By Geremy Olson
I can tell stories all day long about all the fun I had with my dad in the outdoors. There was the time he learned how to remove fish hooks from my head. The time we cooked all weekend without utensils because yours truly left them all at home. There was the two guys we saved from drowning on a hot summer’s day and camping on the ice over the winter. Yeah, I have lots of memories that are cherished and many more that will always get a good laugh around the glowing campfire. The thing that they have in common is they were made possible by a dad that spent quality time with me.
As a parent or grandparent there are a lot of books and perspectives on what it takes to raise kids. One thing is for sure you don’t even have to be a parent yet before people start doling out parenting advice. Throw in the outdoors and you get all sorts of anecdotal advice that generally never applies to your situation. Most people are looking for the one right way to raise kids. I am not that guy and this is not that article. This article is about what I’ve learned from my dad about spending quality time in the outdoors with my kids.
There are a lot of ways to define success. The trouble is if you get it wrong you can do more harm than good. It breaks my heart when I see a family come in after a day of fishing or hunting with their heads hanging because they didn’t get a limit or the deer wasn’t big enough. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, however achieving goals is only one part of having a successful outing. Likewise, many people place a lot of emphasis on having fun on every trip. Fun is a great side effect of success, but when an outing isn’t fun it can still be successful.
Growing up, my dad never talked about success when we were in the outdoors. What he did do is set a standard for success that I didn’t realize until I was navigating through raising my own kids. This standard became a definition and more importantly a principle my wife and I use to raise our kids in the outdoors. We define success as “a positive outdoor experience where we learn together.” As a parent, it’s extremely freeing and for kids it removes the pressure to reach a standard they aren’t ready for. This definition allows families to have a successful day regardless of the circumstances of the outing.
Never Get Cold/Never Get Hungry
I love taking new anglers out on the ice for the first time regardless of their age. One of the biggest complaints however I get from these new anglers is that the food is so good that they are going to have to go on a diet when they get home. Another thing I learned from dad is that everyone is in a better mood when they are warm and full. It didn’t matter if it was a rainy week in the Boundary Waters or a snowy campout in the badlands, dad made sure we were warm and full. Somedays this meant we played a lot of cards in the tent instead of our planned activities and other days we worked hard to make it though the conditions knowing we would be warm and full at the end of our adventure.
Now that I am raising my own kids, I am learning how important this principle really is. In fact, the older I get the more I am learning that this principle has very little to do with food or shelter and everything to do with relationship and heart. All of us, regardless if we admit it or not, long to be loved and cared for. When we demonstrate that for our kids as they grow up, we are not only teaching them how to care for others we are building relationships with them.
Assess, Adapt, Improvise, Overcome
Any of you with a military background know this one in practice. For me this was more than a mission motto. It was a principle for life that helped me look at every situation with a multitude of possibilities. I grew up in a house without a lot of disposable income. I wanted a boat my whole life but we could never afford one. So I assessed my situation, adapted what I had, improved the tool I needed and I overcame the barriers in front of me. It seems funny now but when I was fourteen years old I had a Chevette with a roof rack that carried a canoe that would have made many of today’s kayaks look under equipped. I fished hundreds of hours each year in that canoe never once complaining about what I didn’t have.
Learning this principle in the outdoors also helped me get through school as a kid. Growing up dyslexic I had to learn how to look at what I could do, what I had access to and how to overcome the barriers that were in front of me. More importantly as I look back, I see how freely we learned life’s lessons in the outdoors without all the noise of the world getting in the way. As a parent it’s easier to reference a lesson my kids have learned in the outdoors and then suggest that they apply it to life.
Put Others First
I’m in my twentieth year of parenting and with every day that goes by I see all the ways my parents demonstrated this principle to me. I also have struggled the most with teaching this one to my kids when it comes to the outdoors. My dad didn’t like to hunt or fish. Partly because he was really bad at hunting and fishing and partly because his family didn’t hunt and fish growing up. Looking back I can’t count all the things my dad gave up to take me hunting and fishing. He put me and my dreams first over his own. When the opportunities arose he put me in places and situations where I had to choose whether I would put someone else before myself in the outdoors. I now have four kids with their own dreams and ambitions and it’s my responsibility to provide them with the opportunity to learn how to put others first.
There are endless right ways to raise kids in the outdoors because every kid and family is different. What I have learned over the years is that it’s important to spend quality time together. Quality time that can’t be planned or programmed, it can’t be bought or even guaranteed. But when I take the time to venture out into the outdoors with my family to stretch ourselves and learn together I get quality time with them. Not to mention more funny stories to tell around the campfire.
By Geremy Olson
ND FCA Outdoors Coordinator, ND AIM Tournament Director, Outdoorsman, Producer, Wildfire Consultant & Public Speaker. GOspeaks.live