Last week marked outing #5 in our summer of hikes, one guilty mother’s attempt to extend her teenage son’s exercise routine beyond screen-based thumb workouts. Outing #5 started in Cronins’ Yard the preferred starting point for climbing Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain. I was setting our sights a little lower, however: The Cronins’ Yard loop walk around Hags’ Glen was our objective. It is an 8km hike described as being of “moderate” difficulty suiting all levels of fitness, and, given that our walking party has swelled to three with the start of primary school holidays, I figured that my 11-year-old daughter would bound along it with the agility of one of the mountain goats that teeter around the edge of it.
Even at the age of 43, it seems that I have not lost my capacity for misguided youthful optimism: Said daughter’s initial delight at the waving flaglets of bog cotton and the capricious wind that turned her open hoodie into a sail quickly turned to frustration at the soggy uphill sections and the seemingly endless distances between way markers. So much so, that she decided to cut across the loop and take a short cut via a rocky riverbed. Having exhausted my meagre stores of patience and encouragement, I had gone ahead and was pounding out my annoyance on the spongy tracts of sodden moss when my son appeared at my elbow, announcing that his sister had fallen on the stones.
Now, such a declaration would send most mothers skimming across the mountain on wings of dread and fear, but I merely harumphed (I have always wanted to use that word!) and trudged back to the scene of the fall. Why my alarming lack of panic? Because, in our house, my daughter is known as the DQ, which stands for Drama Queen. And she certainly revelled in the role of wounded heroine. From where I stood at the edge of the river bank, she lay on the ground like the chalk outline in a police procedural, wailing in unison with the mountain sheep.
I did my best disapproving, folded-arm matriarch and yelled at her to get up, and, after a few more bleats, she did, scrambling up the riverbank and flinging herself into my arms in a flurry of wounded indignation. After that, it was a pleasure to trundle back to the car, the wind at our backs, the massive cloud shadows flying above us, and the teenager’s lessons soothing my ears. Among the things I learned:
- Tyrannosaurus rex’s little arms were actually powerful enough to rip its prey apart.
- Crocodiles and lobsters keep growing until they die
- If you are confronted by a hungry crocodile (is there another kind?), wrap your arms around its jaws to keep them shut because, although its closing grip is virtually invincible, its opening reflex is quite pathetic.
I also learned that 11-year-old girls are slow to forget.