“It’s Tuesday Adventure Day! Where do you want to go today?” My 4-year-old turned to her friend to begin a serious discussion about their favourite local day walks. In the end, they voted on a track through nearby farmland rumoured to have new lambs.
My daughter and I have been doing Tuesday Adventure Days since she was just a baby, sometimes with friends and often on our own. In the early days, she was in the front pack, then moved into the backpack as she got bigger. When she could walk, she’d always walk a little of the way on her own, preferring to climb up steps or steep hills to flat tracks. It wasn’t long until she was walking the length of our all of our favourite tracks.
She’s nearly 5 now and a well-seasoned tramper. Her bragging rights include completing a leg of one of New Zealand’s Great Walk, several overnight and multi-day tramps, and walking 12 kilometers in one day. She always carries her own backpack and nearly always holds my hand. I love tramping and, of course, I’m thrilled with her tenacious and joyous engagement. That’s not why we do it, though.
Tramping with my daughter has three benefits that I didn’t expect when we started years ago. It makes me a better parent, it has strengthened my relationship with my daughter and has built up her confidence and courage.
Tramping relieves my stress and gives room for patience. No matter what is going on and no matter where we go, I feel better. Each week, we walk around the neighbourhood, or get in the car to drive to a nearby bush walk, or get caught up in another kind of adventure. Once my feet hit the ground, I start to breathe a little deeper, gain perspective on the world and feel a boost of energy. Perhaps because we’ve been doing it for quite a few years now, I start to feel better even as we pack our belongings in the morning and set the plan in motion.
Tramping has given me and my daughter time to develop a strong bond based on trust and overcoming challenges. She is a thoughtful, quiet type, not the kid you’d necessarily peg for being outdoorsy. She often unwittingly gives away her airtime to her boisterous, talkative older brother. But when we go walking together, she has the floor. She reflects upon her memories, her friends, and her dreams. She shares her problems and her theories about the world. Tramping together gives her the chance to discuss what might not reach the surface in the bustle of our daily lives. When we’re walking, she often tells me how much she loves Tuesday Adventure Days.
Tramping has built up my daughter’s confidence and courage. She’s always been very attached to me and it has been an ongoing process to support her to let others into her life. When we’re tramping up a hillside, along a new track, or through the beautiful bush, you can see the confidence in her movements, she knows she’s got this. We’ve had the chance to take a couple of her friends on their first overnight tramps and she has been the expert guide.
She has her down moments, just like anyone else. Tramping brings the highs and lows of life and condenses them over a few kilometers. Even over the course of 20 minutes, there is plenty of time for children to become excited, get tired, have a tantrum, become thoughtful, and get excited again. All the while, adults have plenty of time to experience deep gratitude, a lack of patience, frustration with the exceedingly slow pace, amazement about your children’s observational skills, and joy that matches theirs. We walk most weeks, but sometimes we try something different so be creative. Next Tuesday, give it a go, take a child on an adventure and grow outside together!
*All images captured and the property of Meg Drive