Welcome to another FRIDAY FEATURE post! This week I have Nikki Harrington sharing about how to embrace the messiness that comes along with adventures! 

Adventure is out there.  Especially with littles in tow.  It is!  But sometimes you have to wade through the messy to get to the good stuff.  Actually, spoiler alert—the mess is part of the adventure.  If you embrace the messy middle as part of the adventure it makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable.  I swear.  For us, that messy middle of our adventures often comes in the form of a kid melting down. (And mud and sand.)  Can you relate?

Yesterday was the perfect opportunity for us to practice embracing the messy middle as part of the adventure.  We had planned to enjoy a laid back Sunday at home.  Then we looked at the forecast.  We had a window—no rain for the day but rain would be coming all week.  Let’s go!  If you also live in the Pacific Northwest, you get it.  Within 10 minutes we were piled in the car with the kids bikes in the trunk ready to explore a new trail near our house.  I felt a rush of joy, excitement, and adrenaline pumping with the anticipation of adventure, nature, and quality family time.  But no. I was snapped out of unicorns and butterfly land by the sound of whining.   Our oldest was apparently displeased with our decision for a spontaneous adventure.  My immediate emotional bubble thought was “Ugh.  She’s gonna ruin this.” 

A few deep breaths later I reminded myself to embrace the messy middle of this adventure, of parenthood.  Getting on the trail will help her regulate her emotions, I thought.  We parked in the trail lot, grabbed their bikes, strapped on their helmets, and sent them down the trail.  Ahhhhhh.  The green lush landscape, the flowing river, clouds moving quickly above with patches of blue sky peeking out, geese honking in the distance…I was enjoying an awe-inspired moment.  And then I heard it.  Our oldest was yelling at little bro and wouldn’t let up.  I felt myself becoming angry that she was jeopardizing our afternoon adventure.  But then I remembered that she’s five and likely trying to communicate something to us through her less than desirable behaviors of whining and lashing out at her brother. 

So I put on my big girl undies, checked my own emotions, and met her where she was at.  I got down on her level, eye to eye, and told her, “I can tell you’re having a hard time.  I’d like to help you work through your big emotions so you can enjoy this beautiful adventure.”  She smiled and wrapped her arms around me and then happily rode off on her bike to catch up to her brother.  She just needed to be seen and heard, to have her big emotions acknowledged.  We all do don’t we? 

This seemingly little thing, this quick 4-minute conversation I had with Evelyn, I’m certain it changed the trajectory of our afternoon.  She’s stubborn like her momma, and can brew with the best of them.  Little bro likely would’ve taken the brunt of her big emotions had I not embraced the emotionally messy middle and acknowledged it as part of our adventure.  Almost instantly, the energy of our adventure shifted and a beautiful afternoon unfolded. 

As we rode down the path along the river Evelyn kept noticing little paths carved out of the steep river bank and asked multiple times if we could hike down to the water.  I kept refusing.  Basically because it looked like a hassle and ‘muddy’ is what I mean by hassle.  I didn’t want to deal with mud, but once again, I reminded myself to embrace the messy middle, in this case, literally the messy (muddy) middle.  I reminded myself she was asking me to join her on an adventure, she was asking that I witness her flex her adventurous muscles.  As we hiked down the bank, her smile told me everything I needed to know.  Embrace it all. 

We got to the water and I could see the shift.  The shift that happens when Evelyn is near the water.  The water calls her.  She is Moana.  Ok, not exactly, but she does have the costume.  She is giddy and free and totally at peace.  It’s glorious to watch Evelyn connect with the water.  These are the little nuggets that make adventuring so worth it.  Later as we hiked back up to the trail, other trail-goers told us of another bank a bit further down the trail that was wide, flat, and sandy.  Evelyn took off.  She and Kai ditched their bikes and ran down the bank squealing with pure joy and immediately digging, splashing, cartwheeling, and giggling. 

We spent the next two hours at that sandy bank.  Corey and I had a front row seat to childhood at its finest.  We watched in awe as play connected them as best friends, rather than the enemies they had been an hour earlier.  Give my kids sand and the possibilities are endless.  This was another opportunity for us to embrace the messy middle, because my kids don’t shy away when it comes to sandy sensory play.  We had not come prepared, and I am the queen of being prepared.   On a typical family adventure, I pack extra everythings—towels, changes of clothes, shoes, snacks, Band-Aids, water—you name it, I have it.  But this adventure was a spontaneous, last minute one so we choose to embrace it and just roll with whatever unfolded… mess and all.  They end up covered head to toe, of course they did.

Did this make for an extra step for mom and dad to clean them off before we got into the car?  Sure.  And did we make them strip down and ride home naked to keep our car from becoming a sand box?  Yes and yes. But the massive smiles on their sweet faces and the learning that just happened through all that glorious child-led sensory sand play was so priceless.  We embrace the mess because the mess brings so many benefits to our family.  Mostly, a family engaged in the moment and connected, and deliriously happy kids. 

This adventure included a handful of messes, but by changing our mindset in how we approach the messy middle, we changed the overall vibe of the adventure and experienced so much joy.  Adventuring with kids can be exhausting if you’re always battling the tantrums, the mud, the sand, the constant need for snacks, the endless potty breaks, the inevitable ouchies that need bandaids.  I know this well.  But we’ve traveled and adventured enough to know that viewing all of these inevitable parts of childhood as road blocks to adventure doesn’t serve us.  By taking a hard look at our approach to adventure (and parenthood and life), we’ve been able to shift our mindset (most of the time- we’re nowhere close to perfect!) and infuse so much more joy into our family adventures.  Embracing the messy middle is the secret sauce of adventuring as a family.  I swear!  

Hi! I’m Nikki.  I’m so honored to hang out with you today!  2 wild kids call momma and one hunky dude calls his wife.  I kinda like them.  And I LOVE to travel and adventure with my crew.  I used to think of travel and adventure as this big grand thing where the destination was IT.  How wrong I was.  A few things have helped me learn this lesson: becoming a momma, experiencing postpartum anxiety and depression, and chasing our huge family dream—we sold it all, bought a sailboat, and moved to Puerto Rico to travel full time via sailboat with a 2.5-year-old and 6-month old in tow.

Our dream was then quickly squashed by two massive category 5 hurricanes. I’m crazy passionate about living a life full of adventure and travel with my family, despite the obstacles and failures.  Because, to me, it’s about bravely embracing the process.  The messy middle of travel and adventure promotes a unique kind of connection and growth for my family and we’re all here for it.  You can find me at @ourtravelanew where I write about all the adventures with my littles, traveling down the path of conscious motherhood, chasing big dreams, and how life (and failure) happens FOR you not to you.  Embracing the process makes family adventure so much more glorious.  And snacks… not just because our little humans sit next to me on very long airplane rides.  Snacks, the salty ones, are my favorite food ever.  Cheers!  

You can read more at Nikki’s blog here

Thanks for sharing this story Nikki!

Thanks for reading these FRIDAY FEATURE posts! If you’re interested in sharing some of your story, send me an email at coleyraeh@gmail.com or message me on Instagram!

Let’s chat!