Mummy Cave

After Yellowstone we wound our way through the majestic landscape of the Shoshone mountains. The cliffs were red and full of caves and curiously perched rocks on slender outcroppings. The ground was covered in sagebrush and we pulled over at one of the pull-offs on the side of the road so I could gather some to smudge with back home.

The signs at the pull-off said we were at a site called Mummy Cave rock shelter that had been home to indigenous Americans since the paleoindian period, with Archaeological excavations revealing 38 layers of habitation dating from 7,000 BC through the 19th century. I’d definitely spend more time in the Shoshone National Park. After the bustle and extreme landscapes of Yellowstone, the quiet, desolate grandeur of that park was a soothing, medicinal balm.

From there, we headed to a KOA in a tiny town called Graybull about 40 minutes west of Big Horn National Forest. When I travelled in my youth, hopping forest access roads (in a car with a tent and three other people) I remember Big Horn being a favorite spot. It’s one of those wilderness areas where you can get lost in the beauty of nature and lose track of time for days, succumbing to the rhythm of a river flowing by or the sway of wild flowers in the mountain breeze.

Of course, Dolly’s not built for forest access roads, so this time through we stayed on the main highway, which meant we waited in some traffic because of road work. But the views were stunning.


Another thing this trip has highlighted for me is the constant balancing act that is the life of a working parent.

An example: as we drove through Big Horn, we decided to stop for lunch to avoid the midday grumpies we know can happen on a long travel day with little food. We stopped at a small ski lodge up around 9,000 feet. I brought my computer so I could take advantage of the WiFi and get some work done. It was Friday July 30th, and in typical Friday fashion, I had an inbox full of requests marked “urgent” and “time sensitive.”

From the time we got out of the RV to the moment the waitress took our order, and then again after she took our order, Hazel was trying to convince me to have another baby so she didn’t have to be the youngest. At first I laughed it off, but she persisted in that way kids do when there’s something else behind their request. Something that feels urgent to them. So, I took the time to explain all the reasons why, no, we weren’t having another child. And hear all her reasons: “I’d make a great older sister. Three kids would be fun! We could adopt!” she said. No sweets. A family of four Hurlocks is all this world can handle right now. I thought we had finished the conversation, or at least settled it for now. By this time, we were seated and had ordered. I went up to the counter, looking for the WiFi password so I could address one of those emails marked time sensitive. I moved my attention away from Hazel for a moment to answer an email and that’s when the conversation devolved into a fight about how Iris always bosses Hazel around and nobody thinks she can do anything. Hazel was tired. And hungry. And quickly falling into a hole of despair about everything that’s wrong about her life (and why it’s all her sister’s fault).

I closed my computer and listened. I told her we loved her and that I heard her. She was getting bigger and more capable, and it’s hard to be the youngest. Her food came and she proceeded to cry and not eat. A common kid behavior when they’re tired and hungry. My ten-year old was a puddle-y toddler mess at 9,000 feet. I cut up her food for her. I put it on a fork for her. She gave her sister menacing glares. Her face was red with anger and frustration. I gradually got her to eat and calm down, meanwhile my food had arrived, my sandwich was getting cold, my email wasn’t answered.

Switching your attention between work and kid meltdowns is an everyday moment for working parents. I just want to acknowledge that it’s hard. It’s tiring. It’s not ideal to have to address work issues while your kids also need your full, heartfelt attention in moments when they don’t have the capacity to help themselves. Working parents navigate situations like this all the time—it’s just the way things are. And we get through. And the kids eat. Or they don’t. And, maybe there’s a moment where there’s some space. To breathe. Take a bite of your food. Begin a sentence or two of your email. Knowing that the next complicated moment is just a few minutes away. And this, my friends, is the delicate dance that every work-from-home parent has to walk every day. Kudos to all of you out there. You’re doing great

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