On August 25th, the National Parks Service is turning 99 years-old. To celebrate, they’re waiving entrance fees at 408 parks nationwide. I love a good outing with the family, but it’s important for parents to be prepared for what actually goes down.

99 Things parents are Guaranteed to do at a national Park:

1) Take pictures of your kids next to unusually large trees.

2) Tell them to get out of unusually large trees (but make sure to take a photo first)

3) Share those photos on Facebook to prove what an outdoorsy mom you are.

4) Yell, “BE CAREFUL!” every time your child gets close to the edge of a stream or the top of a steep incline.

5) Mentally calculate how many wine calories this hike adds up to.

6) Try desperately to remember what poison ivy looks like.

7) And is that poison oak over there?

8) Encourage your kids to listen for their echo in a canyon, hoping they’ll be tired of yelling by the time you get home.

9) Herd children to ensure they’re 75 feet away from the safety railings at all times.

10) Talk to your kids about how much you love nature.

11) Then pretend not to be squeamish when your child tries to show you a snake or large insect.

12) Apply copious amounts of bug spray.

13) Determine which of your children might be able to suck venom out of a snake bite, NOT THAT YOU’RE STILL THINKING ABOUT SNAKES.

14) Or West Nile virus.

15) Reapply bug spray.

16) Look at a sculpture in an urban park; congratulate yourself for doing something educational with the children.

17) Pretend it isn’t funny when the kids laugh at a tree knot that looks like a butt.

18) Rent a boat on a pristine lake.

19) Yell, “BE CAREFUL!” every time child gets close to the side of the boat.

20) Tell them you know the life vest isn’t very comfortable, but IT’S FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY SO STOP MESSING WITH THE BUCKLES ALREADY.

21) Convince your kids to keep their hats on by telling them the urban legend about a spider laying eggs in a girl’s hair.

22) Go birdwatching.

23) Quit 3.7 seconds later, after realizing no one besides specially trained military forces and movie spies can make binoculars work.

24) Have requisite conversation with spouse about how difficult life must have been for early settlers in this area.

25) Let kids splash around in a stream.

26) Frantically Google “stream-borne parasites,” just in case.

27) Tempt fate by saying, “I don’t want to carry an umbrella — I’m sure it won’t rain!”

28) Listen to your kids complain about going on a field trip outside of school.

29) Pause while child removes a rock from his shoe.

30) Repeat 8,035 times.

31) Hope the local wildlife doesn’t do anything that inspires a talk about the birds and the bees.

32) Go fishing.

33) Hear oldest child announce this is booooring before you’ve even untangled the fishing poles.

34) Watch youngest child dump all the bait worms directly into the water because “the fish were reawwy hungwy.”

35) Look out for other hikers while your kid pees on a tree.

36) Walk straight into a spider web.

37) Swallow a bug.

38) Tell the kids that no, sorry, they can’t use the iPad right now because we’re trying to enjoy nature as a family.

39) Periodically panic that you might get lost OUT IN THE ELEMENTS.

40) Endure flashbacks of being unable to earn your survival badge in Scouts.

41) Apologize to strangers for your kids loudly singing Whip/Nae Nae in a shared scenic environment.

42) Console your child after explaining what “endangered species” means after reading a plaque about some unfortunately fated animal.

43) Enjoy a picnic…

44) …after spending 3 hours inspecting the picnic table for spiders.

45) Use a trash can that’s surrounded by swarming bees.

46) Ovrapply sunscreen to the point where there is no chance of rubbing it in,

47) Claim you would totally let your kids climb that treacherous rock face, if only they hadn’t insisted on wearing flip flops.

48) Make mental note to ensure they always wear flip flops at national parks.

49) Get hit in the face with the unwieldy branch your kid is using as a walking stick.

50) Instruct kids in the art of wiping poop off their shoe in the grass.

51) Let your kids bicker as much as they want, because at least the noise is scaring off the bears.

52) Convince yourself that the trail mix you brought is healthy, even though it’s 87 percent M&Ms.

53) Visit the landmark of a historical event.

54) Try not to be offended when your child assumes you know all about the event because you’re old and were probably there when it happened.

55) Bring 12 metric tons of dunes home in your shoes, just when you’d finally gotten rid of the beach sand.

56) Blow your FitBit friends away with your 6,485,347 steps.

57) Answer your child’s questions about igneous rocks, despite the fact that their use of the term “igneous” proves they already know more about it than you do.

58) Liken a mountain range to a scene in Minecraft in attempt to pique child’s interest.

59) Convince yourself that of course there won’t be another hill when the trail goes around this corner, because you’re already… oh, never mind, yes there is.

60) Pretend to admire beautiful vista until your heart rate falls back below 4 zillion beats per minute.

61) Figure that at least their repetitions of, “Are we there yet?” are outside the car this time.

62) Wonder how long it will take you to pick all those nettles off their pants.

63) Marvel at their ability to locate every single mud puddle.

64) Fantasize about how well the kids are going to sleep tonight.

65) Take your children swimming.

66) Yell, “BE CAREFUL!” every time you think they’re drowning before realizing they’re just freaking out over seaweed touching their foot.

67) Drag the bicycle your child begged to bring but then refused to ride.

68) Attempt to not develop weird and inappropriate crush on the park ranger leading your tour.

69) Run out of Band Aids.

70) Have kids take clever photo of you literally hugging a tree, even though they don’t get why it’s funny.

71) Watch kids stare at you blankly as you try to explain about hippies.

72) Post photo to Instagram anyway. #LOL

73) Show kids how to skip rocks, a.k.a. just throw rocks straight into the nearest body of water.

74) Wish someone had thought to open a Starbucks in this forest.

75) Go camping.

76) Discover child’s backpack is full of toys instead of the clothes they were supposed to bring.

77) Remind child again that under no circumstances is anyone allowed to take the iPhone into a campsite restroom.

78) Check repeatedly for serial killers outside kids’ tent.

79) Test the structural integrity of playground equipment that was installed during the Hoover administration.

80) Get some actual exercise in those yoga pants (still not yoga, though).

81) Find a hollow log for your kids to pose in.

82) Run away from angry hornets that were nesting in hollow log.

83) Listen to kids whine about being bored in a new and exciting location.

84) Fly a kite.

85) Climb a tree to retrieve stuck kite, because you can’t litter in a national park or whatever.

86) Thank your child for yet another lovely bouquet of dead leaves.

87) Discover there’s dirt in your kid’s ear somehow.

88) Convince your child you really, really need to know how many yellow flowers are in this field.

89) Enjoy some solitude while they’re stuck on eleventeen for 20 minutes.

90) Wonder why kids never get tired enough to stop saying, “I’m tired.”

91) Venture into a cave.

92) Spend the rest of the day checking your hair for bats.

93) Overhear another park visitor mention something about puma sightings.

94) Forget whether you were following Red Trail #6 or Slightly Darker Red Trail #9.

95) Feed a squirrel.

96) Get followed by a terrifying, chattering pack of squirrels and remember why you weren’t supposed to feed the squirrels.

97) Yell, “BE CAREFUL!” every time you catch your kids picking berries that are probably poisonous because if not then why didn’t the squirrels eat them?

98) Empty all the “souvenir” rocks and shells out of your kids’ pockets as you’re leaving.

99) Regret not covering your kids’ eyes before they noticed the nature center has a gift shop.


This post was written by Robyn Welling from Hollow Tree Ventures.

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