Teen Adventures And Why They Are So Important:
There is a sizable community of outdoor and adventure parents on InstaGram. Where many use it as a way of making friends and connecting with other outdoor people I watch. One of the conversations I have been monitoring of late surrounds teenagers. @alyssakerickson makes a compelling argument. She looks at why adventuring with teens and tweens is so much fun. Mind you I don’t need much convincing. Alyssa also points out something I had not thought too much about. When you look at IG there are lots of images of families with young children out in nature. Where are the photos of families with older children? I am not sure if this is because social media has only recently shared the joy of this kind of family unity and people are just catching on. Or. Something more unfortunate. Families do less together as the kids age.
The way I see it my boy who is 15 only has a few more years before he flees the nest. At that point my role changes yet again, from guide to consultant. To do my job well I have to make the most of these last few years and use them to prepare him for his independence. That said, this period of his life he will lean towards spending more time with friends and less with me. Unless. I make time with dad so special he still looks forward to it.
A little background. The boy lives with me and I am a trainer who works retail hours. This means there is very little consistency to my schedule. Because of this, he has become independent and we have become organized. We have to grab time together as it is available. This does play out in our favor. I often work Saturday evenings so he can have his nerd time playing dungeons and dragons. As an aside, coming home to a gaggle of teenagers screaming about eviscerating goblins is a trip! If I do get a Sunday off we earmark it as shared time. During his holidays we use my week days off to do quiet two day trips. My vacation is also put towards extended adventures.
As a teacher I had a huge advantage over other new parents. I had experimented with other peoples’ children before having to deal with my own. Throw in that I taught kindergarten through college. Then add in that my subject was adventure and outdoor education. Right there I had recipes to deal with everything except the very young. Thank you Kimberly, you laid the best foundation ever! My dream was always to have a good relationship with my child. One where they were independent but enjoyed “coming home”. I wanted to help them find the way to being their best most fulfilled self without telling them what to do. This is difficult. How often do I want to tell Cai what to do, rather than let him figure things out for himself? I am definitely my best self in this respect outside. Again I need to thank my job for this.
So where am I going with this ramble. I always planned to do things with him and having taught others I had the insight to prepare for this. So if you still have young children this is my main thought. Decide what you want to be doing with your children during their teen years and bring them to it over time. Make it fun. Meet them where they are at and bring them to your happy place so that it becomes their happy place. Make them want to keep on doing these things with you. The odds are stacked against you. When the hormones take over and you do not recognize your once sweet children. They do not recognize themselves either. They are struggling to figure out so many things. If they know going out with you is fun and rewarding then you stand a chance of it happening. Trust me, when it does, it strips away all the bullshit and gives everyone the opportunity to shine. When you struggle with the day to day grind, be aware that your children are also dealing with difficult situations. Not only do they cope with the changes in their bodies. They also deal with the pressure of school, friends (are they?), and social media. These trips into nature where I share an adventure with Cai allow us to be our best possible selves. We have good conversations, we recognize we are each other’s ally and have the other’s best interest at heart. And yes that really is a two way thing.
Even better teens are able to do so much more than toddlers. If you are looking for a return on your early year investment, making it fun is my key advice. Over the last few years I have been blown away with what Cai has been able to achieve. Each milestone brings him closer to what I used to do at my best. One day he will surpass me and then I hope he will want to repay the early favor of modifying my experiences to fit him.
What do you want to do / do you do with your older children? Feel free to share in the comments.