It’s a mode of living as much as it a way to parent.
Creative Adventuring is a general mode of living that I’ve adopted to become a parenting approach in which we take the mundane and pivot it into a magical experience.
I love the historicity of words. It provides so much insight. With this word, “adventure”, its etymology illuminates the properties which excite me about this mode of living and it really brings this paradigm to life:
c. 1300, aventuren, “to risk the loss of,” from Old French aventurer (12c.) “wander, travel; seek adventure; happen by chance,” from aventure (n.)
c. 1200, aventure, auenture. Meaning developed through “risk; danger” (a trial of one’s chances), c. 1300, and “perilous undertaking” (late 14c.) to “novel or exciting incident, a remarkable occurrence in one’s life” (1560s). Earlier it also meant “a wonder, a miracle; accounts of marvelous things” (13c.).
What struck me in this etymology was this idea of “risking the loss of”. What are we losing? Hackneyed, prosaic experience.
What a big idea.
In order to achieve the annihilation of the banal, there is risk: in their safety. In the fact that my idea for an adventure will fail. And they have. I have failed. A few adventures turned out to be duds. With some, the creek was flowing too high to cross so we had to abandon the entire outing. Another time, I forgot bug repellent and the kids were destroyed by giant mosquitos. Many other times, the kids didn’t enjoy the lesson plans I put together and yawned through it all.
So, a new lesson became visible: go with the flow. Be water. We won’t always succeed. Scrap it and adjust and edit and move toward something else.
Perhaps this is the biggest lesson at the core of Creative Adventuring: malleability. Editing life. Being non-attached. Moving-on.
I’m interested in calculated risk. I’m not interested in endangering them any more than I feel comfortable with. We’ve backed off several paths and streams and adventures that were simply just not safe enough.
But we do put ourselves out there. And it’s hard. It takes a lot to load-up and take off. I mostly carry Bear, my 18-month-old, on my shoulders. It’s tiring and rocks are slippery and I have to be extra-cautious with him up there. It takes even more to come back home all sandy and muddy and tired and get their clothes off and get them bathed.
But when we all go to bed exhausted and sore, I know that we achieved something special. Will they remember it a decade from now? I’m not so sure. But I am certain that we accomplished my the primary goal of creating a “novel or exciting incident, a remarkable occurrence in one’s life”.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes
the whole world around you because the greatest secrets
are always hidden in the most unlikely places.
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
- Roald Dahl
Safe is not Commensurate with Being
I hear it all the time when I tell our loved ones what we’re doing, or where we’re going: Be Safe!
c. 1300, “unscathed, unhurt, uninjured; free from danger, secure; saved spiritually, redeemed, not damned;” from Old French sauf “protected, watched-over; assured of salvation.”
From late 14c. as “not exposed to danger”, “free from risk,” first recorded 1580s.
As far as employing this model in my parenting, I need to emphasize as I do often with those in my life: I don’t have children, I have babies. My kiddos are: 5, 3 and 1 years old.
We’re not going to rock climbing, bouldering, or on any mountaineering expeditions. In fact, I’m not interested in looking at any of this through those traditional lens. More on that, later.
For now, safety: with babies, there’s always risk. Especially in the wild. Especially with babies that can’t swim or fend off a snake.
We went to the ocean for their first time and even that, standing in the crashing waves on Laguna Beach: is dangerous.
It’s up to me, as Dada, to not just protect them, but to put them in situations that they’re leery of — in a calculated manner.
At first, at the ocean, they were terrified. So was I. I knew the risks and being away from the ocean for so long one forgets how powerful those waves are; how quickly something can go wrong. So, with my brother and his wife, we created protocols: eyes are always on the kids. You watch him, I’ll watch her. Tell me when we need to switch.
The axiom I’ve long lived with is: nothing great was ever achieved in comfort. And there is no such thing as guaranteed safety.
I grew up with an adventuring family. My best friend to this day, Daniel, has lived a long life full of outdoor adventures that started when he and his brother were nearly newborns on the Colorado rivers.
Daniel's advice on taking my babies into the wild was that: in the exploration of the unknown, you don't control m/any variables. A good adventurer knows and prepares for this. Controls you may have on your side, can disappear in an instant.
But, as he said: to have gone out and risked, and possibly failed, that is an adventure. That is where some of the greatest stories ever told are born.
Creative Adventuring isn’t just about the Outdoors
Again, it’s about a mode of living.
Sure, we can go to the creeks, which is our favorite. Or to the mountains. We can be on trails where we live in Colorado in under an hour. We catch can catch toads and frogs and tadpoles. We've caught snails - it was their first pet until they bred and made over 20 babies. We pick lilac flowers and make jam. We explore for bones and sightings of raptors and raptor nests. We are always on the hunt for our favorite flowers, the oft-elusive Colorado state flower, the Blue Columbine.
We also make DIY Barbie clothes. My five year-old does Kumon. We’ve just started the family band. We paint rocks. Dad creates drawings of them as their favorite superheroes, for them to color. We create educational tools, so they can learn to count money. So they can trace letters that spell their names.
Creative Adventuring Means: Step it Up
As their father, it’s up to me to guide them. To support them. In this paradigm of adventuring, it’s also my responsiblity to get creative. To find activities for them to engage in that are nourishing. Fresh. Provocative.
This mode of living puts pressure on me: to take the time, the effort. To learn new skills like how to make lilac jelly, how to draw better, how to create a lesson around whatever interests them at the moment — whether that’s the satellite dishes by our house, the llamas and alpacas, frogs, dinosaurs, whatever. It forces me to educate myself so that I can share appropriate material with them.
All of this: forces me to be a better parent. But moreover, to be a better man. To be the kind of man I always wanted to be.
This is a portrait of the parent as: Active. Engaged.
For me, the idea of creative adventuring is the panacea for all pitfalls like: helicopter parenting, creating emotional intelligence, overcoming adversity, learning about flora and fauna and for me, just learning how to simply be the best parent for these three unique creatures that I can be.
But in order to do that, I've learned that you must be willing to set your ego to the side. You must be willing to be injected with a little fear. You must face risk.
Why would you do this at all?
Answer: because the rewards are simply too great to not risk the loss of old maps and old ideas that were never working for us anyway.
Creative Adventuring is the act of letting go.