You may have noticed something about this website over the course of the past year: a lack of articles. And you wouldn’t be wrong. I didn’t intend to, but I took a long hiatus with the odd exception. Why?
I think the lack of writing can be attributed to two main things:
a. I was no longer comfortable writing or blogging about my daughter in so much detail. I’m concerned that at some point these entries will affect her socially or emotionally, and I didn’t like the fact that she doesn’t have much of a say in what gets published. I’ve been trying to figure out my next steps around this!
b. (And this is primarily what the rest of this post is about…) I needed to take a step back and gain some insight into the general themes of my previous entries on this website, as well as my unpublished thoughts. My daughter is 3.5 years-old now, and if there is something I have learned over the course of these young years of parenting, it’s that much of it isn’t what it seems at first glance. The reality is that much of what we aspire to be as “outdoorsy parents” (or even just parents) is based on myths and ideals that we shouldn’t get so caught up in.
The funny thing with myths is that there is usually some element of truth to them. But mostly they take us down that dangerous hole of comparison. It has been a process for me to realize that there were things I was aspiring to that simply weren’t real to begin with.
5 Myths of Outdoor Parenting
Allow me to outline some of the myths I got sucked into believing (and what I’ve decided to do instead!):
1. “Kids are so adaptable. They’ll fit into your lifestyle if you start from an early age.”
Sort of. Let’s keep in mind that some kids are more adaptable than others, and personality makes a huge difference in this equation (ie. a huge component depends on what kind of kid you’re raising!). Some kids are more sensitive to cold, constraints, changing environments, motion, bright lights, etc. A lot of outdoor or adventurous parenting involves any combination of these things. I’m stoked for you if your kid is the easy-going type whose always up for whatever adventure you’ve got planned, but coming from “the other side” I can confidently say, this is not something that we can 100% expect.
Instead: Plan your adventures and use each new situation as a chance to get to know your child better. From there, work with their needs and plan accordingly (while gently pushing him or her into new experiences!).
2. “I see others doing it, so we should be able to.”
Not necessarily. I naively assumed that this would be the case, and that we could take our little one on some awesome adventures early on. But a few trips gone sour made us realize we were far from this goal (and we pretty much cried while we watched other families embark on the camping trips and travels we were dreaming of). I have no doubt those other families have their challenging moments. But, I wish I hadn’t held such high expectations for what we’d be able to do because it stopped being fun. Again, personalities play a big role here, as do people’s schedules, finances, and other needs. When our outdoor excursions become stressful, the experience can quickly become a negative one for everyone involved.
Instead: Embrace your own family’s adventure style. Find opportunities to teach your child what it means to have an adventurous spirit and respect for the outdoors (without too much added stress!)
3. “A balance bike is the best way to get a kid biking.”
Here’s a more specific myth, and I’m gonna bust it. Balance bikes certainly work for some (most?) kids. However, I swear, I had my kid trying a balance bike for two full summer seasons and it never came. We tried to adjust the seat and the handlebars multiple times, tried taking her out with other kids who were riding balance bikes, tried putting it away for weeks at a time, tried three or four brands. Finally, just in the past two weeks, I abandoned it and bought my kid a small bike with training wheels (as one of my Instagram followers commented, “almost a crime in the Bow Valley!”). In under a week, she was riding around the block. Sure, she doesn’t balance entirely on her own yet. But the point was to get her riding a bike, and now she can. Yay.
Instead: Certain pieces of gear will come highly recommended, but don’t be afraid to follow your gut instinct if something isn’t working. A balance bike is fantastic if it ‘clicks’ for your kid, but if it doesn’t, teaching them the way you were taught might just be the best way.
4. “Everything I need to know about outdoor parenting I learned from Instagram.”
This one could also be titled, “Outdoor parenting makes you look cool.” Getting cheeky here, I know, and Instagram is only one social media feed in the mix. But, there’s a general trend on this platform that I think glamorizes outdoor parenting in an unhealthy way (and I’m entirely guilty of proliferating that trend). The main problems here are that we’re relying on a small caption for the backstory, and photos are highly curated. Parents are choosing the best, cutest, or most impressive moments to post. Savvy outdoor brands are catching on to the trends and have some money to make off this budding industry, so we’re starting to see this ‘idealized’ version of outdoor parenting in marketing, too.
Instead: Have fun on those feeds, but know there is usually more to it (for all you know, the experience may have been riddled with tears, tantrums and/or negotiations!). Don’t let the images on social media set your standards because they don’t tell the whole story.
5. “You’re not an ‘outdoor parent’ unless you’re doing cool stuff with your kids.”
That’s exactly what I thought when I started this website project, having read books by people who did epic hikes with their kids, camped in crazy places, and traveled the world with a baby. But after almost four years of running AdventurousParents.com, I have come to learn that the only goals in all this are to teach our kids to love playing outside and to embrace a spirit of adventure. Let’s go back to the basics, shall we? The reality is that a truly outdoorsy lifestyle requires time and money, and not all families have those things. I still hope to spend time camping, hiking, skiing and travelling as a family, and I think those things will come as my daughter grows older. But, I’m also in a position to send a message out to parents around the world, and the glamorized version of outdoorsy or adventurous parenting (described in #4) is not what I want to convey.
Instead: Outdoor parenting is encouraging unstructured, outdoor play for children on a daily basis. Pure and simple.
As always, I welcome your comments below. Did you get sucked into any of these myths? What would you add to the list?