My original goal with this blog and the upcoming book was very simple: get more people out there. I meet so many people who are astounded–yes, actually in amazement–that my kids and I do so many things in the great outdoors, and that yes, we typically do them without my husband leading the way. That’s not a judgment call against him or a rallying cry of “we don’t need no men!” It’s simply a fact. My husband doesn’t enjoy many of the things the kids and I like to do, so we don’t let his absence stop us.
But I had another purpose for sharing our stories. When I see people who are blown away by our recent hike or kayaking trip or camping excursion, I feel sad that they’re not getting to take advantage of a great experience, but I’m also afraid for them. If you’ll let your fears stop you from going on a camp out at a secure, well-lit, well-populated state run campground, what are you going to do when disaster strikes and you really have to take care of yourself?
If you’re prepared for outdoors fun, you’re more likely to be prepared for outdoors emergencies. But what about those emergencies that bring the outdoors to you?
Around Christmas time, our state experienced some bizarre sever weather threats. Our particular region went through fairly intense flooding, or at least it was intense for us since flooding isn’t usually at the top of our threats. We all sat huddled in front of televisions or social media, watching the news updates and hearing what towns had closed all of their roads. At one point, we were watching a video someone had uploaded to Facebook of the severe flooding near where my husband works and where I do our heavy-duty grocery shopping. We were literally trying to piece together the location of the roaring waters by squinting at the business signs in the background.
At our house, the water from the drainage gully that runs between our yard and the road had risen to the point that our fence was getting wet. My husband and I kept a close watch on it, taking turns heading out on the porch and seeing how close it was coming.
When it was time for bed, our oldest was more than a little frightened. “What do we do if the water comes up to the house?” she asked almost tearfully.
I looked at her and smiled. I pointed to the window. “See the trailer with the kayaks on it? If the water comes in the house, we’ll go out the window and get on the kayaks.”
I took a few minutes to remind her of some of the very real dangers associated with flooding: rapid currents, unexpected surges in the water, sharp and dangerous debris that has been carried along with the water, and sewage backup that carries waste in the water. So we formed the plan. She was to put on her boots to protect her feet, hold onto the rope we attached to a pool noodle from the garage, and make her way to the kayak while keeping the water out of her nose and mouth. We packed several of our dry bags (the waterproof bags we take kayaking) with hand gel, food and bottled water, emergency mylar blankets, and a first aid kit, and placed those next to the window with the rope. Then she went to sleep and (knowing her) never thought of the danger again.
Did the water come up to the house? Of course not. Our land is built in such a way as to feed the runoff away from the property. Did I try to erase her fear by telling her that? Of course not. She’s fifteen. She doesn’t know what a flood plain is or that landscape architects and city planners factor in water flow when they design a town. And trying to convince her that she wasn’t in danger from a flood was a bad idea because a) the water was right in front of her face and b) there were better ways to help her get over her fear, namely by reminding her what she was prepared for.
My daughter is a really capable kayaker, and the kayaks were right outside the window in the back yard. By reminding her that she had the skills to save herself and then assembling the tools she’d need, she went to bed happy and confident.
And that’s what I want parents to get out of this blog. I want them to get out there with their kids and equip their children for unexpected obstacles by teaching them to be calm, capable, and confident. There’s no time for hand-wringing when a crisis occurs, but there’s also no need to scare people into becoming rabid preppers who live in fear of the next catastrophe. Just use some common sense and develop the skills to protect yourself, while also having a great time developing those skills.
What a great post. And I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. I’ve spent a lot of time in the great outdoors and like to think I’ve equipped my kids well.
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