Monday, October 24, 2011

The Monday Muse: The Youngest Whatever

Sage is about to become the second youngest girl to finish hiking all 48 of New Hampshire's highest mountains.

Does Sage care that she'll be the second youngest girl?

Kind of.

She cares, but only because the current second youngest girl is her sister, Alex, whose original 4K hikes are the subject of my forthcoming memoir, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure (April 2012). Sage will beat Alex's record by a few weeks. Had we not taken thirty days off to go highpointing, Sage would already be finished the 4Ks and would have beaten Alex's record by a couple of months. Sage takes pride in being able to match her big sister's accomplishments.

Alex is okay with all this, by the way. Being the Youngest or Second Youngest Whatever doesn't matter to her. Besides, she's the subject of a soon-to-be-released book and, during interviews, she wants to be able to talk about Sage's feats as well as her own. Alex is a good person and an excellent sister. Not the least bit arrogant or selfish, she wants to share the spotlight with Sage. Sage, in turn, does not seem jealous of the attention her sister is getting. [They're best friends, those two, and I'll do everything I can to help them stay that way.]

The girls don't care about records....but they know others do. I'm often asked if Alex was the youngest to hike the four season 4Ks (she wasn't) or if she'll be the youngest to finish the winter 4Ks (she might be) or the Trailwrights 72 (she probably will be). I've been asked if Sage was the youngest to hike Humphreys Peak under her own power (I've no idea) or if she's the youngest person to ever have this many highpoints (39) under her belt (beats me).

Does any of this Youngest Whatever stuff really matter?

Kind of.

It doesn't matter in the sense that being the Youngest or Second Youngest Whatever is not the impetus for what we do. The girls hike because they want to hike. Their ages are a happenstance. While I'm aware -- and very happy about -- the positive effect they're having on others, and while I'm thrilled that readers of this blog and, potentially, my book, find their adventures inspiring and empowering, the bottom line is that we hike because we like to hike. Were there no blog, no book, no public support whatsoever...we'd still hike with exactly the same frequency as we do now. Our lives would look exactly the same, except I probably wouldn't spend so much time in front of the computer.

The Youngest Whatever does matter, kind of, because Alex and Sage have figured out, from other people's questions, that the title of Youngest Whatever others. They also know, from hearing Hugh and I discuss last year's controversy surrounding Jordan Romero's Everest ascent, that when someone perceived to be very young does something that far surpasses all adult expectations, certain adults get their knickers in a major twist. (I for one, admire the Romeros for getting behind the obviously very capable Jordan. They respected him enough to believe in and fully support his dreams. Not that they need any remarks of congratulations from me...but kudos to them.)

That being said, I'm glad that, for now, my girls don't care about being the Youngest Whatevers. At their current ages (8 and 6), I don't think they're ready to put that kind of pressure on themselves. If they happen to end up being the Youngest Whatevers, that's fine. I just don't want them thinking they have to be.

(Note that I am speaking about my specific kids. I know my children very well; I don't know yours. If your 7-year-old is trying to be the Youngest Whatever and you think he/she is ready for that kind of a quest, then go for it.)

When Alex and Sage are a few years older, however, and if I feel confident that they'd enjoy trying to be the Youngest Whatevers, well then, that'll be different. I'll fully support them in whatever they want to do. As long as the quest doesn't interfere with their sense of safety or their actual enjoyment of the hike, I see no reason to get in their way.

Of course, if they never want to be the Youngest Whatevers, that'd be fine too.


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