raising little ones in the great outdoors

Sans Infant: Three Tips for Getting After It

Continuing with this week’s theme, we surveyed our team of mothers and fathers to harvest tips for getting out in the first year. As Danny mentioned in his featured post, it is both a wonderful and angst ridden period. Keep your sanity by instantly figuring out how to maintain your passions. It may mean redefining what the natural world means to you, but maybe not. It’s going to take a little creativity and a lot of communication. Here’s three tips to help you along.

1. Embrace Darkness

Buy a headlamp. Buy two. Get over that fear of the dark.

“I have embraced the time after my kids go to sleep,” Jason Albert, who regular escapes to the Nordic trails near his home in Bend after his little ones have hit the hay. “Skiing at night also makes the trails you’ve skied or hiked over and over again a little more tolerable because you can only see a few feet ahead.”

Albert is not alone in his use of the dark hours. When the 4 a.m. baby siren goes off, Steve Bohrer deals with the business at hand. Then, instead of returning to bed for an hour or two of fitful sleep, he regularly squeezes in a trail run. “Getting out of bed is the hard part,” says Bohrer. “Once you’re up you might as well take advantage of the situation. Getting less sleep is a time honored tradition for parents.”

2. Communicate and Trade Days

Our significant others are often our partners in crime when it comes to getting out, but in those early months consider climbing, skiing and running with others in order to maximize your time outside.

“In those early years, it’s key to swap days,” says climber Craig Demartino whose kids have now gotten old enough that he and his wife Cynthia are climbing together again. By trading days, you can still ensure that you and your partner get a long day once and a while. It also provides a way to remain social and catch up with friends. Again, clear communication and advanced planning pay dividends here.

As Steve Bohrer notes “You got to be careful with the ‘If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ That’s what got us into this predicament in the first place.”

3. Take Advantage of Your Childless Friends

Use your friends. The outdoor community can be wonderfully supportive. Everyone, whether they have children or not, understands the angst that comes from not pursuing your goals outside of work and family. More often than not your childless friends are more than willing to do a little babysitting. Think of it from their perspective. It’s kind of like test-driving a car. Babies are pretty cool after all. Remember, that inside all of us exists natural parenting instincts even if parenthood isn’t the adventure we’ve embarked on. Changing a diaper isn’t rocket science, and if a friend offers to babysit they genuinely mean it. Tap into the network.

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3 Responses to “Sans Infant: Three Tips for Getting After It”

  1. The Swedes have it figured out: get your kids on a sleep schedule. The adage goes, “Sleep begets sleep.” And it does…but there are a few things you can do to help the process.

    1. When awake, get the baby outdoors (bring out the BOB!) and/or playing in natural light. Our active, outdoor lifestyles afford us plenty of fresh air and sunshine to make the cherubs sleepy.
    2. When it is time to sleep, make their rooms dark. Our kids’ rooms are like caves–and they go to sleep early, sleep soundly (most of the time), and sleep for consistent periods.
    3. Put them to bed early. The schedule around here for 7 mos. old is 6 a.m. wake-up, 8:30-10 Nap #1, 1-3 Nap #2, 5:45 Bedtime. (he is still waking up once around 11 p.m. just make sure I’m still paying attention, but he goes back to sleep rapidly). Babies who miss their sleep “windows” actually have a hormone released that helps them stay awake–making them more irritable, jumpy, and fussy–and harder to get to sleep.

    I really think it helps (and you can schedule your day/adventures around those times), and–if you only have one kid–you have the rest of the evening with your spouse (great for communicating, eating dinner, and plotting your first adventures w/ infant). Even my sister with twins found that it works, but she has a more complex problem solving matrix to manage (she now buys postage online and would prefer that chivalry NOT be dead).

    I will admit, however, we went over the top with our first son: I was so concerned with too much light in his bedroom at night that I read to him, by headlamp (see “Embrace Darkness”), til he was almost 2.

  2. Nathan(8), Ella(2), Shane & Annie(35) says:

    Putting the little buggers to bed early and on a schedule is very important…but the schedule can also come back to haunt you any time you are not at home. If the kids are so used to schedule and routine can make your night in a tent one of those that you will talk about when they get older.

    We allowed Ella to establish her own pattern which was much easier for us to adapt to, especially when on the road or trail. She puts herself down…much later than we would like, but if we force her to bed earlier we would be up for Borer’s 3am mornings…Embracing 3am is great for a while, but day after day your relationships, work and body start to show wear.

    Another thing never to forget…every kid is different, and what may be easy for me or you is completely impossible for the next person…If I got a foot of rope every time our childless friends said ‘when I have kids I am going to…’ –we try not to say anything when they actually breed…but sometimes, usually after a couple of glasses of wine, that I can’t resist the reminder…

    8:40am – the wife just got up on her sleep in day…damn she’s in a great mood…too bad I didn’t get a ride in this morning…but worth it…

    Get some sleep…SB

    • True words…and looking back on the post (with the rather extreme Step 1, 2, 3)…maybe this Momma was the one needing to be on a sleep schedule, or–at least–scheduling some time for sleep. Yikes. Thanks for the perspective.

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