There are several reasons to trek, and from this story, looks like rekindling relationships is one of them. Shailja S, the head of Indiahikes’ edu-adventure programme, Hiking Club, recently met her friend and heard a lovely story. It was about how a father and son, who rarely spoke to each other, went on a trek and bonded like never before. Here it is.
Yesterday, I met a friend of mine. Both, she and her husband, work full-time jobs. They have an 11-year-old son, and he has no siblings. During our conversation, I casually enquired about his well-being. That’s when she told me a beautiful story.
It all started when the mother realised that there was a vacuum being created between her son, his father and herself. Since both the parents were busy at work every day, the son felt left out and there was no more of that much-required parent-child bonding. That’s when the parents thought of a good plan – a trek.
Since both the parents couldn’t take off from work and go out together, the mother decided to send the father-son duo on a two-day trek. Bags were packed, cameras loaded and a visibly happy child was hopping about the house with enthusiasm.
The only worry for them all was about how the two of them would bond. The parents’ hectic schedules and late working hours had brought so much of a communication gap between them and their son that the child hesitated to even speak to his father. The mother felt that this trek would either bring the two of them closer together or make them drift further apart. Nonetheless, the two of them left for the trek on a positive note. Since I wanted to hear the story from the father himself, I met both, the father and his son over the next few days.
“I didn’t know how to break the ice between us. As we sat in the bus, I slowly started asking him about his school and friends. Initially, he was bit hesitant and replied in monosyllables. But slowly, the conversation transformed into a cute, animated chat,” says the father. “My son spoke about his friends, teachers and his life at school. I was so ashamed to realize that I didn’t even know his best friend’s name,” he says. On the other hand, the son was quite timid to ask his father any questions about his own life. But it would take a while for that glacier to melt. After they reached their destination, they were asked to pitch a tent for themselves. The members of the hiking group did guide them. The son felt a sense of accomplishment upon setting up his own tent.
The father said that seeing his young child fighting his limits to win over that summit was an experience in itself. He could see his tiny legs and feet struggling to climb up. That is when he moved forward and held his son’s hand. With that sense of assurance and confidence, his son climbed up, his confidence and excitement building up every minute. A statement the father made has specially remained with me since that day. He said, “I might have been holding my son’s hand, but it was actually I, who felt reassured, because deep down, I finally felt that connect with him. I didn’t want to let go.”
He was amazed to see how his son adjusted to the new surroundings and enjoyed every bit of the trek. He could see his son helping other kids on the trek, with small jobs such as tying the rope, filling water bottles from a nearby stream to doing up the bedding. It was on this trek that the father realised what he had been missing out on. He didn’t want to miss any more of his son’s formative years. He realised that he had gotten his priorities all wrong until now and promised to himself to create a balance between work and personal life. The little boy himself told me that he loved being with his father. He didn’t know that his father was well-versed in knot tying and easily pulled off the water, clove hitch and figure eight knots. He seemed visibly impressed. He also told me how his father was able to climb before anybody else. Moreover, his expression said it all. I could see it in his eyes that he saw his father as his superhero.
My friend said that it was one of her best decisions to send the duo on such a trek. After meeting this wonderful family, I decided to send both my sons on a trek. The older boy lives in a hostel, so the younger one misses the company of his brother. This summer, when he comes over for his holidays, I will surprise them both with a gift. A gift that’s dipped in the sweet smell of mountains.
As parents, we often underestimate the potential of our children. We are protective about them and rarely do we venture out with them. But we must realise that true life lessons are learnt not in the comfort of the house. They need to be exposed to nature, to learn and overcome their own weaknesses. So gift your child something more real. Gift them a well-planned trek. Go with them and explore. Your memories of visiting a mall, watching a film together might fade away with time but memories made in the mountains are immortal.