A Real-life Dadventure

A Real-life Dadventure by Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project

What’s a Dad to do when left at home alone with the kids? Cooking, washing and cleaning? Or something more exciting instead? Mum might appreciate you doing the chores, but your kids would probably prefer an adventure. In this feature for Father’s Day, Stuart Wickes from the Family Adventure Project reflects on the value of Dadventures.

Tucked up in the tent (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

Tucked up in the tent (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

Dadventures matter
I think it’s part of our job as Dads to pass on a love of things we love, a sense of what we think matters in life, and to help develop positive attitudes for the road ahead. Adventures together, little or large, are a great way to do that. Personally I want my kids to not only remember our adventures together but develop their own spirit of adventure; a willingness to explore, try new things, take on challenges, deal with setbacks, and thrive in the sun, wind and rain. It’s my own interpretation of what my Dad taught me, edited, embellished and thrust upon my own kids. And I hope they’ll soak some of it up and do the same. One of last year’s impromptu outings reminded me why Dadventures are important.

Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org

A Summer Solstice microadventure
The solstice light is fading fast and I can feel a spit of rain on my nose. Our tarp is still flapping in the wind as the kids squabble over who should hold which corner and who will sleep next to me, if we ever get it pegged down. And in the midst of this midsummer madness, a phonecall.

“Mum. It’s Mum”

“Hello, how are you all?” she asks giddily. She’s on another planet, at an awards party in London, collecting a gong for our family travel blog. It’s a family award but we couldn’t all go. We had to be here. Well, chose to be. Or, in the case of the kids, were persuaded to be. We’re on top of Farleton Fell, a mile or two from home, on an impromptu summer solstice microadventure.

Tarp up on fell over Morecambe Bay (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

Tarp up on fell over Morecambe Bay (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

Two worlds collide
“How is it up there?” asks Kirstie, “It sounds windy.” I know she wants to hear an awful truth. But I’m not going to tell her.

“It’s fun, really windy and it’s going to rain,” says eight year old Hannah.

“We’re going to have hot chocolate under the tarp,” says Cameron. They make it sound enjoyable. Perhaps because beneath the drama, squabbling and elements, it is. I love it. And despite their protests I know the kids do too. We’re together, doing something different, battling it out, having fun together. I could have given the kids to my Mum and glitzed off to the awards with Kirstie. Or got a babysitter and gone for beers down the pub. But I chose this. And as we crawl under the tarp to get out of the rain I do wonder why.

“We won the award,” Kirstie reminds us as she signs off, rousing us to greatness, “I’m so proud of you all.” But here on the fell I have a greater victory; we’ve agreed sleeping arrangements, found the torches and are under the tarp before the serious rainfall.

The children with a torchlight (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

The children with a torchlight (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

Hannah sleeping out in the tent (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

I’m not the only Dad here
After midnight munchies we lie together and the kids drift off to sleep. The rattling of rain on tautened tarp keeps me awake, wondering what really brings me up here. The solstice night reminds me of the passing of time and of how things change as we move from one season to another. Snuggled up with my kids I get to thinking about what passes from one generation to the next, about my Dad and his unspoken part in this little adventure.

My father died a few years back. I never did anything particularly adventurous with him and we never camped wild, but as a kid he did take me (and whoever else he could persuade) out at weekends. He loved to whisk us off camping in his holidays and persisted with his passion for cycling until he had no hair left to blow in the wind. He wasn’t a great explorer but loved nothing more on a Sunday afternoon than to drag us out to investigate a local footpath he’d never been down before, then reward us with sweets and treats from Mr Solly’s corner shop. He shared his sweet passions with us, engaged us in his own brand of adventures and somewhere along the line something rubbed off.

I listen to the kids snoring and watch raindrops splashing onto the tarp a few inches above my head. Shiny droplets slide down into silver ribbons that slip away and soak into the ground beyond.

Peter Wickes with his with Granddaughter, Hannah Wickes (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

Peter Wickes with his with Granddaughter, Hannah Wickes (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

The morning after (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

The morning after (Stuart Wickes, The Family Adventure Project: familyadventureproject.org)

The morning after
As the rain passes, sleep consumes me and a new day dawns. In the morning we peer out from the warmth of our sleeping bags. It doesn’t look like summer but at least it’s dry. We stuff sleeping bags into rucksacks, finish off the not so hot chocolate, eat a breakfast butty and fly the tarp in the wind to dry it off.

“Did you enjoy the summer solstice?” I ask the kids as we start to head home. They look at me like I’m crazy.

“What? Sleeping on a hill in the rain?” says Cameron hauling rucksack over raincoat.

“It would be good if the sun actually rose,” says Matthew.

“I liked the sweets,” says Hannah.

Not the sunniest of reports but I can tell from their faces it’s a solstice they’ll remember and a job well done.

AUTHOR BIO: Stuart is co-founder of The Family Adventure Project, a blog for families interested in doing fun, active and adventurous things together. Stuart and his family have adventures far and wide including over 12,000 miles of cycle touring in more than 20 countries. You can follow their adventures on Twitter @familyonabike, Facebook, G+, Instagram and YouTube. In 2013 The Family Adventure Project was voted Best Family Travel Blog by BritMums and the MAD Blog Awards.

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