by Mae Kiggins
My husband Ryan doesn’t like the outdoors. Of all the men to fall in love with, it had to be one who doesn’t do outside stuff, but what can I say? I couldn’t resist his charm. In his defense, he does suffer from allergies, and insects seem naturally attracted to him, so maybe it’s more of a survival thing.My husband is willing to head outdoors with me because it makes me happy and he sees the obvious benefit to our family, but he won’t actively initiate the process. The one exception? Our honeymoon. He took me to Sedona, Arizona and the Grand Canyon, where we tucked away in a cozy cabin up Oak Creek Canyon, bypassing anything resembling a campground, yet savoring our own little private oasis. Fast forward two kids and the summer of 2013, when we took a 2,000-mile road trip from western Massachusetts to Texas, then continued on to southern Indiana. I, of course, wanted to camp every night. Ryan preferred hotels. As a compromise, we evenly split hotel stays and camping, and to my pleasant surprise, camping won for kid-friendliness, every time.
Our children were two and three at the time, and in to everything, making hotel experiences about as relaxing as a trip to the dentist. Camping, on the other hand, led to playtime in the dirt, foraging for firewood, and watching the campfire flicker until late at night. My husband witnessed the happiness of his children (and wife), and decided there might be benefits to camping he had previously overlooked. Thankfully, we both share a goal to recognize the making of good memories with our kids, and camping, with dirt, bugs, and all is but one pathway toward a lifetime of scrapbook-worthy moments.
Is your partner less than enthusiastic about the outdoors? In the interest of personal family harmony, here are a few tips to encourage those who may be reluctant about venturing outside.Make it about the family. Research shows that spending time outdoors together has benefits for strong relationships and a healthy, active lifestyle.
Start small. Take your partner on activities with a high chance for success, be it a short hike, a sunny day, or a camping trip close to home with amenities for comfort.
Make it easy. Initially, I did most of the preparation and planning for our adventures, but over time that has changed. My husband now takes a more active role in planning and packing for our trips, made easy with so many resources available via the internet.
Recognize strengths and challenges. Ryan loves shopping (we really are a backwards couple), and is a worthy team member when it comes to researching and purchasing equipment. The bonus? He is invested, has some control over his own comfort, and takes an active part in our outdoor experiences.
Make it tradition. We have started walking every Saturday morning as a family, and once a month go hiking or camping further from home. Tradition!
Go it alone. My kids and I head outdoors frequently, sans dad. It’s a bit more work, but worth it. Join a playgroup, hiking club, or gather other like-minded parents or friends together and make tracks. Just be sure that family time is planned, too.
Mae Kiggins is an “outdoor urban mom” with a background in forestry and outdoor education. She is publisher of the blog Mommy Loves Trees, pursuing a passion to educate and connect young people to the outdoors. She and her family live in Oklahoma.