For today’s post I asked my friend Rob Kristoff to share a bit about his family’s experience outdoors. Rob is a freelance writer who lives on Boston’s North Shore with his charming wife and precocious daughter. He’s written a guide to local mountain biking trails, a must-have for anyone searching out the best trails around Boston.
It’s hard to summarize how important it has been to our daughter to get outside. And I really do think that some of the reason she loves being outside comes from how we treated nature with her when she was a baby.
I know when she was very small her mother had to spend some time in the hospital, and I took her around the (extremely large) building and closely showed her the trees they had growing in the atrium: letting her feel them and putting her face close to the leaves. Did that have an effect? Who knows.
And even before this, because I had a job plowing skating trails on local lakes (yeah, it was as cool a job as it sounds), her mom would bring her out to see what I was doing (within reason and only for very short periods of time). She would’ve been just weeks old then.
Another moment came when she was barely walking and I tried to get her to sit quietly in her stroller as we walked through the state forest, where there was a paved road closed to cars. She cried and cried until I (almost randomly) thought to let her get out and try to walk by pushing the stroller. She did that for about three seconds, while continually glancing to the forest at the side of the road. “Do you want to get off the paved road? Go ahead,” I said, jokingly. Her face lit up a little bit and she let go of the stroller and headed straight for the woods—up a rather tough incline for a two year old, I thought. I’m pretty sure if I’d have let her continue she’d have pressed on straight into the woods.
Or I think of taking her for walks in her baby-backpack. We’d walk trails and sing songs. Occasionally—I won’t lie to you—I’d accidentally smack her in the face with low-hanging leaves. Just the tips of branches, nothing serious. But I’d feel bad and say “Oops!” She thought it was hilarious. We’d walk for hours that way, taking our little dad and daughter adventures.
With all these moments in mind, were we crazy? Did I not know she was a small baby and that there was some danger or risk involved? That it was cold out by those lakes? No, we were not bad parents, and yes, we knew there was some risk involved. I kept it to a bare minimum, was very careful when need demanded it. But for the greater goal it felt worth it, and I think we’ve been proved right.
I can’t, and wouldn’t want to, tell you what to do with your baby, but in our family, even my wife (who was a nature lover, but not so much of an adventurer before this) would say that it has been nothing but good for our daughter to go outdoors on adventures, especially including when she was very small. “Raise up a child in the way she should go, and when she is old she will not depart from it”…