I recently watched a clip of Mike Rowe being interviewed on Fox and something he said really jumped out at me. Paraphrased, it was, “our generation used to look at what was around the corner and say, ‘man, the future is uncertain, the possibilities are endless.’ And now, this new generation looks at the uncertainty of the future and they say ‘Oh my God, it’s so scary, I can’t deal with this.’” I listen to that and I see what’s going on at the university in Boulder and I read and watch what’s going on at other colleges around the country and I realize he’s right. What’s really unfortunate is that if life is anything, it’s uncertain, and we’re not preparing our kids for that reality at all.
The other thing of note from that interview was that it is not really these kids’ fault. It’s ours. It’s the Boomers and the Gen Xers. We’re the ones that allowed this and raised these kids (well, not me, I’m one of the youngest Gen Xers and I had my child well into my 30s, so she’s still growing).
The outdoors, and hunting specifically, is one of the best ways to learn how to deal with uncertainty. It could be as simple as, “What’s the view from the top of this hill?” as you’re hiking or it could be, “Are we going to see a bear?”. No matter what it is, going into the outdoors for an excursion, especially an extended one, is something you prepare for. Before you go, you examine what all the possibilities could be and you arm yourself with knowledge and equipment to handle those situations should they come. Most of the time they don’t. And sometimes you experience something you didn’t expect. And you learn from that.
In my experience, backpacking trips are pretty simple to prepare for. There are a lot of serious things that can go wrong, I’m not making light of those things, but depending on where you’re going, proper gear, a wilderness first aid class and some basic know-how will take you a long way. In hunting, every move is exponential. Starting with the fact you’re carrying a weapon. But also, you have to factor in the movements of your prey, independent beings that you have no control over. Then you have your mindset. You could catch buck fever and follow an animal for two miles before realizing you weren’t paying attention to how you got there.
Whether in the outdoors or in life, you can’t prepare yourself for everything. Those who try end up being their own worst enemies. However, you can learn to prepare for things you can predict might happen and then mentally (and however else) prepare yourself to face those things. Simply taking a kid camping and letting them pack their own gear is a great way for them to learn skills on how to prepare. Do they forget their pillow? Well, they’ll have an uncomfortable night that they might remember the next time they pack. Do they forget an essential item, such as a stocking cap on a chilly night? There are a couple ways to handle that, but again, it’ll be in the forefront of their mind next trip.
We owe it to our kids to prepare them for life. We brought them into this world, they didn’t ask for it. It’s our responsibility to make sure they are equipped to handle life’s pressures. If we do a good job, not only will they survive this harsh world, but they’ll make the most of what’s available to them and they’ll thrive. And as parents, isn’t that what we all want for them?