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I love the outdoors, but I don’t want my children to go with me sometimes.

Hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering have always been my passions. These activities bring me joy and help me stay fit. They are right up there with my love for my family.

A few years ago, my oldest child, who was then just starting to show interest in hiking, joined me on a trip. I was thrilled because it meant I could share my favorite activity with someone I love. It seemed like a win-win situation. However, after just six miles, he decided he couldn’t continue. I understood and we set up camp, but he insisted on going home. So we did.

I took responsibility for this outcome. It was my fault for pushing him too hard on his first trip. I completely own that mistake. From that point on, I started taking him on smaller hikes, but he always insisted on turning back after a few miles.

Last summer, my 12-year-old daughter expressed an interest in hiking. I took her backpacking and it was a fantastic experience. She kept up with me without any difficulties. She proved to be the perfect hiking companion, never complaining and always exceeding expectations.

Shortly after, I planned a one-on-one trip with my 14-year-old. However, as soon as we set foot on the trail, he demanded that we turn around and drove four hours back home. This pattern continued. We attempted four hikes this year, all of them relatively easy, yet we were forced to turn back each time. It frustrated both my 12-year-old and me.

Today, my 10-year-old wanted to join us. He had enjoyed a hike last weekend. However, when my 14-year-old started complaining, the 10-year-old suddenly suggested turning back. I suspect he was trying to look out for his older brother.

And now, I find myself here, feeling frustrated because I had been looking forward to this hike. I bought trail food and made preparations. My 12-year-old still wants to go, but the trailhead is a two-hour drive away, and there’s no parking available.

While we can manage short hikes of around two miles, they don’t satisfy the desires of my 12-year-old or myself. I simply want my middle child to be my hiking companion, but apparently, that’s “not fair.” I engage in other activities with my other two children, and I genuinely strive to balance my one-on-one time with each of them. However, for some reason, hiking is considered off-limits for one-on-one experiences.

How can I change this dynamic? I want to emphasize that I absolutely love that they are interested in hiking, but it’s the challenging hikes that consistently prove to be too difficult for my 14-year-old. I want to know how to redirect their interests away from the difficult hikes.

Let me clarify one thing. I do go on easy hikes as well, and I am perfectly content with them joining me on those. It’s the difficult ones that my 14-year-old has repeatedly struggled with. I genuinely appreciate their desire to hike, but it’s just too demanding for him. My question is how to steer their interests away from the difficult hikes.