maroon bells, aspen (the good, the bad, and the ugly)

For months I had been looking forward to our Aspen trip. It had been two years since we last visited and this vacation was going to be epic. We, the Bermans, were going to take Aspen by storm! I had grand plans for our mountain getaway: we would eat fabulous food, pick up fresh pastries and fruits at the Saturday market, hike through Maroon Bells for hours, browse the shops, and spend quality time inside the new Aspen Art Museum (which happens to be designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the Pritzker Prize winner and also one of my favorite dwelling builders). Yup, like I said, it was gonna be epic!

The drive up to Aspen went well. We made it in good time (under 4 hours with minimal traffic on I-70), and a pit stop in Vail for dinner helped break up the ride. By the time we got to the hotel both kids were asleep and the transfer from car to hotel room went smoothly…

And then, in the morning, things took a turn for the worse. 
Medium-intensity meltdowns during breakfast ballooned into full-blown tantrums by lunchtime. But I was undeterred. We were going hiking! It was gonna be epic! So we boarded a bus and everything was calm, that is, until we disembarked. By the time we got to the lake—that famous one right in front of Maroon Bells — it seemed like no one wanted to listen to instructions. Both kids kept putting their shoes in the water despite our pleas (I didn’t have replacements) and then the fighting began. Trying to distract them I said, “Look at the mountains! Look at the lake!” But nothing was working

After some deep breathing everyone was calm again and we set out for Crater Lake, a hike that is just under 4 miles round-trip. We were only about ¼ of the way into the trail when it became clear to everyone (at least to Matt and me) that this just wasn’t going to work the way we (I) planned. My seasoned, veteran hikers had other plans.
After another tantrum, and a few frustrated utterances by me, Matt decided to lead the boys back down the mountain and bring them back to the hotel. It was really nice of him to do, but my guess is that he probably felt he “owed me one” since he was going to San Francisco and then to Reno for a job related convention that would leave me with the kids for 5 days by myself, without backup. This was going to be my only chance at a break for a little bit, so I took it…

I climbed – alone –  for about 2 hours until I was joined by a group of chipmunks (my granola was leaking from my backpack). The leaves were gorgeous and the hike was spectacular. When I got back to the hotel, we all went swimming and then spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Instead of a fancy Aspen dinner we went to a restaurant where we ate relatively decent enchiladas and burritos. We then leisurely walked around the historic parts of town, and went to the playground. It was simple and unambitious; the kids loved it.

I mention all this because from the photos I have of our trip you’d never know there were, ahem, issues. I think it's important to be honest, especially in this forum. All too often things look picture-perfect, and more often than not they aren't. I also bring up our tribulations because I feel like I learned a valuable lesson. I, as a parent, have to adjust my expectations. I sometimes demand a lot from my kids—that’s fine and I hope in the long run it’s good for them. But mixed in with all the expectation there has to be the realization and the admission that I must not push them too hard. They need down time and a lot of rest. They can’t always be on the go, sit still for long meals, or hike for hours. I need to roll with the punches a little bit more. It’s really not fair to treat them as adults, because they aren’t—they are only 5 and 3 years old.

That said, we will continue to expose them to things we deem “adultish”- like this State’s beauty and great hiking. We will continue to take them to museums and foster their creativity. We will bring them to rallies and try to explain why it’s important to be engaged. And we will keep taking them on trips that have less ambitious itineraries. No, Aspen didn’t turn out to be the picture perfect vacation I thought it would be. But looking back it was still wonderful, especially after I adjusted my expectations…

My favorite photo from the trip? This one of Theodore sitting at a table in a Himalayan/Indian/Nepalese restaurant in Silverthorne, Colorado. Taken by his brother Otis.