Glossy outdoorsy magazines would have you believe there are two types of parents: the kind of parent who lives to take their kids outdoors and the kind of parent who is just a lazy couch potato raising another generation of lazy couch potatoes.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent who really enjoys being outside it is that there is some grey area here. If you want to teach your kids to love the outdoors, sometimes it just makes sense to stay home and watch a movie instead of heading out for that hike or that camping trip.
It’s taken me a long time to learn that as a parent — especially as a parent of a kid with special needs — I can not control my kids’ behavior.
Whether it is our kid throwing his iPad in the campfire or melting down because dinner is taking a long time to finish cooking on the Coleman — as parents we can not really control these behaviors.
What we do have control over though is how we respond to those behaviors.
If I freak out, the situation will likely escalate and get worse. But, if I can be cool, the situation may just turn out alright.
And that’s important because the best way to teach your kids an appreciation of the outdoors is for them to see you enjoying the time you spend in the outdoors. If you’re freaking out over your kids’ behavior then they’re probably not getting message that you’re having a good time.
But what I’ve learned is that sometimes I am just way too damn tired to respond the right way.
It actually takes way more energy to respond in a cool and relaxed way than it does to totally freak out. And sometimes (like the day after I’ve played out with my band in a bar til 2AM and am running on four hours of sleep) I just don’t have that energy.
When I recognize that I don’t have the energy, I choose to try to keep things as stress-free as possible. A movie. Maybe some take-out. Not often. But it happens. And that doesn’t make me lazy or a couch potato who doesn’t enjoy taking his kids outdoors. It makes me a smart parent.
Don’t be bullied into taking your kids outdoors. If, like me, you know you’re going to respond like a jerk and lose your cool if they behave badly you may as well just stay home rather than ruin a nice day in the woods.
Save your energy and your trips for times when your kids will be able to observe you really enjoying yourself outdoors. That’s how they’ll learn how to love being outside.