On the importance of dads

When I was about ten, my dad and I went for a walk in the woods nearby what we called “the old cottage.”  The old cottage was built by my great grandfather out of stone at Cedar Point, on Georgian Bay and Dad was doing what all fathers do, helping me experience a little bit of his childhood.  We were exploring a little bit and looking for the remains of two square log cabins that were rotting in the wood, no doubt from the earliest days of logging in the area.  We found the cabins, one had full walls and no roof and the other was just a few logs on the ground.

It amazes me to this day that those cabins, which must have been far beyond the reaches of civilization when they were built – there were no roads to them – were still standing just a few hours north of Toronto in the eighties.  They had lastest at least sixty years, and probably longer, as lonely shells in the woods.  I haven’t gone back to look for them in the past twenty five years, but I suspect that parts of them are still back there, quietly returning to the earth.

It also amazes me a little bit that I can still picture that day perfectly.  It was sunny and the sunlight filtered down to the forest floor a little bit through the canopy of trees.  It must have rained the night before or there was heavy dew because I got wet in the undergrowth.  There was a bit of a trail, but it was overgrown and dad showed me how to hold branches so that they didn’t hit the person behind you on the trail, something that I do to this day.

I hadn’t yet joined Scouts at this point in my life, so these were new lessons to me and they made an impression, so much so that I think of them often.

There are a few reasons why this day sticks in my memory so much and why it’s so important to spend time outdoors with your kids if you want them to spend time outdoors with theirs:

1) There are few times in a child’s life when their brain is learning so much as when they are tweens or teens.  Their brains are growing and forming pathways almost as quickly as when they are babies.  If you want to make an impression, make it on a ten or twelve year old.  They may be sullen little brats, but it will shape their lives forever.

2) Time spent with parents when you’re a kid is really important.  I’m sure I remember this day so well because I was with my dad.  I’ve tried a whole bunch of times to recreate the magic of that adventure with friends, and it’s never the same but I’ve had similar experiences with my son. Parent – child time is important.

3) We were on an adventure.  My dad and I have done lots of cool things together: he taught me to paddle a canoe, how to set up a tent and how to rebuild a sports car but the adventures we went on stick out in my mind.  I have more memories of heading out in our little boat to camp on another island and walks through the woods than of just about any other thing that I have done with my dad (and we’ve done lots of cool things).  Adventure is special.

4) We were doing something new and unique – we were finding a cabin.  We were explorers and we were adventurers.  In those days, before I was a teenager and knew everything, my dad was the coolest and this sort of thing was so cool!

Parents have an amazingly strong connection with their kids.  Even teenagers admire their parents.  This is an amazing thing and something that we need to take advantage of while we still can.

Childhood is special.

We need to enjoy it with our kids.

It only comes once.

Thanks Dad!

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