Parent/teen relationships are amongst my favorite to experience on guided trips because novel outdoor activities can create such level playing fields between generations. Unlike all the things parents and their kids do at home, canyoneering (or climbing or mountain biking) is generally not something the parents have a depth of experience with. And so, when learning a completely new activity, parents and teens find themselves on common ground, both having little to no idea that they are doing. In fact, teens usually have the edge.
Since most teens are in school, they are typically more practiced with learning and critical thinking, so they often consume and process information more easily. In addition, older teens are near their athletic prime, whereas their parents are typically falling into various states of disrepair… another advantageous element for the teens. Last, teens often benefit from a more eager, risk-perverse nature, so they can be much less hesitant and seldom suffer from “analysis paralysis” like adults can. All this adds up to giving the teens a good chance of out-doing their folks, and the effect this can have on parents is incredible.
All this to say, it’s rare for parents to create opportunities for equal standing with their teens. When such opportunities do arise, parents can be surprised or shocked to learn just how able their “little ones” have become. Next time you take your family out for adventure, you might consider doing something completely novel for your family, if only to gain important perspective on how quickly your kids are growing up.
Watching Your Teens Fledge:
Canyoneering as a Personal Growth Activity
By A. Micheal Kundu
Nothing crystalizes a parent’s awareness that his or her kids are growing up, quite like watching them step over the edge of a waterfall. Likewise, nothing quite builds the child’s (or young adult’s) self-confidence and independence like knowing that he or she is succeeding–without Mom or Dad’s direct help–out in the middle of nowhere.
That was the unanticipated life lesson that presented itself during a recent advanced canyoneering adventure in a remote Oregon river valley. Deep in a cathedral wilderness area that few others had ever had the privilege to see, we experienced a proverbial ‘coming of age’ family moment – a time when all of us realized that, at some point, every child has to step out on his or her own.
An emotional moment for sure, but sharing it together helped us to build even stronger bonds, stronger faith, and definitely some powerful family memories.
Only two summers away from their college departure, Nola and I stood silently, as Erik and Lars took turns rappelling 150-feet over a cliff, into a waterfall, and deep into a Cascade Mountain grotto. Anxiously watching them fasten their own harnesses and double-check their own knots and devices, we felt powerless when they each stepped over the edge alone: gripped by that gut-wrenching parental fear (like when they started driving), each of their descents were made more profound, because of that underlying, ever-present specter of immediate, dramatic catastrophe.