The Art Of Getting Lost With Your Children
By: Danny Thomas
Yesterday the girls and I went on an adventure…
I realized… at some point in the past week…
that this summer - full of travel, and camps, and activities, and family adversity-
has been suffering from a severe lack of adventure time.
Generally, our adventures call for an unmapped journey, a new park or a bike ride…
I like to think I am cultivating in my children a sense of exploration and creativity, I like to think that I am raising children that are able to appreciate all the joys of the Flâneur.
My dad called it getting lost.
At any rate, I know that adventures with my kids, whether they involve playgrounds, back alleys, sidewalk chalk, empty lots, bicycles, bodies of water, or all of the above, are usually tremendously stimulating, gratifying, and meditative experiences…
I also know that getting lost, and enjoying it, requires a muscle that, if not exercised, will atrophy in a grim way…
Last summer we went on bike rides almost every day and got lost all over West Fargo.
It hasn’t happened enough this summer, here is how I know; in the beginning of July we loaded up the family to drive about an hour to Detroit Lakes to watch some Shakespeare in the park – sadly, it was rained out – so, as an alternative, Jen and I decided to get lost on the way home… to drive some back country roads and enjoy the scenery… our children absolutely freaked out; the dirt roads, the maplessness, the lack of a destination, all of these things had our four- and six-year-old terrified.
This struck me as very wrong.
I grew up having adventures like this, this is what my family did, this is what my friends and I did for fun, this is how Jen and I dated… we used to just drive and get lost…
I remember in particular one amazing afternoon; we bought and ate amazing pulled pork out of some random trailer parked on an empty lot, then drove on a ways and saw a cow give birth, and further on, found an antique shop/flea market full of astounding treasures… all among the beautiful scenery of the road less traveled.
We have been neglecting our children.
So we set out to find Trollwood Park, a place we’d been only once before, in the dead of winter… I sort of used my map app – I’ll admit it… but only a little… whatever, four-year-olds are impatient.
Anyway, if you can believe it, all of this is tangent really… we found the park, and got lost on trails, made maps and dirt art, climbed trees, drank grape soda, looked for fairies, danced a troll dance around a tree and bridge… had pirate wars and raced in the grass, it was, pretty much satisfactory… a beautiful park, an overcast cool day, the possibility of rain, our imaginations and creativity… couldn’t ask for better.
Now the crux;
At one point we came across a couple of boys… young men-ish boys… in their late teens. A breed I am all too familiar with, as I was one once. They seemed to be involved in the type of activity I might have been involved in as a teenage boy at a park, and in no way sit in judgment of -in fact, I think it is a perfectly common and befitting activity for teenagers to engage in… in the right circumstances…I’m pretty sure they were trying to roll a joint. Whatever. No big deal, maybe go to different park or place where there aren’t little kids, but no worries, we were loud and troll dancing and they sloped away to find a more suitable place to engage in their illicitness… their car.
A short while later, as the girls and I returned to the playground, er, our docked pirate ship, for an adventure time wrap up of some swinging, I noticed the boys sitting in their car in the parking lot about fifty yards away. No problem… just dad radar taking in the scenery… we did some swinging. Then after a bit, two more cars pulled up, driving, not recklessly, but like teenage boys, some showy skids and ridiculous steering.
Let me just take a moment to say, don’t worry, this story is not going where you are afraid it is going, no dire things occurred… no after school special stuff, no EMT’s or police involvement.
The dad radar perked up, not out of fear mind you, this is Fargo, these are kids, it’s summer… my inner monologue was more along the lines of, “well we should be on our way anyway, and if we leave I can avoid trying to explain any more embarrassing displays of obnoxiousness on the part of these adolescents…”
So we wrapped up our swinging and it was our turn to slope to our car… I distracted the girls by pointing out a massive hedge with purple blossoms across the street, near our car, while the silly teenage boys did their silly teenage boy things; wrestling and shouting and calling each other names, or whatever… and as we scuttled past, one of them turned up some bumpy song in their car…
‘Zilla turned to me and said, “Our car can do that!” (It can. This is partly why we drove it off the lot the day we went to “look” at cars nearly 7 years ago, yes I am one of those guys who plays music too loud, sorry, it really gets me off, I like to think that by playing Devo, or Sonic Youth or Tune-Yards or Cocteau Twins or even sometimes Merilee Rush at top volume I am somehow balancing out the douche bags who play ridiculous macho shit, tho sometimes Van Halen is just the thing.)
Gleefully, knowing that I just happened to have this Nas song in the car, I said, “Indeed it can! Should we boom?” “Yes, yes!” both of them, enthusiastically…
I warned them, said, “It’s gonna’ have to be louder than it ever gets with you guys in the car for it to work, so cover your ears.” They started to get nervous… but I convinced them it’d be worth it.
We cranked it and rocked the Saturn Vue with triple car seats past the boys in the parking lot…
What was I thinking?
There is no way I could, at nearly 40, with two little kids in my family SUV appear cool, or even relevant to this group of youngsters.
I don’t know what I was thinking.
They mockingly danced and waved and pumped their teenage fists.
And then I realized I was going the wrong way… there was no exit this direction.
I turned around and had to go past them again…
Not only that, I turned around the wrong way and had to go out an entrance…
No matter, the kids had fun, it was part of the adventure, we boomed the car, and I felt, yet again, like Clark Griswold.
And guess what? That sits just fine with me.
We got around the corner and the player shuffled to The Backyardigans – Eureka, it was perfect. Adventure music.