As an example, the first couple of weeks on the trail, I cooked all the meals myself. I didn’t want my sixteen-year-old messing with the stove and the boiling water. She could hurt herself, and if she spilled the pot, we’d lose our entire meal and have to go hungry.
I told myself the stakes were too high, but really, my trust was too low.
After the first couple of weeks, Kami and I were overwhelmed by trying to do all the “important” tasks ourselves, and we finally began to delegate. We let our sixteen-year-old cook our meals for the rest of the trip, and she absolutely killed it.
All of our kids contributed. When we rolled into a campsite, they would start setting up the tent, fetching water, and gathering firewood. We didn’t have to badger them to do these things. They did them because they knew they needed to be done, and they could see the real-world value their actions had.
What we found is, if you give your kids the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way, they will rise to the occasion.
Let Go of Control
A few weeks into our hike, we were already falling behind schedule, unable to meet our daily mileage goals. I was the one slowing us down, because I was carrying our two-year-old, Rainier. His pack, at forty-four pounds, was by far the heaviest pack we had. I was carrying him exclusively and losing weight like crazy—close to thirty pounds in the first five weeks.
Finally, about five hundred miles into the hike, in Shenandoah National Park, our oldest asked me, “Can’t you go any faster?”
“No, I’m carrying your brother. This is as fast as I can go,” I told her. “If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?”
It was meant to be a rhetorical question—a way of shutting down the conversation. My daughter took it as a challenge, though. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll do it.”
Great, I thought, she’ll learn her lesson once she realizes how hard this is.
It turns out I was the one who needed to learn a lesson. She carried Rainier for the rest of the afternoon without a single complaint, and she did it faster than I could have.