Thursday, August 13, 2015

Boy's Adventure Race

A few months ago, before school got out and the heat set in, Anthony was invited to a Boy's Adventure Race.  Adventure is something that we seem to be lacking in our family.  Growing up we had a healthy dose of it.  My family's our chosen summer vacation each year was Lake Powell. We would spend hours swimming, hiking, exploring the canyons and generally just relaxing in God's Big Playground.  We didn't do this in an opulent houseboat.  We camped on the beach, got sand in everything, hunkered down and held onto the tentpoles in the monsoon storms, and watched the waves and weather before heading out in my dad's little boat.  They were character-building experiences. When we weren't at the lake, we were camping at remote spots in the woods - replete with bears and snakes and spiders oh my. The beauty of His world and the danger posed by nature were two realities that was clearly evident my early years whenever we would venture out. 

This is not something that my kids have experienced much.  I married an amazing man who is not fond of the outdoors.  We don't own a cooking stove, although I think we probably have a tent somewhere in the garage. Sharing a sense of adventure with my kids therefore has been a bit more of a challenge, particularly since I would rather sleep on a bed of feathers than a bed of pine needles.  I have taken the kids camping a few times with my family, and they boys went with my brother this summer, but other than that they have been a bit lacking in the adventure department. So when I got the invitation for Evan to join a friend's team I responded yes without even asking him.

The Boy's Adventure Race was a neighborhood thing - sort of a kids decathlon- put on by a few families in the area.  The boys registered in teams of about 4 and competed in a variety of areas including - mind games, mud obstacle course, swimming, biking, map reading, scavenger hunt, and food challenge to name a few.

The course was contained in one neighborhood so no traffic outside the hood was affected and most of the challenges were held at the neighborhood park and pool.  There were a hundred boys or so involved and few girls thrown in there too*.

Yes, they allowed girls even though it was clearly a 'boys' event.  In fact Anthony got "stuck" (to use his words) behind a girl who really didn't like the idea of the mud bog she was going to have to crawl through. That was his only gripe of the whole day. 

I really appreciated this time for Anthony and his buddies to just be boys.  Middle school is a tough time for kids and the beginning of an even tougher time as it leads up to high school.  These kids had a chance to test themselves and rely on their team mates for something that was purely done for fun and bragging rites.  They ate crickets and other bugs - not on a dare, but as part of the program.  They explored the neighborhood on their own (well as a pack), got a little lost and found their way back again.  They got really really really dirty which was awesome and made me squeal just a little which he loved too. The boys bonded in an old-fashioned way - the way boys, used to before video games and insane sport's schedules.

As parents we can choose, to some degree, the type of childhood our kids have, but we can't completely change our time. They are growing up in a different socio-historical context than that in which we developed. Each generation has their own unique events and technological advances that influence their growth - developmentalists call this a "cohort effect". Try as we may, it is pretty near impossible to combat a cohort effect. Adventures like this one are awesome in that they expose our boys to a situation where they are are going to be challenged by their peers, where they are going to have to be brave and just grin and bear it, where they are going to be celebrated for their ability to just jump into the mud and hurl themselves over the climbing wall.  In short where they are going to be challenged to accept their boyhood and love it. 

 John Eldredge writes that adventure is essential in the masculine heart.   Some of you parents do a great job providing adventure for your boys. You take them camping and hunting and hiking. You get them out of the house an into the wild - the real wild - and to that I say well done! Eldredge points out in his book Wild at Heart, that God created a good world, but not a safe world, and that is because he wanted man to grow in Faith. This day gave our boys a chance to experience an adventure (admittedly with few real risks) and a chance to rise to new challenges. To prove their strength, wit, and courage to one another and themselves. 

How do you weave adventure into the lives of your sons? 

If you love this topic you have to read Wild at Heart. 

It is a great 'coming of age' gift for young men, or a good parenting guide to help parents get to know the heart of their boys.  

Thanks for stopping by!

*Okay moms of girls... Let's talk for a minute... This post is about boys and their internal, biological, innate drive for adventure. It does not propose that girls do NOT like adventure. Girls can and should experience adventuresome stuff!  I loved it growing up.  But this post is about the drive, the longing that boys have for adventure.  It is different.  Too often we try to give our girls everything that we give our boys without recognizing that they have different needs.  In doing so we do a disservice to both our boys and our girls.  Sometimes boys just need some separate space and that isn't a bad thing. If you want to read more about the internal drives of woman, Eldredge wrote Captivating.  It is a pretty descent read too and talks about things like why little girls love to twirl and why we have a drive to be captivating.

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