Around Atlanta: Finding our out – Part 1

Fred going out on a limb
Fred going out on a limb
Thought I’d catch you up on our adventures while my other works in draft marinate a bit. And since this covers two Camp granola adventures I guess it will have to be a two-parter.

As you know, we’re fans of getting outside in the woods to play. The problem is that right now, we’re trying to get our suburban nightmare American Dream ready to put on the market. Can’t get it ready if we’re not home so we’re sticking close by. Which of course means it’s harder to get our “out” on.

In an effort to keep our outdoor adventures going and maintain our sanity in the midst of house preparations, we’ve been exploring the smaller outdoor enclaves near us. They’re generally not as interesting as bigger state and national park areas but it’s definitely better than nothing.

So last week when it dawned on me that it was Nature Photography Day, my inner granola called bullsh…um, “baloney” on staying at home cleaning. Off we went to the Medlock Bridge unit of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. It isn’t far and we could bring the pup along so it was a good fit for that day. Did I get any good shots being NPD and all? Not really. Because this is where outdoor adventures cross over into parenting struggles.

Some background first. Our little George suffers from some mild seasonal allergies. When he’s on his Claritin, he does ok. But when we’ve gotten off-track and he starts losing sleep…well, let’s just say Camp Granola turns into Camp Grumpola. And as laid-back as we are here, we all have our moments, and this was his. Fortunately Fred was in epic-awesome mode and didn’t stoke the fire as siblings are wont to do at times.

George's State of Mind
George in an allergy fog.

I managed to get out the door in a semi-reasonable amount of time in spite of George’s mood. Typically once we’ve hit the road the grumpies ease up a bit regardless of which one of us is in a snit. Apparently this was a case of uber-grumpies because getting out of the house didn’t reduce tensions as quickly as it should have. When even getting on trail didn’t lighten the tenor of our outing I knew I was in trouble. Make that Trouble. Capital T.

Everything put this poor kid over the edge. I could not help him find his happy through any of my usual mommy tricks. With all of my energy focused on just helping George push his reset button, I had very little left to put into photography. As Camp Granola Head-Honcho I had to take one for the team and just accept this particular adventure for what it was, helping George. It was certainly much easier to keep my cool once I relaxed my expectations of being able to get some shutterbugging in.

After that, it was just a matter of getting George out of misery-fixation mode. And that’s where Dobby comes in. I put George in charge of Dobby which was distraction number one. That lightened the mood a little and I coaxed George along the river trying to point out cool little naturey (is that a word?) things along the way…distractions number 2 through three gazillion. The complaints slowed to a trickle so that Fred and I were able to enjoy some of the scenery.

When we found a rocky outcropping that dipped to the edge of the river, it was time for a break. Fred soaked up the experience in true granola fashion. George however, was a different story. While his demeanor had improved somewhat, grumpiness still lurked just below the surface. I knew it wouldn’t take much for it to burst through and engulf all of us in a wave of kraken-like fury. And let me tell you, when he slipped and thudded to the ground on his rear I thought Fred and I were done for.

Fred's find
Fred was busy discovering while George imploded.

George was indeed beside himself with indignation. Fred and I braced for impact. Up until this point, Fred had managed to stay out of the fray but I guess he was starting to feel the pressure of dealing with George and he began to dish out a little of what George had been delivering all day. Not much, just a couple little comments that made George go postal. At that point as a parent you just have to let it happen and hope your child will just get it out of his system. Usually just going exploring fixes our snits, but that was clearly not going to be the case for us on this particular day.

George raged for a bit, overcome with frustration. Not much you can say at that point. Reason is out the window. When you’re on the receiving end of a colossal hissy fit, it seems like time stands still, am I right parents? It was probably only a couple of minutes in reality. A couple of minutes of controlled breathing lest I join George in the fit-of-the-week.

Then Dobby stepped in. Literally and figuratively. After a couple of quizzical head tilts at George, he gave us that “Whatever!” look and trodded into the river biting at the water. Then he started pouncing on leaves floating by on the surface. And like some storybook ending, George’s clouds cleared and the sunshine emerged as he laughed at the dog. Dobby saved the day. That pup is worth his weight in granola.

Dobby catching leaves
Dobby, Leaf-Annihilator

After a few more minutes, it was time to head out. On the way up, George spotted a baby frog and was captivated. That’s the moment as a parent you know your buddy is back. He wasn’t magically transformed necessarily. He was still tired (and now hungry from hiking to boot), just not explosive anymore. You know it’s downhill from there; the worst is past.

Through all this, Fred was (mostly) a rock star. Historically he has been the higher maintenance sibling, you know, Asperger Syndrome and all. But can I just get a high-five for burgeoning maturity? He explored, delighted in things he found, took some pictures, and stayed out of George’s hair as long as he could. All sorts of wonderful.

And that’s how my Nature Photography Day field trip morphed instead into a parenting fire drill. And that’s also why getting “out” for us isn’t always a nature experience. Sometimes it’s an all-too-human experience.

To be continued.

And now for your moment of green…

Rock Reflection
When your day is more about being a parent than being a photographer, you just have to take what shots you can get.