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March 2014 Issue
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The not-so-reluctant tramper

A younger Mackenzie, centre, during one of her less happy tramping moment. Photo: David Norton
Kids can find tramping difficult, but with patience and perseverance they will learn valuable lessons they can apply to the world outside the hills

A glorious thing happened the other day.  Our youngest child Mackenzie enthusiastically accepted an invitation to join her good friend on a three day tramp.  There will be six teenage girls and she is currently looking through her tramping wardrobe of holey long johns and hand-me-down polyprops to decide which outfit she can wear in front of other teens and still maintain a modicum of respectability. I suspect the odd ‘non-tramping’ article of clothing and maybe a body-spray or two will make an appearance in her pack. It’s an easy tramp on well-formed tracks so, provided she takes the necessary gear to be safe in untoward weather, I don’t care what she wears. I’m just ecstatic that our 14-year-old, whom over the years has gained the label ‘the reluctant tramper’, is eagerly anticipating a trip with her friends.

To be fair, the reluctant tramper label is one that Mackenzie grew out of a few years back. She’s been spending time in the hills quite happily over the past couple of years without too many dramas, but it wasn’t always like that. When she was younger she was always the first to throw her toys out of the cot when things weren’t going right. She would sit down in the middle of a bush-bash and say ‘I’m not playing anymore’, and tell us loudly and clearly when the uphill was a struggle and she needed a rest. I don’t want to give the wrong impression though. Mackenzie did enjoy tramping – she was just very good at expressing her feelings when her level of discomfort had exceeded what she considered tolerable. And even though she was a very capable tramper she never really liked the idea of going so was often less than enthusiastic during the planning of a tramp (understatement of the year according to big sister).

It came as a shock that we had a reluctant tramper in our family.  It wasn’t in our plan of what our little tramping family would be like. We had done a bit of tramping with David’s eldest daughter Hannah and our other daughter Alice always loved it. What did we do wrong?

Mackenzie is now very at home in the hills. Photo: Jo Stilwell

Mackenzie is now very at home in the hills. Photo: Jo Stilwell

Mackenzie’s resistance to tramping was probably partly about being the youngest and needing to define herself as different from her older siblings. And I think being the smallest didn’t help either as she was often frustrated at finding things physically more difficult than the rest of us. Add to that a fiery personality with a strong stubborn streak and needless to say, tramping was at times a true test of David’s and my parenting skills. We weren’t always perfect and we could have shown more patience at times, but we must have done something right because the miserable moments were always short-lived, she was certainly happy most of the time, and always chose to come tramping with us even when we offered her an alternative.

Undoubtedly tramping teaches us a thing or two about life. Mackenzie knows there are some things that are hard work and require sweat and perseverance. No amount of pleading with her parents would make an uphill climb any shorter. Sheer guts and determination and a strong stubborn streak is sometimes needed to get through difficult moments in life and in the hills. Tramping has taught us about parenting, too. It’s highlighted our children’s differences and reminded us that their needs aren’t always the same. Hopefully it has taught us to be more patient and tolerant.

If you have a reluctant tramper within your family, don’t be put off. They may require a higher level of patience, tolerance and assistance, but it’s worth nurturing them and even bending over backwards to ensure their tramping trips are mostly enjoyable. Chances are they will grow through it and will one day be planning their own trips independent of you.

I wish I could go on the tramp with Mackenzie and her friends, but she doesn’t need me to be there.  And she certainly doesn’t need me to choose her tramping clothes anymore. That’s okay. Doing the hard yards with Mackenzie as a youngster means she is now confident and content in the outdoors and keenly packing her pack for her upcoming trip.