This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who is ready to rock. And tree. And river.
So there I was, 30ish feet off the ground in a rock climbing gym, with my 4-year-old shouting from the ground, “Let go, Daddy! The rope will catch you!” Never mind that I wanted the exercise of the challenging “downclimb,” or, more importantly, that I have AN INTENSE FEAR OF FALLING. Viva had become enthralled with rappelling, and wanted to see me bounce down the wall, too. Now, there was no danger of getting hurt. I was “on belay” on an automatic system that would catch and lower me as soon as it felt my weight (my baby was literally doing it over and over), but I didn’t want to feel that half-second falling sensation, and was hoping she’d stop shouting for me to drop so I could climb down, drive home and go back to writing operas.
She didn’t stop, and I dropped, and we high-fived, and we went back to climbing … and it was awesome.
Everyone knows we now live in a “nerfed” world of safety corners and safety helmets and the safety dance (if you want to). If Viva had grown up in the ‘70s and ‘80s she’d spend the weekend like the rest of us did: riding a bike with no helmet down railroad tracks and smoking a cigarette while Satan worshippers in vans followed and tried and get us to play Dungeons & Dragons. It was a simpler time. We also live in a cities and towns with increased road traffic and decreased uncharted territory. They paved paradise (or at least tetanus-filled empty lots) and put up a Circuit City (which is now a dollar store).
Sure, the city has its own kinds of adventure: riding the Red Line on a Saturday night without sitting in body fluid, eating raw ox kitfo in a storefront restaurant that hasn’t seen a health inspector since Jane Byrne was mayor, attending public school–that sort of thing. But how do we have oldy-timey large motor adventures with our kids these days? How do we promote physical literacy, courage, creativity and problem solving? Here are five steps to start the thousand mile journey:
Fear leads to the dull side
To be a more adventurous parent, you have to let go of your natural obsession with self-preservation and your child’s safety. That doesn’t mean you have to expose them on the cliffs to vultures and the elements, it just means accepting the possibility of them getting scrapes. It means spotting them while they climb things without crash mats under them. It means heading the new locations, running fast, throwing things, getting dirty and moving your fragile old-person body. Stretch first. You can do this.
Try something new
You’re never too old to learn new tricks. You’re too old to be good at them, but you can still learn them. Climb (see the info below to join us this Saturday), skate, ride, jump, fall, laser, row and swing. There are gyms and indoor or outdoor locations for all of these activities that your kid will love and will mark a few things off your bucket list.
Get back to nature
Chicago has plenty of awesome playgrounds and you’re probably sick of half of them. Try climbing an actual tree away from the equipment or on a school campus. Here are some tips! Hit the lake front or, if you’ve got a little more time:
Get out of the city
Balki had it right. If you want serious adventure, hit the larger wooded areas in the ‘burbs or head down state to the state parks and river valleys. (This state isn’t all budget crises and traffic.) The sushi is lousy and if you hear banjos, paddle faster–but otherwise it’s very fun out there and the possibilities are endless.
Let your Junior Woodchuck lead
Your child needs to do the physical activities that are interesting and joyful to them, which might not be as interesting to you. Do they want to play tag for an hour? Throw the ball the same way 100 times? Make you spin them around until your inner ear feels like it’s been in NASA training? Suck it up and stay in the moment. Even if the moment is repetitive, even if you start to ache and even if you have to stretch your comfort level.
These tips are incredibly simple, but it’s not that you don’t know this stuff. It’s that you’re too ossified, antsy and stressed to follow them. Get out there, though, and you’ll end up with a much more rounded kid, and a less rounded belly … and maybe scraped-up knees, but that’s your badge of honor!
If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe (free!) to The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast on iTunes or on Soundcloud, or visit www.paternitypodcast.com.
*The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast will be recording live at the Brooklyn Boulders Climbing Adventure Summer Preview this Saturday, May 21! (100 S. Morgan St., Chicago) The event runs 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. and gives a sneak peek into BKB Adventure Camps with climbing, ground games and creative arts perfect for kids 5-12. Mention this blog or podcast to get in free! (Normally $15 for kids.) Come hear funny Chicago dads Matt and Todd record their show from 10-11:30 a.m. and climb with Viva! More info here!
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