Raising Explorers

It’s especially important in this day and age, when our world can feel like it’s growing smaller and a little more scary, to raise our children to learn to love the earth and the people on it. By showing our kids how beautiful and fragile this planet is, and teaching them that all people share common bonds, we can hope to set them up for a better, cleaner, more stable and loving future. It seems cliché, we hear this all the time. But I believe in the beauty in the detail. The smallest things can make the biggest difference. As parents, its up to us to cultivate in our children a curiosity about, and interest in the planet and all it holds.

But how? I have to be honest. Most days, just getting my two little boys out the door feels like the most daunting task. Not to mention, juggling nap and nursing schedules, potty training trials, and all the other life things and little demands. Of course, the lessons taught inside the home are important, but thank goodness, we don’t live in a bubble. Eventually we have to get out and apply them. Luckily, I have a few things I try to keep in mind, that I think you can also borrow. First and foremost, kids are 100% natural explorers. Everything is new! So everything can be an adventure. Tap in to their curiosity.

Start small. When Miles was a baby, we went for a walk every morning and I would point out the noises we heard as we went along. Birdies, doggies, cars. Now that he’s older I point out the green grass as we pass the golf course, we talk about the weather, and say hello to the people we pass. Because we’re Midwesterners at heart, and that’s what we do. Now I get the biggest kick when he points out the birdies, doggies and cars he sees and hears along the way. He notices things that grown ups tend to simply pass by, that “childlike wonder”. I know he’s observing the world around.

When we were on our recent family vacation and we were driving through the impoverished towns and villages of the Dominican Republic, on the way to our cushy beach-side accommodations. I asked Miles “does this look like home, or is it different?” He replied, “different”. He just turned 3. Now, based on his track record with correctly answering questions, we had about a 50/50 chance he’d reply it looked the same as at home, but he’s an observant kid and I’m willing to bet he meant it. I hope I’m able to help my boys understand there’s a lot more to the world than whats going on in their day-to-day. To see outside themselves, have empathy and know that many people live differently than we do.

Begin as you mean to go. This is my parenting mantra. I repeat it often when we’re transitioning into a new phase, or trying to establish ground rules. Meaning, its harder to break a habit than it is to create one. This usually means extra work initially, but the idea is that over time, you will establish whatever it is you’re trying to establish, and this will make life run a little more smoothly for all. If you think your kids are too young to take places and do things, again, start small. Literally. We’ve had to adapt a little, sure, but life isn’t the same as it was pre-kids anyway.

My husband and I are natural adventurers and we love to travel. We aren’t going to change just because we have a couple of kids now. In fact, all the more reason to get out. As our boys get older we want to enjoy bigger adventures with them. Maybe you don’t, that’s ok. Begin as you mean to go. Kids are adaptable, and while you might put in some extra work up front, over time you’ll likely be rewarded with flexible, confident little travelers. You’ll also reward yourself by getting ahead of the steep learning curve that comes with traveling with little ones. Trust me when I say, they do not need as much stuff as you think they do.

Just do it! Travel with children is more difficult, yes. “The kids won’t remember it”. I hear this all the time. But what about the parents? The parents will have precious memories. And for me personally, (I said this before and I’m sure I’ll mention it again) maintain a sense of self that can so easily slip away in the torrents of parenthood. What I think we’ve done a good job of is not being afraid to just go for it. You can’t be afraid of trial and error.

If you’re reading this, you likely want to be motivated to explore more, you like to live vicariously, or you love to explore and you like to read about things to do. We all have different levels of motivation, available time and budgets, so adapt this to you. But get out there! If you can’t afford (extra) plane tickets, or a weekend away, or just don’t like to travel, take them for a drive into the country and look at the farmland or something. It doesn’t have to be much. If you’re like me and car seats make you want to pull your hair out, stick them in the stroller and walk to the library! Walking is tri-fold: it causes you to slow down in this busy life and allows you to observe the details, it also demonstrates an active lifestyle and a mode of transport that is much more environmentally friendly than driving in the car. Plus, you save on gas and you *could* add that savings to your actual travel fund. Just get out there, you can do it. I am cheering you on!!!

Raising my kids to be explorers doesn’t mean they’re going to be mountain climbing protégés, or have the most passport stamps. Nothing wrong with the pursuit of those, and passport stamps are one of my very favorite things. I want them to be brave go-getters. But I’m not extreme. What raising explorers means to me, is to bring them up with the ability to see the beauty and balance in everything. A natural consequence of exploring is a greater understanding of, and ability to empathize with the world. I guess, maybe its more about values, than actual exploring. But to me, those things go hand-in-hand.




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