For 18 years, my husband and I have been getting outdoors with our kids.
When our oldest son was just shy of one month we took him high into the San Juan Mountains for a retreat at the family cabin. On the first night of our journey, he slept through for the first time, a habit he’s rarely broken since that glorious weekend.
Fresh air? Altitude? Riding shotgun in the Baby Bjorn? We’ll never know, but his high alpine slumber gave my husband and me hope – not just for another good night’s rest — but for raising an outdoor family.
Just Say Yes
According to conventional wisdom, we were foolish. While we live in Colorado, we don’t live at 10,000 feet, and most experts frown on taking a newborn so high.
We didn’t even think about it.
And there were other things of which we didn’t think.
We taught our young sons to kayak when they could barely walk, first placing them between our legs and helping them paddle, then letting them take the paddle alone. They loved it. Friends and relatives were aghast.
When the boys began skiing, we let them set the pace and choose the runs. If one of the boys wanted to try a harder run, we let him – even if it made us a bit nervous. We trusted that he understood his abilities. Both of them did and still do.
What we found is that our sons recognized when they’re ready to try something new, different or more difficult. We just had to listen and embrace their enthusiasm.
This month, our oldest son graduated from high school and will soon go to university, to begin the biggest adventure of his life.
True to form, he didn’t choose his college until he knew exactly what he wanted.
Just as when he was young, he observed, he analyzed and then he acted – not in a risky fashion, hucking metaphorical cliffs on skis of good grades – but deliberately, checking the landing before launching his leap.
And also true to form, he chose a college where he can be outdoors, following his passion while planning his future.
Observing our active living from the outside in, someone once asked me if we were running from something.
I don’t remember how I answered. But if were to answer today, I’d tell this person that we weren’t running from anything, but rather toward…toward the mountains, toward the sea, and toward the endless horizon of a full life.
For a full life, no matter what form, is the grandest adventure. It’s a gift we seek for our children.
Looking back on my son’s nearly 19 years, I realize that we didn’t give him this gift, so much as we all shared in the gifts around us.
Enjoy this summer, and all your adventures, big and little.
- Learning to Fly, August 25, 2011.
- No Regret Parenting, September 9, 2013.
- Parenting Teens: Off the Couch and Into the Outdoors, July 8, 2013.
- Mi Familia: Unplugged, June 30, 2014.
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