Jenifer Lacey is a Branch Ambassador for Hike it Baby Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Recently, she met Shanti Hodges, the founder of Hike it Baby, while out on a hike. Jenifer explained that she was already very passionate about Hike it Baby and its mission: to raise a generation to love the outdoors. After meeting Shanti, she was even more inspired to be active in the movement. Jenifer’s story itself is inspiring and she shares it with us in hopes to motivate other families to embrace the adventure that is waiting for us all in nature.

jenifer lacey blogI have a wonderful two-year-old son. I had Oliver when I was 32, much later than my parent’s generation. When my mother was 32, she died in a car accident. None of her four children were injured in the accident but we were left without a mother to raise us.

My father was a blue-collared miner that worked odd hours. He worked hard to provide for his family but wasn’t the type of father to spend quality time with his kids. I have one memory as a child of him taking my brother and me up the canyon to search for frogs, it was a great day. I have no other real memories of quality time with my father. As children, I remember us always seeking out more information about our mom. What she wore, what she liked, didn’t like, how she felt about us individually, etc. We couldn’t get enough information or hear enough stories, always searching for more.

Every summer, we went to Montana to spend time with my mother’s side of the family. It was those summers in Montana that my aunts and uncles took us on adventures. My uncle taught me how to fly fish, how to drive a standard, how to swim in the lakes, and countless other things that I value to this day. That family took us to Yellowstone and Yosemite. To the lake and the state fair. Literally, everything I value in this world came from my mother’s family, from my family.

When I became a mother, I looked into my son’s eyes and I saw my mother’s hazel eyes staring back. How do I want to raise him? That is the question I ask myself everyday. I made a conscious decision then and every day after that I would raise him like I may not be around to watch him grow up. This thought terrifies me but also provides the motivation to spend precious moments with my son. Every week is an adventure! If he were left without his mama, there would be no question in his mind how I want him to live his life.

jenifer lacey blogHe will know that we value nature and taking care of this earth.
He will know that we are meant to explore this world and all its wonder.
He will learn how to treat strangers by how he sees me treat people on the trail.
He will understand that it’s not what you have in life but what you do with what you have that really matter.
He will understand that we never stop learning and growing.
He will know that I want him to soak up this wonderful world, see new places and try new things.
He will know that he is loved, and how to love.
He will spend time with the ones he loves and raise his children with these same fundamental beliefs.

It’s a magical thing to see the world through his eyes, to witness him seeing something for the first time. Best of all, this is a normal week for us. He is already a wild child, never wants to be indoors. He is so curious about life, people, trails, animals, plants, fish, water…everything. This is just the beginning, there are so many other things I want to teach and show him.

jenifer lacey blog

For my parent’s generation, things were different. They didn’t know that curiosity was a bigger predictor of success in life over IQ. They didn’t know that making memories with your children is far more important than what you buy them. Or that people secrete [the hormone] Oxytocin when we experience something new and exciting, which strengthens the attachment to those in that present experience. Or that social support and feeling supported is an essential ingredient in mental wellness and overall quality of life. That a child will not know how loved and important they are unless they are told and felt it by their primary caregivers at a young age.

My father didn’t know that children remember those really intense experiences and to fill those experiences with wonder, excitement and make them as happy as possible. He didn’t know that a sense of safety and control over one’s life empowers them to explore and grow. But I do know. I know that what we value in life is learned through personal experience.

jenifer lacey blog

HiB has allowed me to raise my son the exact way I have wanted since the day he was born. It has facilitated these experiences with my son in a safe group while making a few great friends. HiB is a movement. Collectively, like-minded parents are doing the same thing. We are making memories for our children, which sounds simple but is so much more. I’ve made some great friends through HiB. Although we are a simple hiking group we can collectively influence and change the world we are leaving for our children.

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