Not That Kind of Guy

Miles-Headphones If you’ve been following my geocaching rants for a while, you’ll know that my son Miles (6) has been my constant caching companion for the past couple of years. Since he was 4 1/2, I’ve been able to blurt out “Let’s go grab a cache!” and he’s been ready to hit the trail at the drop of a hat. Rain or shine, urban or deep woods, he’s been game to go. When he got old enough to realize that most geocache prizes were more like geo-crap than actual hidden treasure, it didn’t matter – he knew it would still be an opportunity to climb trees, get muddy, play with sticks, find bugs, vault fences and run scrambling down a dirt track, getting his ya-yas out.

A few months ago, all of that started to change. Somewhere along the way, he began to realize that every hour out hiking was an hour not building Legos or making stories at home. And while he was good for five-milers from a very early age, at some point he figured out he could claim to be “tired” after the first 200 yards, and even that passive resistance (laying down in the middle of the trail) was an effective way of brining an excellent afternoon outing to a grinding halt. I’m not positive, but think he learned this from watching other kids do it on group outings. Big ears, and alla that.

It’s a drag. What for the past couple of years had seemed like the perfect father-son bonding activity had often become a wrestling match when it came to getting out of the house. Of course, he usually had fun once he hit the trail, but his little power plays to resist the very idea of going out have become both more strident and more devious. Along the way we mutually recognized that a certain amount of negotiations would do the trick: “If I go geocaching with you today will you play Lego Star Wars with me tonight?” (an excellent deal for me, since I secretly love playing Lego Star Wars).

But even that tactic may be losing its effectiveness. After Amy informed him that we were going to do a big hike tomorrow, he apparently complained: “The last day of Thanksgiving vacation, ruined by a hike? Why do you guys even think I like it? I’m not even an outdoors kind of guy!”

Ouch. Why don’t you just put me in a resting home right now, little squirt? Our Ultimate Bonding Activity, totally up-ended. OK, so you’re not into geocaching anymore. I can live with that. But “Not an outdoors kind of guy?” Where did you even learn an expression like that? And is that an example of genuine self-knowledge, or just an extension of increasingly sophisticated rhetorical ploys to let you stay home and play? And how can I make hiking feel more like play to you?

Well, Sid the Science Kid recently told you all about the importance of getting a good dose of cardio daily, and you seemed to buy that. But Sid or no Sid, just don’t wound your dear old dad like that, eh? Ouch.

Music: The Fall :: Before the Moon Falls

3 thoughts on “Not That Kind of Guy

  1. And how can I make hiking feel more like play to you?

    I’m not a parent, so I’m just speaking of my own experience as well as observation of others, but it may simply be that you can’t..

    Miles is, likely, still too young for rebellion for rebellion sake, so it is possible that as he develops into more of his own person, he simply realizing that he isn’t into the same things as you (in this case, hiking/caching).

    Perhaps, as a trial balloon, you can think of some other outdoors-y activity that he may like as a way for him to get some exercise/cardio.. Maybe “I’m not even an outdoors kind of guy!” really means, “Dad, I know you love it, but I really don’t like hiking.”… If that works, maybe you can learn to enjoy that activity with him, and he may be more willing to pepper in the occasional hike/cache…

    Or maybe I’m just putting too much thought into it… :)

  2. Nathan (6 in March) has some similar behaviors.

    Sometimes it actually is rebellion – I’ve had him emphatically refuse to do things or eat foods he loves, simply because he’s not in a mood to do what Daddy is suggesting (fairly rare, so far).

    Other times, it’s something like what you just said – an hour spent hiking is an hour not spent playing with Legos, or figures, or forts made of pillows, or on the Wii.

    But what I’ve seen the most of is a high amount of personal inertia (something I have to admit Jenni has, also). Bird-in-the-hand, and all that. He may like doing X a whole lot, but doing X involves getting dressed, getting gear on, and going someplace. But he’s already doing Y, and Y is okay. X might be better, but that means giving up Y… nah.

    And sometimes, I’ll just go off anyway (depending, of course, on what Jenni has going on).

    “Nathan, I’m off to do X. Wanna come?”
    “Nah.”
    “But you like X.”
    “Nah.”
    “Ok.”

    And when I come home and mention what I did – 3 times out of 4, Nathan will be upset that he didn’t come. “I asked you. I told you what I going to do. It was your choice.”

    We do have to realize that, by all odds, there will come a time when we’re not the guy to go do stuff and share things with. They won’t want to play with us, they’ll want to play with their friends, or on their own. Doesn’t always happen but, most times, it does. And hopefully they’ll create their independence and decide who they are, and old dad will fit back into that again.

  3. Jim, you nailed it with that description of rebellion at 6. There definitely is an element of rebellion for rebellion’s sake going on – it’s the first awakening of the realization that he has some power in the world, that he gets to make his own decisions, that he’s not just an accessory to what Amy and I choose to do. And like you say, most of the time he’ll still have an excellent time once he gets into the right frame of mind – the challenge is getting him into that frame of mind to begin with.

    Sean, I think there is an element here of my possibly having overdone it with the hiking and geocaching over the past couple of years. I’ll cop to that. But to be clear, we do have other kinds of outdoor activities that we both enjoy – throw the bikes on the car and go for a ride along the ocean, soccer or frisbee at the park, etc. And we’ve been mixing up the weekend activities with those kinds of things more and more over the past few months, which provides variety for both of us and helps him to feel more in control of the agenda. So there’s a more healthy balance in agenda setting lately :)

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