Posts Tagged With: kids

Let Me Tell You Why Your Kids Hate the Outdoors

If I could get up from my desk right now and go anywhere at all, it would be to the beach. I don’t even care which one. I do want it to have trees on the shoreline, and no one else around. I’ll settle for the lake or a nice river, but same features: trees and solitude. Of course, if you told me my mini-me-vacation was to the mountains, I’m still not gonna complain. The mountains are great, especially if there’s any kind of view. Oh, wait! Throw in some fog! Foggy mountain mornings that dry up and reveal the scenery are awesome! Whether it’s beach or lake or mountains, I could just put up my hammock and my chair and sit there in the quiet, enjoying whatever nature has to offer.

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Why am I sharing this? Because the purpose of this blog is to speak to parents about getting their kids outdoors more. And let me tell you what your kids hate about being outside… doing nothing!

When we grown-ups plan a camping trip or a hiking excursion, we’re looking forward to getting away from it all. We want peace and quiet, we want solitude, we want nature, we want to unplug and unwind. Basically, we want to forget about the mortgage and our jobs and Netflix and just relax.

I’ve just described literal hell for most kids.

Your kids want stuff to do, activities to enjoy, and tons of people to hang out with or play with. They want to people watch, they want to shop, they want to go somewhere cool and tell their friends about it. If they’re like my kids, they even want an explosion or two.

We pretty much suck all the fun out of the things they like to do when we try to do the things we want to do. We drag them along, quite possibly kicking and screaming, only to have them hate it so much that the entire trip is ruined for everyone, never to be repeated or spoken of again.

So how do you avoid that? How do you keep from making your kids hate everything about the outdoors while still getting to enjoy it yourself, and with your family?

Stop being a wilderness dictator!

If I could throat punch every single person who declares a “no devices” rule when going outdoors, I swear I would do it. What is your kid supposed to do at your campsite without the very devices YOU bought for him? Throw rocks at a tree for three days? NO. He’s going to throw rocks at his brother for ten minutes, or until you get tired of it and make him go sit in the car. From there it’s going to be a battle of the wills to see who wins, the parent who wants to enjoy quiet nature or the kid who wants revenge for being forced to leave his iPad at home.

Instead, try this: no chargers. You bring the device fully charged and your child is responsible for using it wisely. Be sure to turn off the wi-fi since it will drain the battery in its futile attempt to find a signal over and over and over. I would personally say the car trip doesn’t count since there’s nothing worse than driving in heavy interstate traffic with a bored kid. Using it and charging it during the car trip is fine, but once you’re there, the chargers are gone. He can still use it, and you might even want to remind him that he’d better save it in case it rains and the hike/fishing/star gazing/whatever are cancelled. If he knows that his device is still available for him to play with but that he has to be careful with how much he uses it, he just might surprise you with his sudden sense of responsibility and his ability to find neat things to do outside. I can also promise you this: I’ve personally witnessed amazing acts of sharing, as in two kids happily playing a game or watching a video together to save the battery on the other kid’s device, knowing that they’ll share the other device later on.

Now here’s the real kick in the pants: don’t you dare enforce a no device or no charger rule, then violate it yourself. I don’t care that your job is important or your mom is getting on in years or the dog sitter might need to contact you. If your kids can’t have their devices, put yours away too. You’re not more important than they are, and this was all your idea in the first place.

Remember that your kids aren’t in the same place emotionally that you are. You might be blown away by bird watching, but he’s thinking, “I could be playing Angry Birds right now.” (Wait, is Angry Birds still a game? Or is it Flappy Bird? Dumb Bird? Whatever… you know what I meant.) The quiet that you crave in order to recharge is mind-numbing to him. If this is truly a family experience, then it’s your job to make sure every member of the family is thought of and has his needs met.

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Don’t Be Afraid of Outside

There’s no shortage of outdoorsy blogs on the internet, and they’re probably much more exciting than this one. I’ve never climbed Mount Everest, I’ve never gone scuba diving in the big blue hole off Belize. There are a lot of really great adventure blogs and online magazines that can give you all the details of those places. That’s not what this one is about.

The whole idea for this blog happened because every single time I mention a camping trip or a day of kayaking or going snorkeling off the coast, the reaction is the same: “Aren’t you afraid to take those little girls camping/kayaking/hiking/cycling/snorkeling/rock climbing/etc.?”

Now, first of all, those “little girls” are now fifteen and twelve years old. True, they’ve been doing these things since before they could walk–my oldest used to stand on my water skis in front of me and ride up and down the river before she was big enough to get up on her own–but to somehow imply that I or them or both shouldn’t be doing these outdoorsy things because of fear is ridiculous.

Like I said, it’s not Mt. Everest.

The very thought of not taking kids on neutral-level adventures–camping in a state park, hiking on a well-groomed and maintained hiking trail, snorkeling in a part of the ocean with hundreds of other tourists within earshot–all because there is some flawed perception of danger was unacceptable.

What happened to all those people posting things on Facebook about how there were no video games or 500-channels on television when they were kids, posting about how they would leave the house after breakfast and they wouldn’t come back home until they were called for dinner? If that was such a great time in our history, what happened? Those people should be parents and grandparents right now, but they’re the very same people who can’t believe my girls and I take off on our very safe adventures.

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The sad truth is, all those people who ask me that same question aren’t actually afraid of the outdoors. They’re afraid of embarking on a trip and not having it be the most magical vacation ever. What’s really happened is we’re losing our ability to see how we can make these experiences feasible when we live in a world with jacuzzi tubs and microwave popcorn and Netflix streaming. We’re not truly afraid of bears or sharks or serial killers in the woods, we’re afraid that we don’t know how to get there, have a good time, and get back, all in one piece. And I’m here to remind you that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be the best vacation ever. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be tons of “fun”… for now. Because I can promise you this: when your kids are grown and they’ve finished school and they’re working and starting families of their own, they’re going to remember with new eyes how much fun it was, and they’re going to be grateful for every minute you spent with them outside.

There's always at least one frown in any given outdoors pic, but it's never the same person!

There’s always at least one frown in any given outdoors pic, but it’s never the same person!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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