So much planning goes into preparing for a new child, and preparing to bring that new child into the outdoors is no exception. The following is a list of things we are doing to get ourselves ready for the biggest adventure of our lives.This has been a really helpful process for us, and I’ll be expanding on a lot of these ideas in posts that will appear over the next few months.
1. Educating ourselves
Though we both have a lot of experience with introducing older kids to the outdoors, this whole baby in the wild thing is pretty new to us. We have lots of questions about what makes sense developmentally, what the baby can physically handle, and how to ease the transition between what the baby perceives as the safe and familiar, and the aspects of wilderness travel that might be scary and upsetting to a very young child. This has helped us to develop a rough idea of when we can plan to do certain kinds of trips. Before researching, we didn’t know you couldn’t put a baby in a backpack carrier until at least 6 months, because his neck muscles aren’t yet strong enough to hold up his head. Good to know.
Though much of this will vary from child to child and will be something we learn along the way, we are trying to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible. Some of this comes from books, many of which we’ll review and present to you, some of it comes from looking for mentors or interviewing people we know who have managed to be successful in raising outdoor kids. We’ll also be beefing up our safety skills. For example, I’m planning to upgrade my Wilderness First Aid certification to a Wilderness First Responder in the next year, just to hone my emergency preparedness skills in case things go wrong somewhere along the way.
2. Researching local kid friendly trip options
Over the past few years, we’ve focused our explorations on the more wild locations around us; we’ve island hopped our kayaks along the Maine coast and up into Canada, and done a lot of longer hiking trips into the more untrammeled corners of our part of the country. Right now, we are still pretty mobile, though as my belly has grown bigger and my feet have swollen my pace more closely resembles a toddler than a through hiker. We’ve been taking advantage of this mobility to scout out local trails and parks for good kid-friendly excursion options. We’ve discovered a few new gems and now have lots of options for short day trips that we had not known about before.
3. Prepping the family
We aren’t quite sure how many of the people we know will react to our philosophy about raising our children. While many of them will likely think it’s great to expose kids to nature, we are expecting some criticism about how young we take our kids out, and how challenging we decide to make our trips. We have a short camping trip planned at about the 6 week mark, and have already had some head shaking. Critique is one thing; we have thick skins and can handle it. But we are trying to minimize concern from our family and friends by having early discussions with them about our plans, and reassuring them that we have our son’s best interests at heart. Hopefully these early discussions and reassurances will lay the groundwork for good communication that will help us bridge the differences between our own ideas and those of the people who care for us.
4. Gearing up
As I’ve mentioned, our first big baby purchase wasn’t a crib or a car seat; it was a bigger tent. Sean is the resident gear expert, and has been busy taking inventory of our supplies and figuring out how to streamline and re-purpose what we have to suit our new style of travelling. He’s added a bug tent and a set of portage wheels for the canoe, and done some research into baby backpacks. We want to outfit our new family without breaking the bank, and he has spent a lot of time learning how to make gear, such as dry bags for paddling trips, that fits our specific needs and saves us money.
5. Being outside as much as possible
Finally, we are trying not to lose touch with what we love most about being outdoors while in the midst of all this baby planning. Though I’ve slowed down a lot in the last few weeks, I cross-country skied all winter, took trips up into the mountains and spent as much time as I could fit into my schedule just enjoying being outside. Most recently, we paddled a quiet stretch of water and just talked about our dreams for the next few months. This work to make sure we share the same ideas will be crucial during the upcoming chaos, and we can look back at this time of preparation with fondness.