Today Robyn Robledo from Nomads with a Purpose welcomes us on the blog. I love her perspective and the fact that she adventures with her 5 kids….which gives me hope that life will be easier with MY 5 as they get older! She also has some pretty stellar Family Adventure Road Trips that you can join them on! Be sure to check her out!
“I don’t know if I should go?” my 9-year-old son, Jiraiya, says to me as I drive up the steep Kolob Terrace Road toward Wildcat Canyon Trailhead. The sky is just turning from pink and orange to a light blue and my own nerves are causing me to question the same thing
This was a last minute decision. We’d been on the road for ten weeks now, hiking to the top of peaks like The Chief in British Columbia, to secluded alpine lakes in the Sawtooths of Idaho, along glaciers in The Enchantments in Washington. But in these long, hard hikes I’d only taken my three oldest kids. The two younger kids always stayed back at the camper with dad creating their own adventures.
But then, my nine-year-old turned a corner. All of a sudden he didn’t want to stay back. He wanted to be there with his siblings as they took on the challenges of the outdoors. It started in Canmore when he wanted to hike the East End of Rundle. This hike is steep—3000 feet in 2 miles! He was awesome. Then, at Lake Louise, he joined us on the 12-mile trek to Lake Agnes, up to the top of Devils Thumb, and then on to The Plain of Six Glaciers. It was a long eight hours and he kept stride with us the whole way. No problem.
At the beginning of summer, I’d have to yell at him for trying to down-climb instead of rappelling the correct way when we’d go rock climb. Now he was asking to practice leading routes (granted they were only rated 5.5). But this, I was even nervous to take him on: the top-down hike of the famous Subway in Zion National Park. We really weren’t prepared.
Three days before, on a random whim, we submitted our application as a what-if. Like, “What if we could hike The Subway (top-down) for our final day of this epic 76-day trip?” We were shocked when we won the lottery and didn’t even find out until we were only a few hours away from Zion–less than 36 hours from when we needed to be starting the hike. We didn’t have drybags or wetsuits or headlamps. But we had determination, athleticism, persistence, and plenty of climbing skill so we went for it.
My three oldest are always game for an adventure and possible challenge, but FOMO was driving Jiraiya to want to be included.
“You have to be okay with getting lost or sleeping in the canyon if you want to go.” I had told him the night before.
He looked scared, which is exactly what I wanted. There would be no time for coaxing or coddling on the trail. I wanted him to fully understand that if he chose to participate, he would be expected to be strong, tough, and brave. I wanted him to be A GAMER. I love that I see it in my older three kids. Being adventurous and exposed to the elements of nature has taught them to work hard, be prepared, improvise, or get by without.
“I’m doing it,” he says as we pull into the dirt parking area at the trailhead.
That’s all I needed to hear. I knew if I could put doubt and fear in his head beforehand and he could work through all those feelings and still look at me with confidence and say he’s in, then I knew he’d make it.
For me, it was a proud and sad day. He kicked butt on the trail. He hiked fast, repelled beautifully, and swam through every ice cold pool with bravery (although there was a tiny bit of hesitation on the first swim, probably because I was freaking out about how cold it was).
But I was sad because he grew up so much that day.
As we hiked out of the canyon eight hours later, up the steep trail in the ninety-degree sun, I think he lost some of the baby fat from his cheeks and his shoulders got broader. It’s one of the many curses of parenting—we want to raise strong, capable, independent people and then all of a sudden you miss the scared, timid, wary child that used to hang on your leg and bury their face in your shoulder.
The world needs gamers. It needs kids and adults who are ready to face challenges, grit their teeth and get dirty, who can go without food (and electronics) for hours at a time in order to pursue a goal. To hold on to an ideal, an expectation that they have for themselves and be accountable to it. To lose themselves in nature, knowing one day they may need to return to nature to find themselves.
The outdoors isn’t the only way for us to teach this to our kids– but I love that it’s the way my kids are learning to be gamers.
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