My Kids Needed an Adventure

DCIM118GOPROLast week, my son Cody (10), my daughter Laila (8) and I, along with my friend Matt and his oldest daughter drove two and a half hours north to Traverse City, Michigan pulling a trailer with five kayaks and a trunk full of gear.  Matt had found out about an island in the Grand Traverse Bay with over 200 acres of nature preserve plus a small island connected by an isthmus that has five rustic camping spots.  So, arriving at Bowers Harbor, we put all our gear in trash bags, packed the kayaks full, and began the 3+ mile paddle to the island.  The winds were not in our favor and the trip over was a real challenge – both Matt and I had the kids’ kayaks tethered to ours for safety.  We even had a false start in which we decided to head back to shore and wait an hour for wind conditions to improve.  We made it safely though, and for the next 3 days we camped, ate, explored, ate, swam, kayaked, and even slept a little.  We gave the kids trail maps and they led the exploration through the thick forest to the sand beaches.  They collected wood and stoked the fire.  They got filthy dirty.  And as I watched my son and daughter own the island for a few long days, I was left with this one clear thought –

My kids needed an adventure.

They needed their eyes wide and their blood pumping.  They needed to sink their toes into new sand and soil.  They needed an awakening.

Even when my wife and I are at our very best and most intentional (which, I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of times when we aren’t), it is very easy for us to let our family and home slip into a routine.  Do this, eat that, go there, drive here, shop then, wash this, brush that, rinse and repeat.  Pretty soon, you find yourself operating on autopilot.

Autopilot is fine in airplanes, but harmful in humans.  And kids aren’t immune.

Sometimes we just need a break from the routine…something that shakes us out of our complacency.  We need a challenge.  We need adventure.

I loved watching my son come alive as he ran and climbed.  He loved tending the fire and smashing sticks against trees and chasing a raccoon from our campsite.  And the craziest part?  Not once did he say those two words parents dread – I’m bored.  He didn’t ask for screen time because he was out of things to do.  Adventure has a way of slaying the boredom dragon.

This trip was important for my daughter to experience too.  Sure this sounds like the making of a good father/son trip, but I wanted her to do challenging things too.  It is important that she sees herself not as fragile and helpless, but that she can be strong and confident.  She can do things.  She can have adventures.  And more importantly, her dad wants to have those adventures with her too, not just her brothers.

IMG_3886Not all adventures will look like this one.  Maybe camping is not your thing.  What’s important is that you do something that breaks you out of the routine…that reminds you that life is not simply composed of calendar appointments and to-do list items or searching Netflix for something decent to watch.  Find something that opens your eyes and invokes wonder, and be sure to invite others (kids/friends/random strangers) to do the same.

So, what adventures have you been on lately?




Father’s Day

Father’s day. Yes, that great calendar day set aside for honoring all the dads out there. I love today, simply because it reminds me of the great privilege I have of being a dad, and yet if I’m honest, I’ve grown a bit concerned with how dads are portrayed in modern society. I walked into a local big box store here in Grand Rapids and was suprised to see these two shirts hanging on the rack:


First shirt: “Wanted: Dad.  Last seen in front of TV.  $0 Reward.”  

Second shirt: “Danger: Dad offering advice.  Alternative route suggested.”

Really?  This is supposed to be funny?  And judging by the size of the shirt, it looks like dad might be the one wearing it, so this is now a gift given to dad.  I thought the aim of Father’s day was honor? Is this what honor looks like? I don’t mean to sound like I can’t take a joke, but I just have grown weary of seeing dads portrayed as lazy, dumb, and disinterested. Certainly there are many of those out there…dads that took off or checked out. Dads that worked too hard and never made it to a game. Dads that tore down and never took the time to build up.

But there are those of us that are trying. We don’t get it right all the time and we definitely make our fair share of mistakes.  We try to find the balance between hard work and family life and we don’t always make the right choice…but we are trying. We show up. We listen. We leave work early to make it to the game. We are around and stick around. We are trying.

How have you seen dads that are truly making an effort, and how can we celebrate those moments rather than glorify the all to common societal image of the lazy, dumb, and disinterested dad?

I think I felt something!

Sometimes, I have to question some of the things we say to try and explain Jesus to kids. Somewhere along the way, possibly from us, maybe at church, Cody (my oldest) was told that Jesus lives inside of him. I don’t know if we have really thought through how a 4-year-old might process such a revelation. Certainly with good intention, it is easy to tell a kid that Jesus wants to live “in their heart” without thinking through how such news might be received. I was not told this at such a young age but I could imagine that to be a pretty disturbing realization. I mean, kids are small. Where would he go?

Now obviously I don’t have issues with kids learning about Jesus. I love hearing my children talk about Jesus because it is my great hope they will choose to become his disciples. Nonetheless, I know that we need to accept that they might get it wrong, and I don’t think for one second that Jesus is disappointed in them.

Take last night for instance. My two year old daughter decided to stick both fingers up her nose. Not very uncommon around our house (with the kids, that is). Anyway, Cody, upon seeing Laila up to her knuckles shouted “Laila! Be careful! You’re going to touch Jesus!”

How can you not help but smile at something like that?