The Princess and the Motivation
The challenges you meet when hiking a longer route in the mountains often bring out very open and honest reactions in people young and old. When you are tired and hungry, maybe worried about what is going to happen next you don't have the energy to keep appearances. Actually, the very young and the very old don't need a mountain to be honest about how they feel, they tell us anyway because they don't care to hold much of a facade.
One thing we got to learn about young children on a mountainside is that they are very motivation-driven. A four-year-old child will easily climb several hundred vertical meters if they want to and on the other hand, two steps are way too many if they don't feel like walking. When living in Bezaudun-Les-Alpes, France we had a 500 m climb from our yard that we did very often, sometimes daily to the school 5 km away, we used to take that route over the mountain.
On one particular pique-nique I was carrying a backpack, it was a bit heavy with food & water for 6 people. Tommi was traveling so I was the only adult in the group. Our then youngest daughter, 4 years old, decided that the climb was not so much fun that day and started protesting & stopped walking. I tried convincing her that she should walk, but she stood firm. I resigned to taking her in a carry-bag and suggested to our oldest child Jessica, then 9 years and who now is with me here in the Himalayas, that she take the back-pack while I carry her sister.
Jessica took a look at the heavy bag and said, "Why don't you keep the back-pack and I take little sis". She then proceeded to take the hand of the little girl and said something like this:
"Ooo, the Princess is out for a walk with her court! What a beautiful dress she has on! Look at the train of her dress spreading out beautifully! And the chambermaids are helping it stay clean" The little girl immediately got into the role and started chattering about her day as a princess while starting to walk uphill again. This continued for the next 300 vertical meters, I was happy, the Princess was happy and Jessica had again demonstrated her superior leadership skills.
Mountaineering, leadership and teamwork have been connected a lot in literature, often in stories from crisis situations. Maybe I will find some fresh angles for looking at these issues from what happens here in the Himalayas in the next weeks.