Wednesday, November 16, 2011

OBN Photo Prompt: Little Explorers in the Outdoors

Hank, second held at our local nature center's Natural Play Space

When somebody who's an adventurous person - I'm talking outdoorspeople and urban adventurers alike - think about having kids, there are a whole lot of opinions that they can consult.  Confusing and conflicting opinions.  But I'll leave you with two thoughts, and a ton of photo evidence (backwards, by age) to back it up.  First, if you don't spend much time outdoors before you have a kid, I can't imagine you'll be motivated to do so after you have a kid.  Yup.  I said it.  With extremely rare exceptions, having a child is not going to make you the adventurous person you've decided not to be thus far in life.  Sorry. 

That being said, if you're already somebody who does a lot of stuff and goes a lot of places, having a child is no reason to extinguish that fire.  Yes, YES, it will change.  The scheduling. The intensity.  The definition of what a "great day outside" actually means and looks like.  Those will all change.    Younger friends ask me all the time, "How do you do it?" and of course one answer is "we don't ever sleep."  But how we've actually done it is just to start.  And not stop.   And that's my second piece of advice.

Now, if you actually want to learn some detailed, high quality information and tips on raising an outdoors child, then you should definitely visit the other blogs featured in this photo prompt by the Outdoor Blogger Network (click here).  Personal references I use include blogging pals at Back Country Parenting and The Kid Project.  Look, I don't know how well it will work out - will Hank care about the outdoors? Will he ever understand that we care about it (and the importance of different places, in general)? Man, I just don't know.   But for us, here's how we've been trying to get there. looking back.

23 months - in the garden

22 months - at the natural play space
21 months - in the Gunpowder River
20 months - on the MD-PA Central Rail Trail
19 months - on the Gunpowder River

18 months  - at the Natural Play Space

17 months - Catawba River (NC)

15 months - in the snow

14 months - NO, it's not too cold to play outside!

13 months - Gulf of Mexico @ Gasparilla Island, SWFL

12 months - wagon rides at the orchard

10 months - Virginia Beach

9 months - fun with poultry!
8 months - loving the backpack!

7 months - the world is mine.
6 months - lunch in Central Park, NYC

3 months - walks in the snow (48" of snow) with my people
2 months old - hike and picnic at C&O Canal National Park
1 month old - hike on the MD-PA Central Rail Trail

Two weeks old  - on the hiking path around the hospital.
Like I said, there may be some master philosophy to all of this that I just don't understand.  But here's what I do know:  when 2-year old Hank looks out our back door, down the hill, at our neighbors' homes, the trees, and the park (such as it is), he has the same 1000 yard stare as I still do.   The gears are turning and he desperately wants to be outside, to see what's happening out there.   So do I.

Since Hank learned to speak right before his birthday, our house has been filled with very loud proclamations of "I GO OUTSIDE!" and "C'mon Daddy, I go play."  That has led to more statements like, "ooooooo...stars!",  "Looky! Moon!, and Dat's not horse. Iss deer." 

 Maybe that's not for you and your family, although I doubt you'd have read this far if it wasn't.  So a word of warning, not as a dad, but as a part-time professor who teaches 17-19 year olds:  if you want your children's world to be more complex than just xBox, iPhones, and Best Buy by age 13, you're going to have to get off your ass and show them what else is out there.    Look at the photos above - city parks, rail trails, cold streams, hot salty beaches.  There's no prescription for what an "outdoors kid" has to be or learn or see to light that fire in their heart.  

The only prescription is to take them outside.

Water wasn't cloudy before the dancing/screaming began!


Gary Thompson said...

The Gunpowder River, one of my favorites. I can't wait to fish it again this July. Mist rising off the surface, Sulfers hatching in the evening, mmmmm can't wait.

Kirk Mantay said...

You know Gary, I kind of gave up on the Gunpowder several years ago because I was accessing it at overfished spots and just not having a good time.

Then, I accidentally stumbled into an unstocked tributary of the river this summer that has just been a BLAST to fish. Not tons of trout. The access totally sucks. But I've caught at least one 8-9" trout every time I've fished it. Plus, a few big browns and rainbows. Plus, tons of 8-10" smallmouth. It has been a real treat, and I have a newfound love for the river and its hard-to-reach nooks and crannies! Thanks for stopping by!

Gary Thompson said...

I'm hitting the smallies big time when I come out there this summer. Can't wait! I haven't had a good old fashion small mouth outing in a stream for a very long time. Perhaps we can fish together when I'm there.

JenPB said...

YEP! I love my children and I still want them to stay with me forever, but I certainly haven't set them up for that. With too many camping, hiking and road trips under our belts to camp and a lifetime of memories already made, my girls are unlikely to settle nearby...they're much more likely to continue seeking adventure once their old folks are housebound or dead. GOOD FOR YOU getting out. There's NOTHING like it for a happy family.

Kirk Mantay said...

Gary, bookmark my blog and definitely drop me a line. Happy to fish "my" spots with you if you don't know them already! Let's make it happen!

Jen - you're right, like any other parenting obsession/philosophy, you never really know what you are going to get. But hopefully we are all putting the right ingredients in the mix!!! Thanks for stopping by.

Eastern Shore Outdoors said...

great photo documentation; I love the timeline! Taking him on so many outdoor adventures from the "start", my 10 boy is always game. Has even been pulling skeet for me the last two years. This year he gets his own 20GA and I have to pull for him...Looking forward to it.

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