. The sun beamed down on us as we continued on our way, and eventually we reached a sign for the waterfall. There were over 100 steps down and they were slippery from the rain, but we held hands and descended to the river below.
There was the waterfall we had been desperate to see. It roared loudly as we approached, and we all stepped behind it, watching the water cascade in front of us. The boys shouted and screamed as the cold water sprayed them, and we held tightly onto each other as we walked through to the other side and back through again. It was like being transported to another world being behind this wall of water. We were all soaked, but so happy.
This was a first-time experience for all of us, and sharing it with our loved ones made it all the more special. Once we'd taken it all in, it was time to make our way back up those 100+ steps, back along the tricky path, and through the mud to the car where we had prepared a big flask of homemade leek and potato soup. It was the best soup we'd ever tasted after an incredible day of experiencing a range of weather amongst the waterfalls. On this day we persevered. We helped one another. We were independent. We were able to play. We were able to run wild. And we walked underneath a waterfall!