*Guest Post* The Importance of Being an Outdoor Dad

Again, we are honored to have another dad guest blogger with some great reasoning on why it is so important for dads in particular to get their kids outside.  Please welcome Jayson Cardwell (and be sure to check out his bio below including a link to his own blog – he has quite a story!)  As always, comments and feedback are welcome!

As I step one foot in front of the other I can hear the crunch underneath my footsteps as the fall leaves make for an inviting melody of the joy of being on a trail. This melody however isn’t in perfect harmony, the chorus is a bit off key.
“I’m tired”
“My legs hurt”
“Can I have an energy bean?”
Yes, the chorus of a complaining child! As an outdoor dad this is a broken record that I listen to often, which always leaves me two choices. I can forgo taking my child outside or I can make the experience the very best I can for them. The choice is an obvious one for me, grab your gear and get out the door. 

Dads live very hectic and fast paced lives. We burden concerns, cares, and responsibilities that we often don’t mention to anyone else. I’m not saying that women don’t, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on us dads. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, getting out there and making things happen for ourselves and our families, we often overlook a very important and very necessary part of our parenting responsibilities: getting our children out of the house. Now I know we’re all looking forward to that day when they go off to college and we are empty-nesters. I’ve already told my son he’s getting a smile and luggage for his 18th birthday, closely followed by my waving hand, but I’m talking about taking your children into the Great Outdoors.

There is something that we as fathers can give our children that mothers in all their gloriousness (it’s a word….but if it wasn’t it is now!) can never do, and that’s be a dad to them. Some of the memories that I hold so very dear were the times when I was outdoors. Vacations, trips to the park, fishing, and one of my all-time favorites: whitewater rafting in West Virginia with just me and my dad. Those were impressionable moments on me, I was ripe for my world view to be altered and to be taught things I never knew.
As outdoor dads we get the chance to impart, teach, and explore with our children. We have the opportunity to take the time to give them something special and to be an active part in that process. In my house, I am the one who plans the vacations as well as picks the trails we hike on. I make sure to it that several times a year we get away, whether it is for a few hours or a few days. We leave technology behind and instead focus our attention on the fresh air, the flora, and the fauna (a GPS for geocaching is always an exception). My take-charge attitude isn’t just for those few trips a year, no it’s for the weekends when we have the chance to spend family time together. Saturdays for us are always adventure days. Whether it is the museum, the zoo, the climbing gym, or even a simple nature hike or play park, I make sure to it that I spearhead the effort to make that time special for everyone.
As outdoor dads we should seek to lead the way outside for our children. There have been numerous studies that tout the wonderful benefits of giving children time outside (see reports by the National Wildlife Federation for example) and that is terrific but should not be the only motivating factor. It should press upon us as dads to get outdoors for the opportunity that it affords us to interact and teach our children in a new environment. There are so many conservation, nature-based, and life lessons that can be taught and explored that one will never run out of things to say or principles to instill.
So in conclusion I want to encourage dads everywhere to get outside with your children, and not only because you’re being dragged along. Take charge, plan outings, lead excursiveness, plot trails and trips, whatever the case may be. Resources abound of places to look for ideas on what to do: state DNR websites, city recreation maps.  And what is stopping you from trying something new altogether? Last summer I took my son geocaching and kayaking for the first time and he LOVED it . Now the only challenge we face is trying to find a way to incorporate all of our outdoor loves into a year of activities. One of the ways you can ensure that you set aside the time and energy is to set a goal. This year as I was laying out our family’s annual plan I included a pretty tremendous goal. This year we would log 100 miles of trail hiking. That means we need to get outside and hike at least 8.3 miles a month, all of which can’t be done in one day!
So whether it’s camping, hiking, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, paddling, fishing, cycling, or just sitting in the grass, we as fathers we can impart into our children a legacy of outdoor living. This legacy we will find eventually yields a harvest of happiness and an appreciation that words can never quite do justice. Make a resolve this day to give your children something precious and priceless: your time, energy, and enthusiasm for getting outside and enjoying some wonderful adventures.

Jayson blogs over at The Bionic Chronicles with his wife, Jessica.  He is a fan of the outdoors and his family, and enjoys both tremendously despite a life-altering Incomplete Spinal Cord skiing injury back in 1999 that almost took his life. Despite his necessary braces, daily pain, a limp and fighting off looks of pity from others, he is out there and a great example for his son.  He loves hiking and rock climbing and has a goal of hiking 100 miles in 2012 as a family.  In his own words, “Life is a daily adventure which has both its ups and bigger ups.  So come with me as I brace up, lace up and finally manage to get up and get going.” What a Dad!

3 thoughts on “*Guest Post* The Importance of Being an Outdoor Dad”

    1. I love this post. If more men took such an active role in their kids’ lives and in introducing them to nature, so many lives would be changed. Just imagine the possibilities.

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