When Adventure (As We Know It) Just Isn't Working....

When Adventure (As We Know It) Just Isn’t Working….

When Adventure (As We Know It) Just Isn't Working....

Our family is not one to stay home on the weekends. I don’t do well even staying home during the week. We are go, go, go and that’s the way we like it. We’ve put an impressive amount of miles on our car this past year. We traveled and hiked and biked and skied and vacationed and adventured and been thankful for that time.

But, sometimes it just doesn’t work, at least not if we all want to remain sane.

One of our kids NEEDS a schedule. He needs a time to wake up and a time to sleep and the ability to know ahead of time what will be expected of him. He doesn’t do well with “fitting it all in”. He doesn’t do well with late bed times and disturbed routine. He definitely doesn’t do well with the holidays – late parties, numerous ski days, increased amounts of sugar and an overwhelming (even for me) endless list of “fun things to do”.

To be honest, he’s downright unbearable. And no, not the kind of “unbearable” where you roll your eyes and discipline and try again the next day. The kind that makes you wish you didn’t have kids and wake up hating life, day after day. The kind of unbearable that is enough to unravel the most patient of people. The kind that empties an unbelievable amount of stress on the entire family.

For the first time, I realized that the kind of Adventure and continuous forward motion we are used to just isn’t working right now for our family.

I preach this stuff to 20,000+ of you on a weekly, if not daily basis. It’s a hard pill to swallow – to admit that what I am doing right now is not right for a fifth of our family.

So – we need to make some changes. And as we start a new year, it’s a perfect time to do so. We need to make our life work for our whole family – not just what our family was before we met the three youngest members. It’s hard. Really, really hard.

We’re backing up, simplifying, purging the unnecessary, focussing on the people that matter the most and building up from there. As a family, we need each other. We need our outside time and our travel and our adventure too – but right now we just need each other. It’s all about compromising and listening and being intentional.


Where we go from here

To clarify – this doesn’t mean that our outside time is gone. In fact, it’s even more important than ever. It  just needs to fit into times of the day when it works a little better – before school, before lunch and before dinner. Consecutive all day adventures that lead into late bedtimes and no rests add up and end up in disaster right now, at least for some of us.

This “stage” may last longer than we want. Or we all may just need a hard reset for a couple of weeks before we can move forward a little more aggressively enthusiastically again. We’ll take it a day at a time. We want our kids to be happy and share the passion for the outdoors that we have.

Here’s a bit of our plan (again, for kids aged 11 months, 3.5 and 5.5 years) for daily life:

  • A walk (usually to school) or bike ride to get everyone breathing some fresh air right away
  • School (homeschool and preschool) in morning followed by an hour or more (weather-dependant) of outside play before lunch.
  • Lunch, rest, and then another hour outside before dark, dinner and to bed.

We also just need to be more intentional about our outside time, especially on the weekends.  Leaving earlier in the day, packing a lunch and just being ready the night before. Not easy, but life ends up being so much better. We’re also doing the following:

  • Packing pajamas to put kids in for our drive home if we think we will be missing bed time
  • Choosing one “big” family adventure over the weekend and then smaller snippets of outside time
  • Letting everyone give a little more input as to what they want to be doing (because we all have different preferences!)
  • Planning trips together and being satisfied with just one activity in a day instead of 5

Finally, when that just isn’t enough for Mtn Papa and I (which, especially for him, it really isn’t) – it means taking turns and making sure we get out individually for some reset time. It does wonders for us personally, for our marriage, for how we handle the kids and therefore for our whole life.


I refuse to sit around our house until my kids are old enough to be done with naps and tantrums and all the fun that happens with toddlers (oh wait – that doesn’t end when they’re 7!!??). My husband and I won’t make it. We’ll be in the nut house before then. But, more important than anything else, we want our family to share a love for getting out and WANT to be skiing and biking and playing together. Sometimes it’s a fine line, especially when sleep deprivation is factored in.

And then one of these days, we hope that the “base” we have given our kids full of experiences will all come together. It’s why we bother and why we press on, even when we have some bad days weeks.


What about you? Anyone else have kids that HAVE to be on a schedule? How do you handle the balance of play vs. sanity? Please tell us we are not alone in what sometimes seems like a constant uphill battle.


CHECK THIS OUT: Our guest blogger, Kristine, wrote a great post for those of us that maybe err on the opposite spectrum and need a little push to get out and be adventurous (and step away from that schedule for a bit).


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17 thoughts on “When Adventure (As We Know It) Just Isn’t Working….”

  1. Definitely not alone. This is something that we’ve feel dealt with for most of DS5’s life. Transitions and overstimulation are the toughest, and regular meal and bed times a must. Finding a balance between each individuals needs within a family environment can be stressful. Quality vs quantity has been the key for us. Learning to say “no” had been the toughest for me. In the end it’s about being happy… if one isn’t no one is. You can make it work. It takes time to adjust, it takes communication but you can do it and on the end if everyone is happy call it a win.

