How Packing in Less Teaches My Son More

This is one of the latest Silent Sports Insider blog posts from the Door County Visitor Bureau.

My son will be two in October, and after reading the countless (and contradictory) volumes of parenting books, articles, and blogs regarding how to raise a healthy and confident child, I am exhausted.

What I have learned during the past two years is that every child is different and parenting requires endless patience and acceptance that the priority in life has gone from me, to we, to baby. One of the things I want most for my son is for him to develop an appreciation and love for the outdoors. I imagine us taking bike trips together and camping in the woods, tying a canoe atop the car and exploring the shoreline, and bonding over an activity like kite-boarding, as long as I can keep up.

I cannot wait to make these wishes reality, however I am left with the question of how to cultivate the passion for silent sports in him without being overbearing and hovering over his every decision.

Just a few days ago, a respected friend and I crossed paths at the drop-off for daycare. His son, who is four, was so excited to show me his collection of artifacts from the ‘nature day’ he had yesterday with his dad. Among his treasured collection were rocks, shells and an animal bone.

I chatted with my friend for a bit about his conversations with others, young and old, and what they remember most, and remember best, about their visits to Door County were hikes in the woods and walks along the shore. I meditated on this idea for a while and my answer appeared.

Hiking on a trail surrounded by the wonders of nature opens an imagination and a sense of awe overtakes us. We become reconnected to a primal form of curiosity as we admire the scenes the seasons brush for us. Down Shore Road in Baileys Harbor lies the entrance to Toft Point State Natural Area, which contains 325 protected acres that jut into Lake Michigan. My son and I went there yesterday, and as we alternated between zig-zagging across the trail and stroller rides, I saw him light up.

Though his speech was mostly incomprehensible, his constant excited babbling was doubtlessly a narrative informing me of all he was seeing and thinking. Respecting the ethos of Toft Point, we didn’t take any treasures to take with us back home. But we left happy and with a desire to have another nature day tomorrow.

During the last two years I have learned that the less I try to pack into an experience with my son, the more we get out of it. A hike in the woods doesn’t require technology or money, and you don’t have to stand in line. A hike in the woods caused us to notice the nuances and inhale the sublime spectacles flooding our senses.

I know I cannot force my son to enjoy the activities I enjoy, but I know I can encourage an interest. Our hike down Toft Point was a wonderful start.

Andrew Holdmann has called Door County home since 2007. He teaches government, psychology and sociology at Gibraltar High School. In his spare time he and his wife Courtney introduce their toddler son to the wonders of Door County.