A week ago, after a quick lesson from a friend on exactly how to load a baby in an Ergo carrier without the help of another adult, Raegan and Lincoln and I took an epic Toddler Walk around our neighborhood and to the local park. EPIC. We went for it because apparently I did such an amazing job of getting LT in the Ergo that he instantly fell asleep. Since the baby was already napping and I was hands-free, I asked Raegan if she wanted to go outside. Her enthusiastic “YESH!” led us out the door and before I knew it, toddling our way down the sidewalk. We’re about five or six blocks from the park and we covered that ground fairly quickly, or as quickly as an almost two-year-old in Crocs can go (which, when she wants it to be, is remarkably fast!). Part of the way there she held on to my finger and part of it was just her weaving her way down the path. Since our morning was totally open, I was totally OK with this unexpected outing.
And, since we were in no rush, I decided to let it really be all about Raegan. If she wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and look up at the trees, she sat and looked. If she wanted to go walk by the ducks resting beside the pond, we braved the poop-laden grass and visited the ducks. If she wanted to walk up on the little concrete wall while holding my hand and then jump down, she balanced and leapt (for four or five times and then I had to gently prod her along to the next great adventure because seriously, visions of heads cracking open stay with a mama!). And whether or not she wanted to charm all the old folks out for a Wednesday morning stroll, she did. It was seriously an awesome walk. Until it wasn’t.
When you add up the five or six blocks to get to the park and then the half-loop that is at least a half-mile (or maybe more) to get turned back in the direction of our house, Raegan was a dang trooper. She walked that entire way which is a lot of steps for a petite little peanut. It was just as we were starting the five or six blocks home that I realized she was done. Not because she told me so; that would have been too easy. In almost-two-yr-old speak “I’m done” sounds a lot more like wailing and looks a lot more like a little girl darting into the street and wanting anything but her mama’s hand.
Thankfully I had enough sleep under my belt and understanding in my head to realize she wasn’t purposely trying to be rotten; she was just spent after a major outing. So I asked if she wanted a ride and when I got a teary-eyed, whimpery “Yesh” as my answer, I hoisted her onto my hip. All while still wearing Lincoln on my chest, mind you! And like that, I hauled them both home. I was hot and sweaty and had a really sore hip by the time we got there, but I was still so proud of all of us. Even with the exhausting ending, it was a beautiful experience. Like I said, it was epic.
This week, it was suggested to me that going on a walk by myself every day, even for just 10 or 15 minutes might make a world of difference, especially in regards to my sleep. Even though that sounds almost too simple to be true, I decided to give it a shot. While things have been better for me, I still have nights where I just can’t shut it down and then end up getting very, very little sleep because I spend so much time freaking out about falling asleep to actually do so. It is beyond mind boggling and frustrating to find yourself so exhausted and yet the only one awake in a totally quiet house. Frankly, it feels quite unfair, too. So I figured the 10-15 minute walk certainly couldn’t hurt and would definitely be worth it if it helped in any way, shape, or form.
While I still have no idea how it is going to impact my sleep long-term, I have to say, I’m a believer in the benefits. I did my first walk around the neighborhood last night and the whole experience, much like my walk with Raegan and Lincoln, was beautiful. But in such different ways.
First of all, it was beautiful because I resisted my temptation to take something (or someone) with me. Apparently I’m not real good or real comfortable with being alone. I want to have a partner by my side or a phone in my hand or the iPod in my ears when I walk. For someone who craves time to herself all day, every day, I find this whole situation pretty ironic. But here’s the thing: if I go out for a walk without any of those devices or distractions, I am truly in my head. And that’s not always an easy place to be.
For one, I feel like I should be accomplishing something else with my time besides just walking. That means that listening to music or talking to someone, in person or on the phone, makes sense to my forever multi-tasking mind. But clearly, based on my poor sleep since Lincoln’s birth, my mind needs something else, something less. I need the wide-open-fresh-air-just-with-myself time. So I am glad I was brave and set out with no electronics and no company so I could realize just how much I really needed that.
As I walked, without distraction, I was able to notice the world around me and the world within me. Taking in the cool fall air, the steady Nebraska wind, and all the sounds of dogs and cars and people around felt good. It also felt good to just let my mind run as I walked. One of my sleep issues in the last few weeks has been my inability to get to sleep at night. What I realized during my walk, when I let my mind go where it wanted, was that because I am never alone during the day, I really don’t know how to be in my own head. So no wonder my head has been fighting that when my body finally stops moving and is ready for bed; my mind is all “I don’t think so!” and takes far too much liberty with the quiet, leaving me checking the clock and freaking out about not sleeping. Perhaps if I can give myself more of that quiet on daily walks, I can give myself more peace at night, as well.
The quick, solo walk was beautiful, too, in that it really did leave me feeling physically refreshed (perhaps because I wasn’t pushing a stroller or lugging a child or both?!). As I crossed the street to head back up our driveway and into the house, my head felt lighter and my mind seemed more calm. Again, I know this all sounds too simple and too good to be true, but it also felt too good and too simple to not try to continue. When you have three babies in under five years, you learn to appreciate the simple and the good. And for now, I think the walks are going to help me do exactly that.