It might sound strange to make a pledge to “have fun outdoors,” but as a new year gets underway, bear with me. All too often I find myself cajoling my three children to “push a little more” and we’ll reach the top of the peak, the base of the waterfall, or shore of the lake. Too often I find my daughters and son have mentally checked out of a hike long before we reach a destination, with only my need for closure driving us on. The greatest gift I can give my kids is an enduring love of the outdoors. It?s a place to meet new people and stay healthy, both physically and mentally. But they?re growing up, and if I turn every adventure into a perceived death march, they might sour on the outdoors, and I don?t want that.
I already see this in my middle daughter. She’s a lot like me; built for endurance. After many years of “dashing and crashing” with much faster hiking partners, I’ve come to peace with the idea of starting at the trailhead together, but reaching the summit separately. So it is with Lillian, who needs to find her own pace and disregard the jackrabbit speed of her older sister and younger brother. it’s not always easy.?So here’s my personal resolution for 2015, and a challenge for Outdoor Families readers:
I resolve to be attuned to my kids’ wants and needs, and will to strive to make adventures as enjoyable as possible. Will you?
I will plan. Think about each individual?s personality and preferences. Ask older kids what they?d like to do.
I will compromise. Work toward a goal that meets everyone?s wants and needs. For very little kids (or especially petulant teens) consider making the big decisions yourself, and leave less-critical choices to them. (“We’re going to the desert, would you like to bring potato chips or tortilla chips?”)
I will be vigilant. Pay attention to what children notice, and they notice everything. I love summits and quiet lakes, but my son would rather find a stick to use as a sword, or a clump of moss to put on my head. Tadpoles? No need to venture any farther in our family. The mountain will be there next year, but the stick, moss, or tadpoles might not. We can always summit when the kids go off to college.
I will regulate. Confession: I ply my kids with candy; it?s a quick hit of energy and usually, a forbidden treat (there’s also protein slipped into the “brownie bars” to get a long burn going, but don’t tell them). We stop frequently to put on or take off layers in Washington?s ever-changing weather conditions. Comfort equals happiness in the mountains.
Soon you?ll be able to point to the top of mountain and say ?Let?s go there.? Soon the kids will carry their own gear. Soon, very soon, they?ll be asking for more, and that?s fun. Happy New Year.
John Soltys is a father of three from the Seattle, WA area, and is primary author of Moosefish.com, a website and blog dedicated to celebrating their family?s outdoor adventures. Reach him via firstname.lastname@example.org.