We went to a cave at McCormick’s Creek State Park on Friday but before we left we had to do an experiment. Since it involves a boiled egg, I was able to multitask and boil some to bring for us to eat that day. So in the end it was not only fun, educational, and bonding, it was also nutritious!
We went with a group that arranged the trip. It was a fairly large and “interesting” crowd. 😉 It was an hour hike to get to the cave. Then of course, an hour hike to get back. Something my 2 year old does not excel at: walking long distances. Sigh. Glad I brought the baby carrier this time! C was pretty occupied and delighted the whole trek though.
We sat at the mouth of the small cave listening to the guide before walking farther in. This is where E changed from “Cavescavescaves! I love caves!!!” to “Wtf, there’s no way you’ll EVER make me go in that dark hole.” With a little negotiation (here, hold the flashlight) and discussion (look, going through there is the ONLY way to the exit) we managed to get through. I’m pretty sure C was only thrilled and eager about everything here. I was fairly distracted by E but I recall telling C a couple times “We need to wait until the guide starts to go into the cave, we can’t go in without him”. It’s surprisingly hard for my 4 year old to sit at the mouth of dark abyss and NOT immediately dash into it….
Here’s what it looked like inside. This was the tiniest cave we’ve ever visited and the only light was from our flashlights. It was a tight squeeze at times and C, in front of E and me, could only shuffle along due to the size of our group and E reluctantly moved forward when I urged him to. I busily relayed messages from the front of the group to the back while cajoling E to walk some more, holding the flashlight so my kids could see where to step, and attempting to look at things myself. Needless to say, I’d like to go through this cave again without the swell of 30 people behind and 5 in front.
After the caving and climbing we walked back to the nature center where the group met, collapsed with food and water (well I did but the giant toddler who Couldn’t Walk Far seemed pretty chipper still). Since I had planned on us staying the day and driving home at bedtime, we went exploring with some friends at the waterfall. E DID walk the whole time were were there, thankfully. 😉 Also, all this climbing really made C’s heart soar. And after his Normal Acclimation Time, E was also enthralled with the place.
E somehow walked onto this rock and then went back and forth on it several times before declaring, with a bit of panic, that he was stuck and !!couldn’t get down!! I showed him how to sit and slide off the edge…. Crisis averted.
C mostly walked around in blissful busyness, completely absorbed in exploring every inch. E did a lot of worrying then squealing and chanting and singing. Under the falls he cried “I did it Mama! I’m in the waterfall!!”.
THEN. Then he started climbing the falls. This is the not so fun part: when the thing your kid loves could give him a brain injury. I practiced self control and calmly told him, and E, as little as I could “make sure you feel safe. If it doesn’t feel safe just come down.” And marvelously, this is a theme they really do understand so it is second nature to them. I told J later, with all the exploring they did in such a slippery place, it was amazing neither of them were hurt. At least to me, their protective mama. But they really are very aware of their limits and the situations and know when something is safe to proceed with. That and we are incredibly lucky.
The place cleared out around 5:00 but we stuck around and went down stream with the friends, back upstream alone, then downstream again. C was walking on a ledge on the cliffside, missed a step, and slid all the way down on his bottom. He popped up smiling and promptly dashed to the creek to wash off the soil. I told him no more cliff walking, didn’t he know he lived in my heart and if he got hurt my heart would hurt too?!?! Yes, yes, I know he responded and rushed off. So dang, the mother guilt NEVER works on this kid.
Finally we left the falls (E and I were doggies the whole trek up which made him forget he was climbing a steep hill and stay happy). The boys cleaned up, changed to pajamas, ate in their carseats, we found a restroom, said good bye to the friends, and drove home.