WHEN MY WIFE HELD UP A FAINTLY-POSITIVE pregnancy test, I was uneasy. By the sixth one, it was more like sheer terror. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a father or we weren’t financially or emotionally ready to be parents. Instead it was more the feeling that having a kid meant the death of doing cool shit.
I’d been conditioned to that mindset for years. Nearly the last of our friends and family to have kids, I’ve watched Instagram feeds slowly morph into weekends at pumpkin patches and Disney vacations. That worked for our friends. They seemed perfectly happy and were raising awesome kids, but we knew we were different. We kept postponing having kids because we didn’t think it fit our lifestyle. We were on a beach in Vietnam or trekking in Nepal or snowshoeing to a backcountry yurt in Colorado. And everyone kept saying “better get your traveling done now, because it’s all over someday,” or worse, when my wife got pregnant: “good thing you had all of your fun already.”
I knew there had to be a different way. Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, probably seeking a diversion from subconscious thoughts about minivans and diaper warmers, I stumbled across a post shared by a friend about something called Born Wild — a film project and online community with the mission of empowering families to raise kids who are connected with the wildness.
THIS. THIS is what I want!
I want my kid outside in the world of scraped knees, snow angels and mud squishing through toes. I want to expose my child to the same joy I find after a desert sunrise or a bighorn sighting. And I want to believe that entertainment doesn’t have to come from a screen.
I needed to know more. So I reached out to Aly Nicklas and Morgan Brechler, two of the women behind the project. Aly (@alynicklas) is a filmmaker from Boulder, Colorado and Morgan is one of the adventurous mom’s featured in the project’s first episode, Wild Child. Morgan (@morganbrechler) is a climber who was raised with an appreciation for the outdoors and naturally wanted to continue that lifestyle when her daughter, Hadlie, was born. She started bringing Hadlie on climbing trips and encouraged her daughter when she wanted to get on the rock herself. After posting a few of Hadlie’s climbing photos to Instagram, she was soon overwhelmed by the positive response and questions from parents who wanted similar experiences for their kids. She teamed up with fellow rockstar outdoor moms Brooke Gaynes (@brooke.froelich) and Shannon Robertson (@shannbennt) to collaborate with Aly and spread the stoke about the benefits of raising a wild child.
What’s the inspiration for this project? Why are you so passionate about getting kids immersed in nature?
Morgan Brechler: It’s something that is important to me because as a child, I spent a lot of time playing outside, riding horses and traveling with my family. As I have gotten older I have seen the drastic changes in society and how less and less children are getting outside and more of them are getting iPads for birthdays and Christmas. I’ve always been really saddened by this. It’s extremely important for children to connect with nature and form a bond so that there are people here on this planet to protect it for all the future generations. I also strongly believe that it’s connected with the way children eat now as well. If kids are outside playing more and feeling good, they are less likely to eat processed foods and be overweight. And lastly, of course becoming a mom made me want only the best childhood for my daughter Hadlie, and I truly believe the best childhood is one spent mostly outdoors.
Aly Nicklas: I grew up in Alaska with parents that really supported us playing outside. We didn’t watch TV, and I spent most of my time playing in the woods and skiing at our local resort. It’s absolutely shaped who I am today, and fostered my desire to protect our wild places. The older I get the more I appreciate my upbringing, and the example my adventurous parents set by pursuing their own passions, even after having kids. They just took us along.
The fact that kids today aren’t getting that those kinds of experiences is worrisome—there’s a whole lot of repercussions to that, from health to growing up with a desire to love and protect our wild places, which indisputably need protecting. I believe we’re in a really great place to empower parents to be proactive about getting outside, which is good for them and their children.
Some people will argue your real experiences can’t be as perfect as what we see on your Instagram feeds. Tell me about a time when things really went off the rails. I’m thinking there must have been some trailside meltdowns and backcountry diaper blowouts?
MB: Oh, trust me, they are not perfect. I’ve always tried to be real on Instagram, but social media naturally makes everyone’s lives seem like perfect, little fairy tales. I’m raising a wild child, a strong willed, stubborn, amazing, bada**, little girl. With that being said, there are PLENTY of trailside meltdowns and we have absolutely experienced running out of diapers, getting rained on, totally not being prepared and the worst thing: forgetting or losing my daughter’s binky (she’s highly addicted!). But every time we experience something like the above, it quickly passes and we easily realize that the bad, stressful moments are far dimmed by the shining, beautiful, amazing moments. As cheesy as it sounds, the good ultimately does outweigh the bad. And to be honest, her meltdowns inside are way worse than when we are outdoors!
AN: I’m sure shooting the film will be challenging at times, but as a film crew we’re there to capture what’s happening, and above all it’s important that this film be real—we want to show just how challenging it can be to take kids outside, and why it’s worth the effort.
My wife and I are expecting our first child in March. We’ve always lived an adventurous lifestyle of world travel and time spent outdoors. Your stories inspire us that it’s possible to continue that after kids. What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give us as new parents?
MB: My advice for new parents is to just remember to make things happen. With a little one, at first it can be easy to want to just stay inside where it’s “safe” and “easy.” It can be overwhelming to try to prepare and plan a hike, camping trip or even being able to take a shower! But it’s all so worth it. There will be lots of trial and error when going on first journeys together, but that’s the beauty of it, that’s the real adventure. Get outside, there’s always enough time.
Editor’s Note: You can help the Born Wild Project on its first film, Wild Child, by supporting their Kickstarter campaign.