“No Adults Allowed” could be slapped on the cover of most literature dealing with children’s adventures. Besides the many thematic reasons for making adults absent, there’s the simple fact that society sees adventuring and parenthood as antithetical. But saying it’s impossible to go on adventures with kids actually creates a harmful, false choice.
Restrictions on Moms
This attitude is particularly pernicious because of the restrictions it puts on women in particular. While dad may go camping and hiking with the kids, mom is expected to stay home and do…. something. In fact, mom is often the destroyer of adventures, constantly saying no and shutting down wild ideas. Mom is the responsible, safe, and boring one, while dad is the fun and exciting one. For example, this Oscar Meyer commercial. (Of all of things I want to say yes to, packaged meat is on the bottom of the list.)
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Of course parents should be responsible. But just as parents should share responsibility, they should also share adventure. While the situations in this commercial are absurd, I do enjoy how it illustrates the silliness of these gender roles.
A False Choice
Beyond how it reinforces gender norms, the parenting vs. adventure set-up is a straight up false choice. You can bring children on adventures. Period. Child-centric places don’t have to dominate post-children vacations unless you want them to. While they’re extreme cases, the folks who hiked the Grand Canyon with their three year old and Ilana Wiles from Mommy Shorts bringing her six-year-old to Paris shows that it is possible to do outdoors activities as well as travel internationally with kids. There’s even entire magazines devoted to outdoor adventure with children and travel for families! These vacations might not be as chaotic, dangerous, or unplanned than those childless people might do. But you can’t go on these vacations if you’re traveling with a less enthusiastic or cautious adult companion.
Options for Adventures with Kids
While the first couple of years are hard – just going on day trips when dealing with multiple naps and long feedings is challenging – it’s not impossible. We’ve already hiked and camped with both kids in tow. For guidance, there are a couple of different books and websites that offer tips for such activities.
In the future, we plan on visiting National Parks with him and if possible, other countries. We know it’s possible because our families did it with us. My parents brought me to the Everglades, Acadia, Yosemite, Zion/Bryce, and Alaska as a kid, memories that I still treasure. Chris’s dad brought him on a week-long canoeing backcountry trip each year. My aunt and uncle brought my cousin to Europe multiple times.
Even if you can’t handle a whole week, day trips can offer plenty of adventure. Chris and I have enough stories of surprises on the trail to prove it. To prepare for longer cultural vacations, museum day-trips can help know young children what to expect and offer parents new perspectives.
Adventuring with Young Adults
These opportunities only expand as children get older, especially if they are responsible and good at evaluating risk. Preteens and teenagers are both physically and mentally capable of a lot more than younger children – and given the chance, sometimes more than some adults! I went on a guided adventure trip to southeast Alaska with my parents when I was 15. Even though my parents had to talk the company into letting me on it, I was much more mature than a fellow 30-something traveler who not-so-playfully dunked our guide’s head into a freezing stream. Similarly, we shared a lodge on our vacation to Peru with a family with teenage sons. One of them spent at least an hour each night with their guide identifying and chronicling the species they saw.
Even living abroad with children is possible if you make the right arrangements. My former church pastor and his wife lived as missionaries in Africa with their three young boys for several years. I suspect the respect built for other cultures greatly contribute to their sons’ emotional maturity and broad-mindedness.
Adventuring Without Kids
This attitude also assumes that parents’ entire lives revolve around their children. While I’m not a fan of long adult-only vacations, parents have the right to take a weekend away occasionally if they can get child-care.
There’s also the possibility of adventuring on your own once the kids grow up. Since I’ve moved out, my parents have visited Yellowstone, Prince Edward Island, the Pacific Northwest, Acadia (again), Napa Valley, and Yosemite. After they retired a two years ago, they bought a small RV and had a three-month cross country trip. Similarly, my grandparents traveled around the world after their kids moved out. While retirement is a very long time away when you have an infant, discounting it out of hand is a disservice to older folks.
Thinking about all of the possibilities, the only type of adventuring kids really prevent are extended trips with no responsibilities, schedule, or planning. And personally, I hate traveling like that.
To travel with our kids, we’ll need to plan a little more and have a little more flexibility. But it’s totally possible. As both kids enjoy new places, I think we’re going to have all sorts of adventures as a family together.