I was naive to the burden of responsibility that would take up residence on my shoulders when I came home from the hospital with that first little miracle bundle of baby. The list of things I can influence for good or evil has only grown since that first day and then multiplied by three: manners, character, education, relationship skills, discipline, healthy eating habits, love or disdain for the outdoors…sometimes it feels so overwhelming.

Ever feel that way, too? Maybe this quote I stumbled on in Peter Hoffmeister’s excellent book Let Them Be Eaten By Bears, will speak to you as it did to me one day:

Kids want to be outside. They love the sun, moon, stars, animals, trees, leaves, watching the rain, watching the hail, and catching bugs in their hands. So you don’t have to give them a love for the outdoors. They’re born with that love.  But indoor behaviors and habits can wean kids off of their natural love of the outdoors. We, as parents, can help them learn to dislike the natural world. We can help them fear weather and distrust animals. But that’s an environmental reaction, not a biological one. Children begin their lives with love.

Did you catch it? The love for the outdoors is already there–they are born with it. 

When I read that, I felt a huge burden lift! Instead of a salesman, trying so hard to convince my kids that time in the great outdoors is meaningful, beautiful, fun, important, worthwhile, and so awesome they will have no choice but to be nature lovers all their lives, I am charged with simply getting out of the way. My job is not creating the love–it is simply trying not to kill it. The difference is subtle, but so significant!

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So I ask myself…are my habits and attitudes preserving the love, or killing it?

  • Do I get upset over things like mud tracked into the house, jumping in puddles with the “wrong” shoes on, or getting wet when not dressed for it? Or do I smile to see the love in action and refrain from all sighing or commentary?
  • Do I recoil from the snake or the bug or the slimy slug they bring into show me, or do I respond with amazement or wonder?
  • Am I giving them enough unstructured play time on the trail, or is a subtle drill sergeant attitude creeping in, making them always feel hurried on a hike?
  • Do I say “yes” to requests to go outside whenever possible, even when it’s not totally convenient for me?
  • Do I listen to and respect what they want to do, or do I inform them of what we are going to do because I think I always know best?
  • Do I make a lot of weather excuses–it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, too humid–or do we “weather the weather, whether we like it or not”?

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Choosing the positive response isn’t always easy, nor does it comes naturally to all of us. But this is where Hike it Baby is so valuable! We plan to get on a trail weekly, demonstrating that hiking is important enough to be on the calendar.  We go regardless of the weather. We go even when it feels like we are never going to get out the door and to the trail on time. We go knowing there will be messes, meltdowns, and mud. But we also go knowing there will be more mud, memories, and magic. And every welcome circle, every trail hiked with friends, every park and play or special event serves a much larger, much bigger purpose. One hike at a time we are showing our kids they should not fear winter, or the cold, or the rain, or gray skies. We are intentionally choosing outdoor habits. With every hike, we are preserving the love.

Photo Credit: Krystal Weir, Ashley Scheider

Alana DimmickAlana is a park ranger turned homeschooling mom of three. With her park ranger husband she’s raising her kids in America’s most beautiful places. She loves hiking, camping, photography, books, coffee shops, farmers markets, gardening, and backyard chickens. She is the Branch Ambassador in Eatonville, Washington, just outside Mount Rainier National Park.

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