The Old Man and I went into parenthood overconfident. He assured me that the army had trained him well to cope with sleep deprivation and I was pretty convinced that all of my years working with children had prepared me well for what was ahead of us. I had done 40+ hour weeks in childcare. I had done entire weekends of childcare for parent getaways. I knew this business well! The Old Man had gone five days with 12 hours of sleep and ample coffee. He knew the ins and outs of fatigue. By the time Sissy was 6 weeks old we were complete train wrecks. We couldn’t get her to sleep like the umpteen baby books said she should. The end of sleep deprivation was nowhere in sight. We were a bit stumped about why the world was not filled with only one-child families, because this was brutal. In hindsight, we had failed to consider the infinite nature of parenthood (a minor detail). We had dealt with aspects of child rearing for very finite periods of time and could always return to our quiet apartment to seek personal space, time, and uninterrupted sleep at the end of it.
Similarly, we went into this bike tour overconfident. We read all the books, did a two-week test run in the San Juan Islands over the summer, joined the Adventure Cycling Association, and war-gamed the seasonal weather trends with our route options. Yet despite all that great planning, we were snowed out of Snoqualmie Pass and encountered repeated delays from passing squalls, fog, or soggy morale along our detour through Oregon. We assured ourselves that we fully understood the quality of life compromises we were making in terms of creature comforts and personal hygiene based on our finite, summer, island experience. During which time we always knew we would soon be returning to ‘normal’ life. Now enter the infinite: today we reached day 3 of no bathing (again), which adds body odor to a body that is already sticky from multiple layers of sunscreen and sweat. We are three weeks into it and we have definitely had some moments of train wreckage, at times revisiting the reasons we chose this.
A few weeks before we left Seattle our pastor gave a sermon about the Vikings’ practice of burning their boats upon landing on a foreign beach. They did this to prevent acts of cowardice that would undermine their chance of success in their fight ahead. It seemed more likely one would fully invest in the cause since the only other way out was death. He likened this strategy to how we should approach our walk with God. You have to be all in to do it well. No shying away or ducking out when things get uncomfortable. While God is the most significant application for this mindset, I think most aspects of life can benefit from it: marriage, careers, parenting, etc. Once Sissy was here, the boats were burned, even if we didn’t immediately realize it. There was no going back to a childless life on evenings and weekends, and it was in everyone’s interest to give ourselves over to the infinite demands of parenthood if we were going to do right by her. The same goes for the bike tour, it is in everyone’s interest for us to be all in to enhance family cohesion, maximize exploration and adventure, and to enjoy some quiet (even if accompanied by a ripe aroma). After all, the boats are already burned: we do not own a motorized vehicle, nor do we have a house or home in which to retreat. But every morning there is a new horizon on which we can gaze, new sights to see, new people to meet, and new obstacles to overcome. We are still figuring it all out, but we are figuring out our new normal nonetheless.
Leaving refreshed from a well-fed time in the company of great friends:
The look of hunger. That burger was as big as her face and she ate it all without hesitation:
Hat Rock State Park: It was the first distinctive landmark near where Lewis and Clark finally met the Columbia River and where we began to diverge away from it.