They made a ski resort. Our spankin' new thirteen year old and his buddy, made it right there in the horse pasture beyond the little house, where the creek snakes around, carving hills and gullies into the landscape. They may tell you the best part is the jump, off which they do 180s, or the tabletop they made by packing snow over top of a piece of plywood (for you downhill skiers and snowboarders out there, this lingo is familiar; for the rest of you, it simply means "cool course, dude"), but I say the best part is that they were engaged outside, in the fresh air for hours.
Then, that curious thing that often happens, happened: One thing led to another, and what started out as skiing, became planning a tow contraption for pulling them back up the hill. Then, soon after that, ways of lighting the course for night skiing were tossed around (headlamps were the simplest of the ideas).
For our nearly fifteen year old, it wasn't the back pasture ski resort, but the idea of tearing up and down the snow-packed driveway on the motorized scooter that got him out the door. He quickly found that, coming in a high speed, then turning suddenly and sharp at the end of the driveway would inevitably send the scooter into a crazy, curving, sideways drift, the likes of which could never be achieved on gravel. He was out there until dark, having totally forgotten that he was resistant to going outside in the first place.
From the sidelines, my husband and I slapped a high five. This is what we've been striving for all along: to raise boys who love the outdoors. I'll say right now, it's not been easy. Not when they were little guys (30 minutes of bundling for 10 minutes outside - I exaggerate, but you parents totally get it), not when they're big (hello, screens - ugh!). But what things in life that are worth it are easy? It's good to remind ourselves, even in the teen years, that we're still committed to equipping these guys for a full and adventurous life, heavy on the outdoors.
Here are a few guiding points that we've aspired to in our quest:
+ Model the lifestyle you want to instill. Our children need to see what it looks like from us.
+ Make outdoor time a priority. Like breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
+ Have a list of outdoor things you can do or destinations you can reach in the time that you have. Whether there are sixty minutes available or five, go.
+ Stay off your phone! Okay, snap some photos, but social media and phone calls can wait.
+ When you take them to nature, let them be in nature. Don't over-protect your children (within reason, of course); don't over-guide. They'll learn very quickly that a wet log is slippery, that shale slides fast, that dark soon brings cold (in many places), and that some trees are good for climbing, and some are not.
+ In the middle of the wild, girls may play house; boys may wield stick swords or stick guns, or vice versa. Let them. Nurturing and providing, protecting and defending are built into their very bones.
+ If you stop and look at field guides along the way, they'll probably want to have a look, too. If they don't this time, don't worry.
+ Your children can go outside without you! Of course, this is age and area specific, but when your kids reach the age and place that they can be outside by themselves, let them, and if need be, make them. Boredom is the best opportunity for imagination and invention.
+ Thoughtfully acquire equipment that will enhance the outdoor experience. But, please don't go all-out with purchases! Using outdoor gear is far more important than just having it. Anything from a slack line to a canoe; from outerwear to skis - pay attention to what gear your family might enjoy the most, then put plans in place to regularly use it.
+ Don't plan. Beyond getting your kids to the chosen destination, that is. Let the adventure unfold itself. Step back, and watch what happens.
How about you? Any tips along these lines that you've aquired along the parenting way? Do share them in the comments!