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5 Times Your Outdoorsy (Somewhat Dirtbag) Lifestyle Was a Lesson in Parenting

You've been unknowingly cross-training for the expedition of parenthood.

By: Sawyer Kid Co. + Save to a List

You’re not exactly planning for a kid. You’ve got a good thing going. Life is set up so that you’re able to go on adventures, to pursue new challenges and spend to your free time outside exploring the world. Yeah, you’re of the age range that was once considered “prime child bearing,” but you’re too busy gaining different types of life experiences to consider that. In your free time you’re training for the next big adventure or the next season of your favorite sport. There’s no time time for parenthood. Well, adventure-kid, you’re more prepared than you know. Here are five times your “Outdoorsy” lifestyle was actually preparing your for parenthood.

1. When you used change to buy a burrito

This was one of those moments where you needed bang for your buck. Whether it was a time of full blown dirt-baggin, the off-work portion of your seasonal employment or ya just left your wallet at home, you were hungry from sending your last big adventure...and broke. Luckily you found a couple dollars in a jacket pocket, some loose change in the cupholder, and soon enough you were shoving your fingers into the dark abyss of the seat cushion to crab-claw a shiny, long-forgotten nickel. After an extensive search and a split second thought of wondering what your life had come to-- you had a nice little chunk of change. Beans? --yes Rice? --yes. “Give me all of it.”  You were after a high calorie-to-dollar ratio. Apologetically, you shoveled over your heap of mix matched coins, scored that carne asada burrito that’d been calling your name and claimed the free water cup. Win.   

Lessons in Parenting: 

Pay for Food First: You weren’t about to spend those precious coins on a latte or a tube of fancy organic chapstick. Food was the first priority. Getting your money-spending priorities in order is a big step in learning to keep another human alive and thriving. Meeting the physiological needs of food, water, and shelter will be of utmost importance.  Thanks to being hungry and low on cash, you learned to prioritize.

A Go-To Balanced Meal: That burrito was tasty and had the refueling power you needed. You learned what a go-to balanced meal was. As the five basic food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy, that big ol’ burrito covered all the bases (of course, we assume the tomato is a fruit). Feed the kids what they need. Feed the kids burritos.

2. Your “Investment” of a Gear Purchase

You forked over some serious cash for gear. There was a time when you needed the right gear for the job and decided to invest in it. Maybe it was the step up from polyester to gortex,  the shoes that half a month’s rent, or the fancy camera to capture all the action. Whatever it was, you learned to keep that gear safe. As useful and resilient as it is, you take strides to keep it from getting stolen or unnecessarily ruined by, ya know.. leaving it out in the rain or dropping it off a cliff. Whether it’s long life or resale value you’re protecting, you’d like this stuff to last. You do what it takes to make that happen.

I can relate: There’s a wide range of “outdoor enthusiasts.” Most people fall along a spectrum of amateurs to gear-snobs. My goal is to sit somewhere pleasantly in the middle, with enough stuff to do the things I love but to avoid being homeless at the expense of my toys. Full disclosure, when you choose this route, the die-hard gear-junkies let you know when you’ve made a poor choice. My backcountry set-up is a little makeshift.  One season of within-my-ability touring on a second-hand MTN Approach board and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback. I’ve been so graciously informed by those eager-to-educate that I’m carrying too much weight into the backcountry, that I can’t possibly be getting the full experience of a day of touring. I’ve been asked why on earth I would choose to carry my board on my back. I could go on. My resort snowboard setup though, is top of line. I was choosy and particular about performance rather than cost, and I guard all of it with my life.


Photo: Partick Hendry

Lessons in Parenting: 

Investing is Worthwhile Your spend-y little toy has survived some pretty incredible adventures and you feel good about your purchase. The value might be in season-after-season of use or the fact the resale value remains high after some decent use. It’s an investment in the future. Kids will need you to set them up for the future, to invest in them. As nearsighted as the first day of school or as far off as college scholarships or how to choose a husband/wife, they’ll need you to invest your time and energy into setting them up for success.

How to Protect Valuables As simple as it might seem, it took purchasing something valuable to learn how to protect something valuable. You learned to stop and think about what you were leaving visible through your car windows. You began to consider if you could trust the environment you were in and the people in that space. It’s become instinctual to be a little defensive. Protecting your kid and helping them establish a sense of security will flow naturally.  That kid will likely become the most valued piece of your life.

