Life Learning

Raising Adventurous Kids

June 23, 2014

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I was not an adventurous kid. I wanted to be, I really did, but it never happened. I wasn’t a wall flower, per se, but I also wasn’t the cool girl with the snowboard on the roof of her car. To be honest, I was jealous of that girl. The idea of being bold and brave enough to climb a mountain, snowboard down it, or climb it’s rocks. To bike a big trail, or surf a great wave, those are all things I wish I had done young. When I look back on my life as a young adult, I realize I didn’t take enough risks. I don’t mean being reckless, I just mean letting go and jumping in with both feet (or harness). Being adventurous was something I missed out on, it is really that simple. I spent most of my early life being afraid of falling, of failing, of being hurt or not being good enough. It was a bit of a curse, and one that I would love to go back and redo.

When I had kids I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t let them be raised with fear. Looking at life as an adventure to be lived fully each day was a goal that I had from the day they were each born, and it continues to be something that I push for. Living where we do helps, as everyone here seems to hike a mountain or ski a basin with incredible frequency. For me, as an almost 40 year old woman, I am just now getting up the courage to do a few of the things that my boys have been doing since they were in diapers. I rock climbed for the first time this year, which felt like an incredible challenge. I had to tell myself all kinds of things to get up that darn wall, but one thing that helped was knowing how proud my boys would be of me when I told them. Funny, isn’t it, when the mother becomes the child, even if just for a few seconds?

To me, being adventurous isn’t just about the moment you are in an adrenaline pumping activity, it is a mind set, a way to look at your life and really live it. I see my kids go after everything, from soccer to history with that adventurous spirit, and I never want them to lose it. They look at everything as a challenge, a new run to conquer, a new trail to blaze, and oh my I think that is such an awesome part of being a kid. They don’t fear anything, but they have a very healthy sense of self-preservation (thank goodness) that moves them in a safe direction.

As their mama, it is certainly a balancing act between letting their lives unfold in a way that opens up many new adventures, while also teaching them what it means to be safe in any activity they are in. Teaching them the skills that they need for each new activity they choose to take on is not just important when they are young, but will hopefully set the stage for them choosing to do the same as adults. Giving them the right skills, equipment, and guidance is essential to feeling as though I have done my part to ensure they are safe and smart.

We all have visions for who we want our kids to be, how we hope their lives unfold. It is a natural part of parenting to do so. Sometimes we call it right, and the lives we see become reality. Sometimes our kids blaze a trail we never thought that they would walk. Either way, for most of us their happiness is all that matters. When I think of my kids, especially my two older boys whose lives have been lived a bit longer, and who I know a bit deeper, I see the boys pulling up to the house, snowboards on the roof, bikes on the back, smiles on their faces. I see them coming in and telling their dad and I all about their adventurers, what they saw, the fears that they conquered, the challenges that they set for themselves and met. I see kids who will look in the mirror and see someone staring back who can do what their mind wants to do, who says yes to the challenges that life puts forth, and who choose the road that builds their character, rather than simply gets them to where they need to go. Yes, I do in fact know that this sounds a little bit too dreamy and wide eyed, but why not put it out there and then see where they take it? I could never be disappointed in my kids, but I could certainly risk being disappointed in myself if I didn’t set the stage for them to be the type of kids who could live a life like that. I want them to get to the end of their adventure and say, “I did it all. I really lived.” That would be a truly epic parenting success if ever there was one.

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An Authentic Voice

March 24, 2014

Authenticity

Authenticity is a subject that has come up a lot in my household lately. There has been a shift in our schooling of the older boys toward larger amounts of writing and public speaking, and that process has brought questions on what makes someone’s voice not only unique, but authentic and real. I have been writing, to some extent, since I was a child. I have stacks and stacks of journals that were on my bedside table, newspapers I created in my basement, books I wrote and loved, and eventually articles and ┬áblog posts that are out in the world. Every time I hit the publish button on something, I have a moment of fear if my voice, my perspective was truly my own. In this world of social media it feels so easy to write, say or do something simply because it will be viewed more often, or pinned more regularly, or shared all around the globe. There are numbers to look at, or page rankings to consider, or any number of factors that at times, frankly, feels so draining and odd. On the flip side of that, there is an amazing community of writers, parents, teachers and artists that are out there, everyday, sharing a piece of themselves in the hopes that their authentic voice will be heard and that their opinion will matter and make a difference.

It isn’t an easy task to teach children to find their authentic selves. We all remember what it was like to be a young kid, to want desperately to fit in, to have our friends like us, to walk into school or onto the field, or into the dance studio and feel accepted. It is easier that way, in reality. However, in the long run giving our children permission to be authentic does set them up to be able to take a stand later in life. We need strong youth, the world shows us that every single day. We need our children to grow up and not only know who they are and what they truly believe, but to be able to convey those feelings and opinions without hesitation. When I read an article, an essay, a book, or hear a talk from someone who is speaking with their authentic voice, I am compelled to act, to listen, to take in and truly asses what they are saying. Even in my relationships, the more authentic, the more they impact me. Our children need to find those books, or movies, or relationships and interactions. The younger the better.

As my own kids are embarking on this journey, or at least the first steps of it, I am reminded that it is my actions they look to emulate. That scares me more than I can say, because I am on my own path, and I make a lot of mistakes along the way. They remind me that they are watching what kinds of relationships I value, who I let into my life, and what comes out of my mouth. They want to see how I treat others, what kind of friend I am, and what I value as important. If this is not the most important time to be authentic, I have no idea when it will be.

The process of authenticity is an always evolving one. We are constantly becoming better versions of ourselves as we grow and age. I think that one of the biggest obstacles in authenticity that I have faced is not in accepting others, but truly accepting myself. I feel like I am getting to know myself deeply now, something that has come with time and patience. I don’t wake up and wish that I was someone else, no matter how beautiful or deeply inspiring their lives may look. That isn’t to say that I love every aspect of who I am, more that I am grateful for the things that I bring to the table, to the discussion, to the world. How can I teach my kids to value their own opinions if I can not value mine? How can I teach them to be soft and gentle with themselves, to see their talents and their benefit, if I can not acknowledge mine?

As these kids of mine grow (oh so fast), they remind me that parenting is so much more about our actions than our words. It is the value of modeling that they learn most from. They need to see that we take seriously creating relationships that are based on meaning, that we create value by being authentic and honest, and that we value that in others as well. They need to have open discussions with us that have ample space for asking questions, and sharing their own opinions. They need to hear that those opinions are of value, even if we do not agree with them, and most importantly they need to be encouraged to figure out what they believe and think. Our society asks our children to conform in so many ways, on so many subjects. Society is a collective group of people and conformity to some extent will always occur. However, as parents we want to cultivate the unique, the individual, the authentic that is our child. If we can do that, if we can even give that to them even in small doses, we just may succeed in this thing we all call parenting.

 

 

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