“Quality Time” is one of the cliches of modern parenting. I believe it grew out of the increasing number of separated parents who needed to convince themselves that it wasn’t the number of hours they spent with their child that counted, it was the quality of the time that mattered. This little bit of self-deception gave them carte blanche to throw money at their offspring, telling themselves that the trips to the ballpark, the arcade, the zoo, and the toy store was quality parenting.

I do believe that parental quality time exists. What’s more, I believe it is something my daughter doesn’t get nearly as often as she deserves, but may be the most effective way to improve her behavior. For all her acting out, all her hissy fits, and all the boundaries she stretches until they threaten to fail explosively, she has always responded incredibly well to one-on-one time with a parent.

Her mother and I know this, and have proven it to ourselves time and time again. But this doesn’t mean we can manage to schedule such outings more than once in a blue moon. There are chores around the house, there are appointments to be kept, there is shopping to be done. If we do schedule something fun, it usually involves the whole family. ‘Quality Time’ is in short supply, it seems, at least for our daughter.

However, it has become obvious that my daughter is really in need of some personal attention, some one-on-one time. So, when I got up on Saturday, and the weather didn’t look awful, I asked her if she wanted to go hiking with me. She jumped all over it. I filled my old camelbak for her, and my new camelbak for me, threw a couple of jackets in my backpack, and we hit the road. We stopped at the store for granola bars and beef jerky, and donuts to eat in the car. Then, we drove north to Washington.

I knew of a trail in SW Washington state that was particularly scenic. In fact, once upon I time, my buddy and I had camped along it. It follows an incredibly beautiful creek up a river valley in the foothills of the Cascade mountains. Just the sort of outing we needed. So, we cruised into Washington, up past Battle Ground, through Amboy, and into Chelatchie.

As an aside, I love the town of Chelatchie, Washington. I’ve travelled through Chelatchie often, on the way to hikes and campouts, and it has become not just cozily familiar, but associated with some truly good times in a way that would make Pavlov proud. I’ve spent many hours in the Mt. St. Helens Monument Headquarters parking lot, waiting for a buddy, and cruised the Chelatchie Prairie General Store on several occasions. The best part of Chelatchie is Tum Tum Mountain, a perfectly conical mountain just outside of town, on the way to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It looks like a giant gumdrop, and when I see it, I know I am leaving civilization and entering the forest.

As we drove past Tum Tum, I remarked to my daughter that it looked like there was a dusting of snow on top of it. She was quite skeptical, until we climbed up to a pass over a nearby ridgeline. The snow there was fluffy and beautiful.

My daughter was thrilled at driving up into fresh snow. Of course, this should give you an idea how chilly it was, even at lower elevations. We got to the trailhead shortly, loaded up, and hit the trail.

Now, I’m still suffering from asthma from my last cold, plus my lower back was killing me. But I completely underestimated how trashed I was from being sick as a dog for the last several weeks. I felt weak as a kitten, and the gunk in my lungs kept me coughing continuously. Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t interested in going quickly, but instead of a seven mile hike, I quickly decided to make it a five mile hike. Or maybe a four mile hike. When the two of us got to the 1.6 mile mark, we decided we had proven our point, and turned around. But we had a good time. She loved the quiet, the lush green of the trees, the sound of rushing water, all the things that I loved about the forest. I had always hoped I’d have a child that enjoyed hiking as much as I did, and it turns out that I do.

We cruised back home, and had just enough time to get cleaned up before meeting SF SJ downtown for a quick dinner and Puppetz vs. People. Okay, improvisational comedy with puppets may sound odd, but how many live comedy shows can you take a ten-year-old to? And while most of the gags went right over her head, she really enjoyed it.

So, I spent the entire day with my daughter. Driving cross-country, hiking, having dinner downtown, and live comedy. She loved it. Of course, this morning I could barely walk. My lower back is killing me. My thighs are sore. My hip joints hurt. But I created a memory with my daughter, and for a change it was a GOOD memory.

Quality time.