Flying the Coop: A Few Thoughts on Leaving the Kids at Home

photo: Blair Beakley

By the time you read this, I’ll be 5,000 feet down in the Grand Canyon, rafting the Colorado River from Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch. My husband and I have been dying to do this trip for years, but it was only in the last month that the stars aligned and a couple of spots opened up on a commercial dory trip with O.A.R.S. and my mom agreed to babysit our daughters. I’m a big believer in serendipity—listen up, it’s trying to tell you something. In this case, leave the kids at home and reacquaint yourself with the person you were before they were born, the one who had seemingly unlimited time and zero conflicting loyalties, a bottomless supply of travel funds with which to finance spontaneous junkets to the farthest, most exotic ends of the earth, and no fear whatsoever of dying in freak ways or getting malaria. Yeah, right. 

It’s easy—but maybe not all that productive—to idealize who we were before our offspring crashed the party. We may have had a longer leash, with less at stake, but we also didn’t feel the sweet, irresistible pull of home and pudgy fingers clinging to our leg while we’re trying to fry an egg or get out the door for a trail run. Parenthood may be the biggest adventure of all, but we still need to shake loose its talon grips and get gone. On our own, for adventure as we used to know it: a three-hour mountain bike ride, a long weekend reliving your dirt bag climbing days in Yosemite, or a week’s surf safari in Costa Rica. Because no matter how dedicated you are to raising intrepid outdoor kids, sometimes you need to leave them at home to do it.

This begs the question: Do you have to be a ripper to raise a ripper? Thankfully, no. But it helps to be sane and grounded, with a healthy perspective, and your own interests and goals, and if that’s best achieved by going out and letting your formerly-awesome-but-now-maybe-merely-OK adventure self rip from time to time, without having to tote along a backbreaking supply of diapers, wipes, battery-operated white noise/miracle-napping machines or worry about whose feet are cold or whose stomachs are grumbly, then by all means, go.

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