3. That time you spent sleeping in your car

Likely, you’ve been there. You’ve spent a night or two, or an entire climbing season posted up in your vehicle. You made a little tray from a magazine on your lap to cut up an apple and ate the peanut butter right from the jar. Things were a little tight. You had to get creative, switching up sleep positions every now and then. All to avoid losing an entire arm from loss of circulation. You had to uh-- go find a public bathroom at 3 am and may or may not have peed in a bottle.  Maybe it was an entire month of van-living where you adapted to close quarters and minimal comforts. It’s something your east coast-relatives just wouldn’t really understand...living in a van, down by the river. For me it was mid winter in a parking garage of a fancy hotel in the ski town where I worked. Eight hours of ski-instructing, eight hours of waitressing, crash in the car and repeat. You made the most of the tiny space and were thankful for the dry, cozy place to lay your head.

Lesson in Parenting: 

Creating Comfort You stayed dry, warm and well-rested among what some would consider an uncomfortable situation. You made your little space as cozy as can be. Children, though they require more rest, need less space and can easily squeeze into the living spaces you’ve already established for yourself. You learned to take a less-than-ideal environment and make it a little haven for rest. You’ll be able to do this for that little spawn of yours.

4. The Lesson You Gave Jerry in Skiing

You’re friend Jerry was always asking you to take him skiing. We all know Jerry.  One day, you caved. Surely, you thought, one day on the bunny hill coaching in fast food terms couldn’t be so bad… pizza, french fries, pizza, french fries. Three hours and  five “rest” breaks later, Jerry was connecting turns... you may or may not have ditched him to get in a lap or two. You’d both discovered a whole new set of muscles that day. All in all, success. Though, it’d be awhile before you’d commit to doing that again. Winter is just too short.

Lesson in Parenting:

What it is to learn It’s been so long since you learned to ski that you barely remember learning. Skiing is just as natural as walking at this point. It takes a lot for it to be challenging. You had to put thought and effort into remembering what it was like to not know how to do something you most definitely know how to do. Now...apply that concept to everything you know. Being a parent will be a lot of teaching another human perfectly simple things: talking, walking, brushing your teeth, being kind. You spent the whole day with Jerry, recalling and putting into words how to do something pretty effortless. Now, commit to doing that for 18 (more like 26) years and you’ll be good to go.

5. That time Strangers Became Friends

This has happened more than once. You made a few new friends when you were out sending it. Maybe it was that time when your neighbor at the crag lent their guide book when you phone decided to die. Or maybe it was when you took the avalanche course and went touring with a classmate the next week, bouncing pieces of knowledge off one another. Perhaps it was when that friendly local shared a beer and a map at the confusing trail head. Wherever it was, you made a new buddy because you (or they) needed a little help.

photo: David Marcu

Lessons in Parenting: 

It Takes a Village There’s a certain level of codependence out in the wilderness, at the crag, in the backcountry or wherever you might find yourself. There is often a need for a little expertise or local beta. Raising a kid isn’t much different. They say it takes a village. You’ll find yourself leaning on the expertise and parenting “beta” of all kinds of people. You’ve learned to rely on others when you need it most, even when those people are strangers, and you’ll continue to do so.  The “asking for help” part of parenting will be a breeze.

How to Make a Friend As an avid outdoorsman you’ve come to know community. The further you immerse into the disciples you enjoy, you’re met with an increased level of community and belonging. Lot’s of strangers have become friends. Children need these skills. It can be a big scary world out there and the better your friend-making abilities, the better your life might be. You’ll be able to pass skills along to your kid. They’ll know to find friends of common interests. Friends that will be around long after you.

At Sawyer, we like the idea of not having to sacrifice a life outdoors at the expense of raising a children. It won’t be easy and you probably don’t feel ready but you’re much more prepared than you know.  It’s like any other expedition or trip. To a certain degree, you can prepare by research, training and experiences but as with any adventure, you'll fine tune the skills you need along the way. For a skilled outdoorsmen like yourself, it's no secret. Anything difficult, broken down into easy-to-manage parts, feels so much more attainable. In the same way you ease into training routines and choose to cross-train in the off-season, you’ve been preparing--unknowingly cross-training for the expedition of parenthood. When the time is right you’ll be ok. That, or maybe you’ll just get a dog.

- Shelby, of Sawyer

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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