  2. Lately, when I ask my four year old if he wants to go to the park, which is next door, he’s been saying, “Mom, I’m too busy with important work.” This important work usually involves cutting wood or digging in our garden where he is “building a turtle pond.” I think he needs the unstructured time to explore on his own a bit, and probably some alone time. I think this is good for him so I try to give him space as he explores his independence.

  3. My oldest son is very much similar – while he likes to make his own routine, which usually means staying up late on the computer, he needs to know plans in advance or else he’s a monster. Too much time away from the familiar routine at home and he is suddenly a grouch. My sons are polar opposites.. my younger guy would go adventuring for weeks at a time and never blink an eye.. he wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. So, I understand the balancing act well! Good luck with your new plans.

  4. You’ve described our 10 year old son to a “T”. We lived the life of doing what we wanted when we wanted and for the first couple of years and that worked. But then, at about age 3-4, we had to change. Too much a stimulus, too many variables in any given situation was just too much for him. He’s a bright kid and I think that that has something to do with it. At 10 it still comes up – albeit occasionally – as he’s learning to deal and be a bit more flexible, and I’ve gotten better at communicating with him; telling him what’s up and “reading” his signs of discomfort. Oh – and always having healthy snacks on hand. Admittedly, I sometimes forget in the hustle and busyness of life. For us, it all boils down to setting each other up for success. And, for a kid, that means letting them know what they’re getting into, and how to act/behave in that situation. Proper food (I.e. low/no sugar); good rest; extremely limited TV/screen-time; lots of exercise; and quiet, focused time alone are essential – for the kids and adults in our household.

    1. Yes! Snacks, snacks, snacks. And we let them watch some extra TV over the holidays and I am quite sure it is back to bite us now. In our family more screen time = more attitude. Ug! Thanks for the tips (and knowledge that it DOES get better as they get older… ;))

  5. ooooh yes. we’ve been there, and sometimes we still are (with the youngest who just turned six). my oldest stopped napping at 18 months, she is always up for anything and could care less if there is a routine. her sister, however, is so different… she needs downtime, she needs time to adjust, she needs to what comes next. it’s gotten much easier as she gets older, but even still (especially on multi day trips) we have to be sure to build in some routine for her, or we all pay for it later. i definitely remember the days when this was extra hard– especially when she still napped, but in the end, it’s been good for all of us to step back, take a breath and enjoy the what we ultimately decide to do as a family even if it’s not as grand as we maybe would’ve liked or if we make smaller plans in order to have the down time too. p and i are also prioritize getting out on our own and tag-teaming outdoor exercise as well. it definitely helps us enjoy the family time if we can also get some time outside to exercise on our own! remember: this too shall pass 🙂

    1. Thank you, Blair. And sometimes I personally forget to see the bigger picture – that this is just a moment in the grand scheme of things. And if our kids don’t scale mountains and do the MOST adventurous things, they’ll still be just fine 🙂

  6. My family is very much like yours in that we HAVE to have our outside time. We ski, fish, dirt bike, camp, waterski, wakeboard, etc. ad infinitum, If I don’t have it, or even if I only get it once a week on weekends during the winter, I become depressed and morose. If my husband doesn’t, he gets anxious and mean. My kids need outside nature/activity time too, but our problem is that, if we have one day (Saturday) of a different schedule, they think somehow that that means they don’t have to follow the schedules of the succeeding days. We’re working on it, though. I’ve done everything short of writing each day’s schedule down and posting it on our fridge. That’ll be the next step. Anyway, glad I found your site! Love to read about other family adventurers!

    1. Whew! It’s not just our family that goes crazy without the outdoor time and some semblance of schedules. Thank you, Jamie, for making me feel a little more ok in this life 🙂 And so glad you found us too!!

  7. I think you’re right on track. I was/am one of those people who has to have their sleep. As a kid my parents weren’t as attentive to this as they should have been and it usually resulted in me having huge meltdowns. It was awful. I was branded as the kid with a bad temper when really I was exhausted and sleep deprived. It’s wonderful to see that you are being attentive to your children’s needs.
    If we ignore our kids’ needs in our quest to get them to love the outdoors they likely won’t end up loving the outdoors. Over the years we’ve learned to adjust our version of adventure to suit our family needs. At first it took a bit of getting used to, but now that my kids are getting older I’m so happy we did. We are now at the place where we can start doing more big stuff again and our kids are totally on board and excited about it!

    1. Thank you Shelley. Your insight helps me understand that making sure our kids are in bed before 7 pm (eek!) every night is so worth it. Now we just have to figure out a plan for when the sun doesn’t go to bed early! 🙂

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