Summer Reading: "The Wilderness of Childhood"

I’m fairly new to this whole adventure parenting thing, but I’m lucky to have some great role models. Number one was my dad, who raised my older sister and me to be curious about the wider world around us. A photographer and editor at National Geographic for most of his professional life, Dad wasn’t as much an athlete as an inveterate wanderer and explorer. This was the mid-70s, before the cult of extreme was born and “adventure” became an adjective, and Dad wasn’t in it for the adrenaline rush or bragging rights, but good old fresh-air and inspiration. 

Our backyard playground was the not-so-rad hills and creeks of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Dad took us camping in his musty, mustard-yellow canvas army tent on the Delaware River, road-tripping to Maine each summer in his green VW microbus, and amateur spelunking in ticky-tacky Luray Caverns near his farm in Virginia. His idea of entertainment was long rambling walks through the woods foraging for pine cones and pebbles, which we’d glue onto giant poster boards and make “nature art.” When we got older, the three of us went bike-touring on Prince Edward Island, land of constant head-winds, and kayaking on the Connecticut River, where at the end of each day we’d drag our boats from the water, bushwhack out to some road, and thumb a ride to the nearest B&B. (My sister had put the kibosh on camping.) 


When my first daughter was born and we began trying to navigate the new territory of newborns without turning into shut-ins, Dad became our sounding board and #1 fan. He thought it both entirely normal and positively thrilling that we would put the baby in a lifejacket and stick her in a canoe so we could paddle around the island or put her on skis shortly after she learned to walk or lug her up this or that mountain. Knowing he approved made the adventure of parenting easier, and his philosophy of exploring for the sake of exploring—to see the world and ourselves in new ways, and what the heck, bring the kid!—became the foundation of my own made-up notion of adventure parenting. You don’t have to get all epic about it. Even a bike ride around town will do the trick. 

Filed To: Adventure, Media, Nature

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