Taking the time to bring our children on a challenging adventure in the midst of majestic nature can build their self-confidence while strengthening family bonds. Adventure is key to personal and community growth.
Mt Wellington is my playground. The mix of seasons might be regarded as its personality. Sometimes it takes an effort to make ground — its tearing broodiness very apparent in the angry, chilling wind and murky shadows cast by thick, drab clouds just overhead. Other times, it holds a spirit-lifting warmth that is still, calming or even carefree. I always enjoy exploring.
It is expansive enough that even the effort of weekly visits might not hold off a death-bed lament of “I never saw it all.” So, after a recent scramble up some of its steep slopes, I wistfully pondered the gift of the natural environment as the ideal hideaway for time with my children.
The walk started out from the chalet, high up the mountain. The scenery is incredibly varied. Great gouges in stands of stunted trees have been scythed by rocks rumbling from tall cliffs. Flowering shrubs sprout from under the cover of snow gums, bent and twisted by the wind. A small pool was pointed out by another visitor as containing a species of freshwater shrimp that has defied evolution for millions of years.
This time, I had my daughters with me to appreciate the sort of discoveries that will never be found on an iPad. Something as simple as topping up drink bottles with cold mountain water created delighted squeals as the sharp cold of the splashing water sprinkled their face and arms.
The hot rock wall of the chalet hut warmed by a fire on the other side reset the feeling in their hands. Beyond the hut, the track is rough yet easy enough for my girls to skip confidently ahead without fear of getting lost. To mix it up though, I directed the girls to leave the track to begin a clamber up a vast tumble of rocks.
There was no track, just some faded daubs of weather-worn paint on the dolerite mix. We were done with walking and were now using our hands as much as thighs to push and pull ourselves higher up the mountain.
At that point of the adventure, there is no room inside a young girl’s head for thoughts of the daggy boy-colour tracksuit bottoms that dad made her wear or the iPod that I will make dad buy by incessantly asking or school on Monday or dad making me do homework. Instead, it is easy to sense that my two daughters have all their concentration on the next step or handhold.
It is a great place to be — not so much the mountain — but a space where there is peace, an awareness of being able to safely stretch my daughters and the time to be really conscious of one another. For me, there is something special in being relied upon to provide comfort after a shin was scraped by the rough rock that caught a misplaced step.
Independence with Roots
There is something special in affirming the bravery of a daughter who had a hint of fear when shimmying around some large rocks was a bit tricky. It is special to share the excited delight of a daughter marvelling at how high she has climbed. The contentment of our special mountain places is not just in the natural surroundings but in feeling more connected to one another.
However, at times it is paradoxical. My girls do love finding their own way, yet will regularly glance around to take their bearings from me. I try to create opportunities for them to discover the confidence to skirt off a little independently while still being aware that dad is not too far away, keeping them safe.
Somehow, our mountain adventure became a representation of my parenting philosophy. It is my deep aspiration that my precious two daughters can keep growing in their confidence to leave home someday, fully formed in their surety that they can make their own way on this good earth with an awareness that their dad will always somehow be present.
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova.