You can't do that. It's dangerous. Aren't you scared? Why? That's irresponsible. You're putting yourself and your kids at risk.
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Adventure is in my heart and soul. It’s deeply a part of who I am, and who I have always been. Having children didn’t change that. But, it did change what I heard. You can’t do that. You can’t take them hiking. You can’t take them on adventures. You can’t do it yourself. It’s not safe. You’re being irresponsible. You’ll get hurt. They will get hurt. Something will happen. It’s too dangerous to go alone. It’s too dangerous to go with children. And on, and on, and on. The media and the world makes us believe those fears. Those fears that as mothers we have to wrap our children in bubble wrap and sequester them away from adventure in safe rooms. That our lives are no longer our own and we must drop parts of who we are in order to be the best caregivers. Friends, I want to tell you that there are huge parts of those messages that are just not true.
My second child was born just after we moved nearly fourteen hours away from any family. We made a choice for our family that I would stay home with our children, which over time led to our choice to homeschool. A lifestyle that is not for everyone and I recognize that we are incredibly fortunate to have that choice. That choice gave me time and flexibility when it came to planning our family trips. But I quickly came to realize that it felt like a waste of my husband’s precious vacation time to wait for him to take time off to help me drive to see my Mom or to see his parents. It would be an extra four days of vacation that we otherwise could save for fun as a family. So, when my daughter was about six months old, I decided to give it a try. My son was three and already a well seasoned traveler and I was confident that he would be fine. I resolved to take three days to do the fourteen hour drive if I needed to. Our van was well stocked with endless snacks, picture books, toys, and a row of pacifiers lined up on the dash so I could hand them back to my daughter, because she was really good at throwing pacifiers.
Little victories build to success.
It wasn’t easy, nor was it pretty. But, we did it. I managed to make the trip alone. The hardest part was getting us and all of our stuff into a hotel in one fell swoop, without drawing an inordinate amount of attention to ourselves. Over the years of solo adventures, I’ve built up a system for getting us in and out of hotels as smooth as possible. You can read about that system on a blog post that I did for Run Wild My Child this past summer. You can read all those tips HERE. That first trip opened not only my eyes but my heart to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we were meant for more. That this motherhood journey didn’t mean an end to the adventures I craved in my soul. The trips to visit my family became a regular thing. Eventually carving the trip down to two days, and even adding in fun stops along the way. We started taking daytrips, just my kids and I. To area museums. Hiking trips. State parks. Stretching and strengthening myself.
Little did I know at the time, but that year of building was leading to something epic. A trip that would change me. Three weeks with my children, roaming out west in our DIY minivan camper. We danced our way across the desert, under the glow of the endless starry skies. It was difficult and exhausting, but equally epic and exhilarating. Read about that adventure HERE.
Becoming responsibly brave.
Soon the whisperings of “you can’t” become procolmations of “you are so brave!” But the thing is, I don’t consider it blind bravery. It’s what I like to call being responsibly brave. It’s walking alongside your fears, equipped with knowledge about what you’re walking in to, what dangers you may encounter, and escape routes if needed. It means being a strong and adventurous person, but not walking blindly into that adventure. It means being a good steward of the world around you and leaving places better than when you found it. It’s a mindset. It’s a habit. And it’s a way of life. A way TO life. Responsible bravery is a means to walk alongside your fears and it’s built step by step with knowledge, practice, and patience.
The tools to move past fear.
This newfound freedom was a gift. But I didn’t open it right away. It took training on my part. Anxiety gripped me every time I left my house. But I chose to fight it. And the weapons that I fought it with were knowledge, practice, and patience.
- Knowledge in the form of books. Books that inspired me to keep going. I read stories of brave and strong women, stories of adventurous families, and stories on the importance of time spent outside for everyone. Some of the stories inspired me to keep my “why” at the forefront of my thoughts and some were about diligence in pursuing a path. A list of those books that so profoundly impacted me can be found HERE.
- Practice came by starting small and building from there. We started with a hiking excursion to a local park only fifteen minutes away. Then I tried a park thirty minutes away. Then an hour, and so on. Each time stretching my children and myself. Some of those trips were a disaster, of the “everyone is looking at me and my screaming kids” variety. Some of the shenanigans were a complete success, with minimal tears, no injuries, and everyone returned home in somewhat clean clothes and nothing missing. Over time I learned what were essential pieces of gear and what could be left at home. I practiced what I would do in difficult scenarios, outlined action plans and ran them over in my head. I practiced keeping a calm and level head when the situation veered away from my control, whether it was grumpy children, weather changes, museums being closed, car trouble, or an interaction in the woods with other people that made me uncomfortable.
- Patience is the essential component for moving past fear. You’re not going to smash that wall in one punch. Unless you’re Hulk, and some of you may have the emotional strength to do that. I did not. Anxiety kept showing up, bolstered by my fears. It made me angry. But that anger didn’t help. Patience did. Patience with myself as I grew stronger and patience with my kids as they did the same. Just like driving across Texas, this journey will take some time. So buckle up, put on your playlist, and get ready to wait it out. Because good things are coming.
Make that list.
Friends, will you join me? I’d like to invite you to begin by making a list. This list can be the fears that grip you, it could be the things you want to do, it could be a bucket list, it could also be thing you want it to be. Just begin by writing out whats on your heart. This list can be the beginning of your travel journal and the beginning of something wonderful. Take your time, do your research, and dive into your adventures – whatever they may be. Wishing you all the courage to be responsibly brave.
I’d like to pause here to pay tribute to the one who encouraged me to move past my fears: my husband. He is the biggest supporter of my crazy schemes – from building our minivan camper to trusting me to travel across the country with our sweet children. Our life is what it is because of him, because of his hard work and sacrifice. And his willingness to chase these shenanigans along with me, in whatever way he can.
I’d like to invite you to join me in this journey.
Share your adventures with me using the hashtag #responsiblybrave and I’ll share your stories with the world.
Friends, let’s redefine motherhood, one shenanigan at a time.