Adventure parents Mark and Brooke Stephens with their daughters Chloe and Shiloh
Outdoor enthusiasts and bloggers Mark and Brooke Stephens know that being a parent is an adventure in itself. They also love rock climbing, skiing, camping and hiking. The couple founded the blog Adventure Parents, which aims to celebrate the outdoors and the importance of exposing children to them. MomTrusted talked to Mark Stephens about his blog and tips on adventuring with kids.
MomTrusted: How long ago did you start Adventure Parents?
Mark: The very first blog post published on May 5, 2009. At the time, maybe still today, I didn’t quite have a grasp on the vision for the blog. At least not much beyond that it’s going to be about the quest of parenting and how that plays a role, affects, diminishes, adds surprise or whatever-may-come to the active lifestyle my wife and I enjoyed before we had kids. It’s not so much about how to do anything as it as about exploring the journey and discussing the sorts of adventures other parents manage to pull off.
MomTrusted: Is Chloe your only child? How old is she now?
Mark: Chloe is five years old, but she’s not our only child. In September my wife gave birth to another daughter, Shiloh. She’s slowly drifting off to dreamland on my lap as I type this. She’s beautiful. We also hosted a 16-year-old girl, Ania, a foreign exchange student from Ukriane who shaped our lives so much that we don’t hesitate to call our daughter as well. She’s now 18 and attending a university in Lithuania studying English Lit of all things. She’s my hero.
MomTrusted: Why do you believe it’s important to educate your children about the outdoors?
Mark: Nothing too grandiose. We just want to raise well-balanced kids and expose them to many things. The outdoors, travel, culture, history, art, and hopefully they come to understand the joys of visiting wilderness, mountains, rivers, wild places and so forth. I want them to experience the satisfaction of hiking to the top of a tall peak or learning to turn in deep powder. Sure, embedded in this is exposure to the concept that the planet is undergoing serious depletion and overuse. But that’s just one side of it. I think it’s important to have a solid curiosity about the world and how it works. However, waaaay back when we were dating, our idea of a fun weekend was to go backpacking or rock climbing with friends. So out of a sense of nostalgia perhaps, we associate time outdoors with friendships and our budding romance. That’s good stuff.
MomTrusted: Would you say that some trips are easier with kids than others? Which are the easiest?
Mark: I would say that the variables are multiple and complex. In general, we find that a simple adventure road trip is pretty easy in the spectrum. My wife and I always enjoyed road trips, so we kind of emit positive, happy vibes when it comes to a trip and we think that helps get our kids excited too—that’s not to say the trip is exactly perfect and fun the whole time, no way. But not all families feel that way, some people think it’s nuts to be in the car for 30 minutes with their kids. Luck of the draw? Who knows. My wife and I really miss going hiking, backpacking and rock climbing. We’ve tried to get Chloe into hiking and to try her skills at simple bouldering, but she’s very hit and miss as to when she’ll be down for it. However, she loves going for a bike ride with me when I pull her in the kid trailer and she’s even asking for her own two-wheeled bike now. That’s exciting. Ania, when she lived with us, was awesome and always down for a hike, a road trip, a camping trip, anything that got her out of the house and spending time with us. She helped rekindle many of those things for me. Frankly, babies are the easiest age for just about any reasonable activity. If you’re game to carry the load, you can hike and backpack with a baby. Plenty of folks also keep rock climbing because it’s pretty simple to hang out at the crag for a day if there are enough hands on deck to be on baby duty. But when they turn into little kids with opinions and preferred activities, the game becomes so much more complex. This question is always a hell of a topic among our friends at a campfire. Everyone’s mileage varies.
MomTrusted: What is the largest challenge of outdoor adventuring with children?
Mark: Scheduling. When they start going to school and getting involved in other activities, obviously the window of opportunity narrows. There are birthday parties, which invariably get scheduled at midday on Saturday. Then there are swimming lessons, soccer games, neighborhood friends and whatever to keep you anchored at home. It’s not a bad thing.
MomTrusted: How do you overcome that obstacle?
Mark: Accept it and put shit on the calendar. Sorry about that. I mean there’s no such thing as spare time. There are priorities and goals and then there’s everything else. When there’s a trip you want to do, get it down on a date, put it on paper or your Google calendar or what-have-you. That goes for something as simple as a bike ride for me. I don’t specifically go write on the calendar “2:00 – 4:30 pm, Mark’s bike ride,” but I voice it to my family. “This Saturday I’m going to ride.” It’s not a demand or anything like that. It’s more like soliciting support to hold me to my goal. Know what I mean?
MomTrusted: What is one item that you will not leave for an adventure without now that you’re a parent?
Mark: Good food. We love cooking pseudo gourmet meals and semi-sophisticated foods while camping, stuff with fresh veggies and tasty appetizers and bottles of wine. We enjoy the challenge and the little exercise in luxury, if that’s the word for it. It’s fun.
MomTrusted: What advice do you have for other parents who seek outdoor adventure and want to expose their children to it?
Mark: You are not alone. Many parents are doing so at their own pace and on their own terms. Learn CPR and First Aid; chances are you won’t need them, but you’ll be empowered.