Bribery. Not Just for Warlords Anymore

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I am not against a little bribery once in a while. Today it was just what the doctor ordered.

T’was a lazy day, and all of else felt like laying around. I didn’t have the energy to pour into a go big or go home event for our family adventure this week (minimum of one per week here). So we hit the golf course just a block from the house. Removing the car from the equation often makes things a whole lot simpler. I had no expectations at all, but this was a wild success, and the perfect use of one of our twenty four hours today.

As we walked up the main easy hill I told the twins I’d pay them each 50 cents if they scaled the steep “mountain” running along the course with me. With several spots of hand-over-hand type scampering/climbing, and 2-3 feet of snow under us, it was the perfect risk/reward ratio to amp things up a bit and give the kids a sense of accomplishment.

They were good and exhausted at the top, and earned the viewing of a movie later:

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My wife met us at the top of the main hill where the kids ultimately rode the sled down. I’m pleased to report that this old red sled is a cheapie I bought back in college nearly 20 years ago, and has seen some serious use, wear and tear:

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This continues a theme I’ve dealt with since having kids, and that involves the challenge of continually engaging them with a love for the outdoors when there are competing interests involving screen-time. Here’s a column I wrote a couple years ago when they first scaled this peak.

Recently my son asked, “When’s it going to be winter Mom?” She replies, “Um, it already is, Buddy.” “But there’s no snow,” he says.  All she had for that one was, “But there are sticks!”

Those of us with kids know just what a challenge it can be to get our kids to get enough playtime outside under even the best conditions in the winter, but this year it’s really tough. My encouragement to you is to view this as a challenge to be overcome, rather than an obstacle to beat your head into.

I am constantly trying to drive my kids outdoors for exercise, fresh air, and a fresh perspective, but am frequently thwarted in my efforts. I have even sweetened the pot by offering a nickel for every time the kids run up and down the large hill at the nearby golf course. Thus far the kids have each collected on that exactly once.

This past week I added the promise of adventure and exploration to this by taking them up a nearby mountain of rock. This involved hand over hand climbing (scrambling really)  directly up a fairly impressive rocky face. At the top of the mountain they took turns blasting an old boy scout bugle as loud as possible, which must have confused the dog walkers (not to mention the canines) below to no end. Then we experimented with a sling shot, and had a hearty snack.

It was a rousing success; an oasis within an otherwise vast sea of disappointments and frustrations in my efforts to encourage the family to be “outdoorsy.” If anyone should have such a family, it would be me, but I can assure you that this flat out does not come naturally in today’s world of entertainment possibilities.

I am not quitting, however, and neither should you. This is something to fight for, and to celebrate whenever such experiences are successful in bringing us closer together as a family, to creation, and to creator.

In the coming days we’re all going to invade the local used book store, where we’ll collectively scour the shelves for books to add to an adventure library. Often the key is in enlivening the imagination with possibilities for child and grownup alike.  Books like Jack London’s Call of the Wild come to mind, but it can’t stop there. A full battalion of books, fiction and non-fiction, will be necessary. We’ll fill a shelf with books that are page turners that keep the children begging for more, and instill a love for the natural world, adventure, and exploration.

Movies that visually depict men, women, girls, and boys, encountering nature in its sometimes sweet savagery, while surviving and thriving, should be useful as well. Shucks, Gilligan’s Island would even be useful in this regard. It really doesn’t take much to unleash the imagination of children before the trappings of the modern world have spoiled it.

Another tool in the chest is that of involving the kids in planning for upcoming wilderness trips in the summer. We’re already planning for our annual trip to the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula, where we’ve rented a backcountry cabin at the mouth of a river emptying into Lake Superior. The kids will need to pack in a few belongings on the three mile hike, so the time to train is now.

I will also be involving them in the procurement of necessary gear and clothing. The gear we have for our kids, in terms of clothing, sleeping bags and whatnot, is woefully inadequate. Well, to heck with the expense (within reason). We’re getting our children properly outfitted this year. The time to get children outside is as soon as possible. “Get ‘em while their young,” as the advertisers say.

The point is that you’ve got to fight fight fight to train your family to not just give lip service to loving the outdoors. Go to the mattresses on this one. Spare no expense. Look around at so many teenagers today, and their flat out addiction to cell phones, video games, the internet, movies, and other forms of media. The stakes are too high.

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