Dad, I Don’t Like Our Hiking Trips Anymore.

February 14, 2014 in Strategy by Matthias

Here’s a little story that happened to me about three weeks ago and that I thought you might find interesting. It’s about one of those moments that can set the course for years to come, and in this case, it is about something that’s probably on the mind of every single outdoorsy parent in the world.

It was Thursday, and Loki and I were about to get into the van to buy some food for a day trip we had planned for the following Saturday. I had opened the sliding door and was waiting for him to get in, when he suddenly looked at me and said: “Dad, you know what? I don’t like our hiking trips anymore.”

As you can imagine, my heart sank. I just said “Oh. Hm.” We sat quietly for a little moment, and while I was thinking about what would be the best thing for me to say or do next, suddenly I realised that there was something odd about how he had said it. I pondered that thought a little more, and noticed that he had not said “I don’t like tramping anymore”; instead, he had specifically referred to “our tramping trips”.

With that new glimpse of hope, I asked him why he didn’t like our tramping trips anymore; in a way that made it clear that I actually wanted to know and would accept any answer.

Without hesitation, Loki said “Well dad, that’s really easy to explain: They are too short!” I almost fell out of my seat. That was about the last answer I would have expected at that point.

He continued to say “You know, we think about what track to walk. We find others to walk with who have time the same weekend. We go and buy food. We pack our backpacks. We check the weather forecast. We drive a few hours to get there, and the same on the way back. Then we hang stuff to dry and get everything ready for the next trip. All that work is just not worth it for a few hours on the trail.”

I took a second to congratulate myself to having listened properly to what he had been saying, as well as to obviously having done a few things right in our family tramping career in general; then smiled at him and said: “Now that is something we can most definitely fix! How long would you say a trip has to be so it’s worth going?” He beamed at me, grinning from ear to ear, and said: “Five days!”

You can imagine what a rollercoaster those few moments have been for me. I went from the sad feeling that our shared tramping trips would likely become a rare thing from now on, to the realisation that by being careful not to push Loki harder than he wanted to progress in his hiking skills and ability, I had been holding back too much, and actually he wants to do less of our easier and shorter trips, and a lot more of the more serious and longer trips we were doing! What a day.

Suddenly I remembered that there had been quite a few times during trips in the past few months where Loki had said that he would like to stay at a hut longer, or continue walking along the trail in the morning instead of going back to the car. He had tried to let me know that he wanted to be out there for longer at a time, but while I had of course been glad to hear that, I had failed to realise just how important that was for him.

For time reasons, we were not able to turn that following weekend into a five day trip.

However, we did make it a three day trip, incorporating the day trip that we had planned for the Saturday as the middle day, during which we were walking with a group of friends. It turned out to be a trip of pretty epic proportions, not least because Loki requested to do some bush bashing off the tracks and to tick off two peaks that he had decided he wanted to reach, and we both pushed our limits quite a bit and learned lots of new things. But that’s a story for a different blog post..

For now, I just want to recap what I have learned from our little conversation: That while it’s still a good idea to take things slowly and not push your children into trips that are harder than they want to do, it can also happen that they actually want to do more than you think; and that most importantly, as always, it can pay big time to really listen to what your children say, not to jump to conclusions, and engage in a real, eye level conversation with them.

What are your experiences with communicating with your children, and with working out what kind of hiking trips to do with them? If you have a little or big story to share, you can post it here in the comments!

Here’s to communication and great teamwork!

Matthias

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Matthias
As a passionate dad and outdoor enthusiast, it was a no-brainer to take my son Loki on real wilderness trips from very early on in his life. Finding an experienced mentor to teach us how to do that right turned out to be impossible, and it took a lot of hard work to figure it all out. Today we are regularly spending top quality time in the bush and the mountains, and I would like to enable more families to have this great experience. I have created the Trailbabies Network as a way to share what we have learned over the years, so you and your children can have a much easier and quicker way to start enjoying safe and fun hiking trips together. I'm looking forward to hear from you - welcome on board!
Matthias

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