Viktor Frankl once wrote that what one really needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of oneself. For many of us, there is no more worthy a goal than parenting.
This month, in celebration of father figures everywhere, we sat down with 4 modern fathers, in different stages of early fatherhood to check in on how things are going.
Jason Miller is a father of 4, avid mountain biker, climber, former city dweller & purveyor of fun.
Ryan Shingledecker is a brand new father of 1, living & working in beautiful Telluride, CO.
Nicholas Brooks is a music teacher, fly fisher, Scout leader and father of 2 boys living in Atlanta, GA. Follow his family’s adventures at @outdoorgearandbeer.
Travis Perkins is a photographer, marketer, rock guide, & most importantly, an expecting father with a little one coming this Fall!
What is the most exciting aspect of your current season of fatherhood / parenting?
What isn’t exciting…? I have daughters (17 & 19) that are just beginning to forge their own paths. It’s really interesting to watch them try to figure life out, and to support while staying out of their way. My younger kids (7 & 8) are starting to figure out what they are into, and pulling me along. For example, my 8 year old is super into fishing. I know almost nothing about fishing, but I’m learning!
Gosh – there’s so much, but the thing I keep coming back to is how much Lucy is learning so quickly. She started rolling over, then began getting onto all fours, then she began crawling, and now she’s pulling herself up to stand! It feels like it’s all happened overnight. We hardly blink and she’s moving on to a new developmental stage. She has also developed such a fun little personality.
Now that my kids are of the age that they are somewhat independent, I’m able to pivot parenting into teaching them life skills. So many of those life skills are best taught in the outdoors. Watching them grow into themselves as confident / independent leaders that are capable of caring for themselves and others brings me so much joy.
When I found out I was having a child, a new depth of life swept over me, almost instantly. Mundane aspects of life bear more weight, & the energy I bring into the room seems to matter more. This increased depth of life, alone, is exciting, but alongside that, dreaming and scheming with my partner Natalie on how life will look & flow along the spectrum of time as a party of 3 keeps my mind buzzing.
How are you now striving to build experiences in the outdoors for your child/children & why do you see that as important?
My kids are completely different kids when we get them into nature. We’re always out fishing, climbing, mounting biking, swimming in creeks, running through the woods with our dogs, etc. The biggest thing we’re doing right now is moving from Texas to Vermont. This is 100% an intentional decision to spend more time in nature with our kids. Our new house has trails out of the back door, and quick access to all sorts of activities. For my kids, they discover who they are when we’re adventuring outdoors. They are the best versions of themselves, and they show compassion and kindness to others. We’re even switching schools and enrolling them in a school that prioritizes time outside learning on the land.
We’re trying to get Lucy outside as often as possible – camping, hiking, backpacking, swimming, fishing, hanging out in the park, and more. We’re planning to get her up on skis next winter. We’re trying to expose her to as many experiences in the outdoors as we can.
Taylor and I have had many of our most transformative experiences outdoors and believe there’s beauty in the adventure of it all. We think it’s important to be able to sit and be still in nature and to respect the gravity and risks associated with many outdoor activities. We want Lucy to experience this in a way many children are unable to – by growing up in a place where she can explore freely outdoors as she wishes. We also believe there are profound experiences to be had indoors – from cooking to game nights to family movie nights – but when she’s bored, we hope she reaches first for her sunscreen instead of a cell phone.
I got my boys & myself into Scouts several years ago, and it’s provided a great structure for spending time outdoors. Outside of that, traveling as a family in our overland rig has really opened the door to expanding their worldview past the SouthEast region into the Western States. Being immersed in these different cultures and landscapes offers a perspective that a photo or video on Instagram could ever provide.
On a practical level, we are building the infrastructure needed to split time between a Texas home in the city & the mountains of Southern Colorado, ideally spending future Summers there, playing in the dirt, moving through vertical terrain, and broadening our understanding of the world around us. As a father, I don’t think there’s any greater tool than to lead by example. So, I stay dedicated to not only creating an atmosphere of curiosity and appreciation for wild places, but also, continuing to engage with that curiosity myself.
What are you most excited to learn and experience as the kiddo(s) continue to grow?
I am excited to learn new things and learn more about myself. My kids push me out of my comfort zone. They drive me to do things that I would never do on my own.
I’m excited to teach her about the things that I love most – about plants and animals and camping and hiking. I can’t wait to share those experiences with her. I’m also thrilled to learn about what makes her come alive and to invest heavily in those things.
Watching them move into young adulthood and they themselves become stewards of the outdoors themselves, passing on this legacy of sharing outdoor experiences with their friends and future fam, just as my father did with me. This curiosity of what could be around the bend, at the end of the trail or at the top of the mountain runs deep in my family, and I’m excited to see this live on in my boys!
Some of my favorite memories from my childhood involved wilderness experiences, specifically with my father. Connecting deeper with his legacy & developing a deeper understanding of his experiences as a dad is something that I think about often. Additionally, as a photographer & writer, I’m very excited to document the process! Often times, a simple photo or written memory can amplify the experience & future learnings down the road. That all said, I really have no idea what I’m getting myself into…maybe that’s what I’m most excited about.
Love and gratitude to all the fathers and father figures out there, who have and are forging paths for their children!