From “pregnant triathlete” to “surfer mom”: one woman’s foray into adventure parenting.
They make those tests pretty easy to read nowadays. I sat on the bed with my husband one early morning last May, proof of my new reality in hand, thoughts crashing through my head. I had planned a summer of triathlons, surfing, hiking and scuba diving. What would being pregnant do to these intentions? An even bigger question skirted the periphery of my consciousness: what would having a kid do to the adventurous lifestyle that my hubby and I cherished?
I spent the next few weeks Googling. “Pregnant triathlete.” “Biking during pregnancy.” “Surfer moms.” The information I could glean from my doctor and the Internet about partaking in my favourite activities while growing a baby was woefully scarce. I decided, given my dissatisfaction with the evidence I had scrounged, to listen to my heart, and do what felt right for my ever-changing body. I was seven weeks pregnant when I completed my first triathlon of the year. I surfed through the fall hurricane season. I continued to do long rides on my road bike, spinning out forty kilometres a week until two days before I birthed my daughter.
I began to realize that I wasn’t just keeping my body healthy. Continuing to enjoy the activities I loved through my pregnancy was also helping me build a foundation for what I hoped would be a lifetime of fun, physical activity and appreciation of the outdoors for my entire family.
In the months after my little girl was born, I began to ponder the logistics of a summer of hiking, camping, scuba diving and surfing with a new baby in tow. Surely other parents were out there adventuring with their kids? Where could I find a tiny life jacket? An itty bitty Thermarest? It was then that I discovered that there was a newly coined name for the lifestyle I wanted to share with my family: adventure parenting. The mentality was simple: instead of giving up an adventurous lifestyle after having kids, adventure parents include their kids in the activities they’ve always enjoyed.
In search of helpful tips, I immersed myself in the adventure parenting blogosphere, where tales of family rafting and rock climbing trips abound. I was inspired and motivated by Patricia Herr, who summited all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s highest mountains with her five year old daughter. Describing her family adventures, Herr emphasizes that it was important to her never to force her daughter to hike if she didn’t want to, and to put her own ego aside – bagging summits came second to having fun and being outdoors.
Inspired by these stories, my husband and I have bushwhacked around the lakes near our neighbourhood and hiked the rocky Nova Scotia coastline while my daughter enjoyed the view from her baby carrier. We’ve been camping in Newfoundland, where we all took turns swimming under a refreshing waterfall in Gros Morne National Park. She’s even come along on our scuba diving adventures, hanging out in the sand with Gramma while we’ve explored the deep. Though we have had some successes, we have also learned a few lessons about the flexibility required of parents who include their kids on outdoor adventures. Our exploits have challenged me to remove my focus from the outcome – the summit, the personal best, or even getting out the door at all – and focus on the quality of the experience for everyone. In this regard, my daughter is teaching me to enjoy the journey, even when we don’t reach our destination.
It is my hope that my little girl grows up to appreciate and value being in the great outdoors, and that she has the confidence to take on any adventure, big or small. I hope that perhaps one day she will learn how to tie a fly just as adeptly as she texts her friends. For now, we’ll see what this winter’s ski season will bring.