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My First Time ... Not Keeping Up With My Kid

Journalist Aileen Weintrab accepts being outhiked by her son

spinner image Son with arm around mom Aileen Weintraub; body of water in background
Author Aileen Weintraub poses with her 16-year-old son on one of their recent hikes.
Courtesy Aileen Weintraub

My 16-year-old son and I took a hike to our favorite swimming hole last fall. He’s a soccer player who trains daily, no matter the weather. But I’m no slouch: At 50, I’d been taking boxing lessons. I had more muscle definition than ever and had finally fit back into a pair of hiking pants I’d bought back when he was a toddler. Prepared with water, snacks and sunscreen, we headed out.

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The day was unseasonably warm and the path was steeper than I’d remembered, but I was keeping pace with my son, whose muscular 6-foot frame towered over me. Then, suddenly, my heart started pounding. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was used to working up a sweat in the gym, but there I could always take a breather. Here on the trail, I felt compelled to keep going — until I physically couldn’t.

spinner image Boy sits on edge of rock overlooking a lot of trees and some buildings
Weintrab’s son enjoys the scenery during a break from hiking.
Courtesy Aileen Weintraub

I stopped and leaned against a tree, where I gulped water. My son, 10 feet ahead of me, turned back and gave an annoyed little sigh. But then we locked eyes, and his annoyance became concern. “Are you OK?” he asked, walking back to me. He placed his hand on my shoulder.

I remembered all the hikes when my little guy had needed a break, or a hand to hold, or a shoulder ride. But that was then. Now it was my turn. And I could tell that we were both realizing something at the very same time: I’m not indestructible. Sometimes he is going to be the one who will have to look out for me.

Once I felt better, we continued to the top, walking side by side, his hand on my back the whole way. As proud as I am to have raised a son strong and fast enough to outhike me, I’m prouder still to have raised one who is kind enough not to.


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