By Andrew Kardon from Mommy’s Busy… Go Ask Daddy
My kids would make excellent vampires. No, they don’t enjoy drinking blood; they just hate going outside.
Summer. Winter. Fall. Spring. Name your season and they’ll still whine and complain if you dare rip them from their cocoon and drag them outside.
My wife and I, on the other hand, love nature. Before we were married, we used to go on tons of nature walks, hiking in the woods for hours as we followed trail blaze after trail blaze. We’ve explored gorgeous (and freezing!) ice caves. We’ve even gone kayaking on the Hudson River with my parents.
Ironic then, that it’s one of nature’s cruel jokes which sees two nature lovers produce offspring that run as far away as they can from the outdoors. Yep, we love nature and hate that our kids hate it. So how are two nature-loving parents supposed to get our kids enjoying the outdoors? It’s certainly a challenge.
We’ve taken the kids hiking a number of times, but something seems to always go wrong. One time we went on a rather lengthy hike. We passed tons of friendly hikers walking dogs, which my youngest son Ryan loved. My oldest son Jason, however, is scared of dogs. His day took a turn for the worse, but at least Ryan was enjoying the hike. Then 30 seconds after we hit the summit, it started to rain.
“I’m tired. I’m getting wet. Can you carry me?” pretty much became Ryan’s mantra for the next 20 or 30 minutes. Let’s just say I got a really good workout that day.
Another time, we went on the same hike and found a beautiful waterfall. You had to jump across a few rocks to get to it. It was a fairly easy path, and Ryan and I made it no problem. Allie followed Jason over and, of course, he slipped and dunked his right leg into the stream. Fill a kid’s shoes with water and he won’t stop complaining until you finally get him home.
In those two instances, Allie and I needed to be creative in order to turn a negative experience into a positive one. We want these hikes to turn our kids into nature lovers, not give them more ammunition to despise it.
It’s certainly not easy. As a kid, my dad used to take me on local hikes all the time. We’d get up early on the weekends, pack a lunch and hit the trails. I absolutely loved looking for the blazes on trees. And my favorite part was always when we’d reach the top, get an amazing view, and get to sit down and eat our lunch.
I try to impart that on my kids. And to some degree it works. Jason definitely is taking to the “find the next blaze,” as it’s really just a game. It’s easy to forget tired legs and sweaty foreheads when your eyes are constantly darting around, looking for the next bullseye mark.
We also make sure to pack tons of snacks with us. Apples, grapes and bananas are a great natural treat, but yes, we bring along much better “incentives” for the kids like M&Ms and chocolate chip cookies. Those definitely work for Ryan, who knows he just has to make it to the summit before we can take a load off and enjoy some sweets.
We still have a long way to go with our kids, but like most things with children, constant repetition chips away at the problem. We try to put on blinders and earplugs when the complaining starts and resort to as many distractions as we can. Thankfully, the complaints have lessened a bit over time.
Who knows? My hope is that in a couple years, after dozens more nature forays, Jason and Ryan may not just tolerate nature, they might even find themselves…gasp…loving it.