Dear Adventure Couple: If you have kids, it will be ok.
The idea of having kids right now might not seem ideal. You’re of the age range that was once considered “prime child bearing,” but you’re too busy gaining different types of life experiences to consider becoming parents. Kids seem to create a swift halt to all things enjoyable. Despite the necessary factor of say, a committed partner, you’re putting off reproduction for the foreseeable future. You’ve got a good thing going. Life is set up so that you’re able to go on adventures, to pursue new challenges and maintain old deep rooted hobbies. Well, adventure couple, you’re more prepared than you know.Their Needs
There is a universal understanding that the basic human needs are food, shelter and clothing. Take things a step further into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the still widely referenced 1943 paper published by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, and you’ll find the list of human needs expanded to five fundamental elements, each of which build on one another: physiological, safety, love/being, esteem and self actualization. It’s further explained that the first first four of those needs are the basics and necessary building blocks for any further growth. So, these children you could potentially have, they need four main things from you...only four.
Think of a child’s physiological needs as simply keeping them alive. Food, water and shelter. You know nutrition (at the very least, you know the basics of nutrition). You know the necessity of a solid calorie-to-activity ratio and that staying hydrated is essential. You know how to pack protein into small doses and that fruits and vegetables are always a smart decision, while processed foods are most likely something you’ve learned to avoid. You know a well-made burrito can suffice as a balanced meal. You’re cleanest eating, the types of meals you want before a proper adventure, aren’t so off from what it takes to properly feed and nurture a kid. Throw those burrito ingredients into a food processor and you’re halfway there.
As for shelter, there’s room for three in that two-man tent. Shelter can be simple if you consider a child an extension of yourself. You’re backpacking adventures or month long van-living excursions have taught you to adapt well to close quarters and minimal comforts. Humans are resilient, children included, and can easily adapt to their environment. You’ve learned to keep yourself dry, comfortable and well rested amongst unlikely circumstances. Children, though they require more rest, need less space and can easily squeeze into the living spaces you’ve already established for yourself. They really do start small and you’ll have time to adjust as they gradually grow.
The basic need of safety includes protection from the elements, security, freedom from fear and the like. Establishing a sense of security flows naturally from meeting physiological needs. It's natural, almost instinctive, to keep your valuables and your team safe. As committed partners, you know the selflessness that comes with every expedition. For everyone’s safety, it’s imperative to protect all of the team and not just yourself. Adding a child is just one more team member, one more valuable piece of the adventure puzzle. Yeah, you’ll have a new weakest link and a new liability, but adding the new piece of the puzzle will challenge you to fine tune your skills and acute attention to detail. You’ll become all the better at what it is that you do.
3. Love and Belongingness
As avid outdoor adventurers, you know community. The deeper you dive into the disciplines you enjoy, such as climbing, biking, mountaineering, backcountry skiing etc., you’re met with an increased level of community and belonging. The world becomes smaller. I can credit my snowboarding community with some of the best experiences, most fond memories and best friendships. You’ll love your kid, there’s no doubt. The love of flesh and blood isn’t easily explained nor denied. It’s the love for your sport, your partner and your community that will be the example. There’s something tribal about the bonds created through shared physical and mental experiences. The example of love and friendship as displayed to your kin will be relatively effortless and so, the tribe expands.
4. Esteem Needs
Again in reference to Maslow's Hierarchy, esteem needs include characteristics like self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence and so on. There’s a lot of criticism around the style of parenting received by the ‘trophy’ generation, as it has been coined. Many of us are a part of that generation. I’m not here to critique. There is a theory that the kids who “all got trophies” at team sports competitions have grown to be entitled and have earned a false sense of achievement and mastery. And maybe that’s so. Likely, your lifestyle revolves more around individual or small group activities opposed to organized team sports. Often, you compete only with yourself, pushing the limits of your personal abilities and previous achievements, mastering new skills for the sake of sending it bigger and going further. Your passions align with personal achievement. You’ll share your passions with your kids, whether intentionally or not. In turn you’ll show them the value of self-esteem, how to reach for goals and how to achieve them.
For skilled outdoorsmen like yourselves, it's no secret. Anything difficult, broken down into digestible, easy-to-manage parts, feels so much more attainable. It's why you ease into training routines and cross-train in the off season. It's how you map out goals. It's why you build your biggest expeditions on similar, smaller expeditions. You've been unknowingly cross-training for the expedition of parenthood. When broken down into four easily digested parts, you can do it! And so you young and restless duo, you'll be ok. It's widely known: there is no such thing as a perfect parent. You aren't perfect, but you're perfectly able.
A Fan of Your Lifestyle
PS - Parenting, Observed
I’m not a parent. I can’t personally attest to what it is to raise a child. It can’t be easy, but it can be done. I'm thankful that "go climb a tree" and "go outside and play" were staples of conversation in my youth. Lately in creating Sawyer, with heightened awareness of these types of situations, I've had a few unique observations of parenting.
In Southern Utah, I made an observation while on a climbing trip in the Moab desert. At the crag, a sprinter van pulled up. Out popped a couple in the early 30s clearly ready to climb. They slung out a couple bins of gear, ropes, and next… a pack-n-play, small child and a golden retriever. A classic climbing crag or a backyard bbq in a suburban neighborhood? With the child in a shaded pack-n-play and the dog loosely tied to a tree, they climbed and enjoyed just like the rest of us.
My brother-in-law hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail a few summers ago. Trail name: Swiper...That Sneaky Fox. He took off leaving behind my sister (with her support) and two kids at the ages of eight months and two and a half years. They planned diligently, relied occasionally on friends and family and managed to meet up for a few day hikes along the way. He finished the trail in a swift 84 days and gained an experience of a lifetime.
At a less trafficked trail head in the climbing destination of City of Rocks, ID, parked next to us was a couple who appeared to be living in the 1970s VW Westfalia van. The husband was doing a quick diaper change on a very new baby while his wife, or partner, got the gear together to go climb.
PPS - Making It Look Easy
There's no doubt that social media often portrays a skewed version of reality. Parenting is hard but technology in this modern, almost invasive, age can be harnessed for good. For inspiration and encouragement, here are a few outdoor parents making it look easy...or at the very least, photogenic.