Sunday, June 19, 2011

What My Father Taught Me About Exploration & Art

This is my dad with my kids at Balboa Park in San Diego.  Notice how he's not worried about the kids falling in or the parasites living in the pond?  That was my childhood.  My dad and I were often "reckless" outdoors.  Never afraid to explore, never afraid to try something different.  This is a legacy I hope to pass onto my children.

  • Climbing on rocks, trees, and balconies- Ok, maybe that last one only applies to me, but isn't that what rocks and trees are there for...for us to climb on?  My earliest memories of my dad involve us climbing something or jumping from rock to rock some where.  I, in turn, do the same with my kids.  Some balance comes naturally (my son has proven that since the moment he stood on a Sit-n-Spin, one legged, Karate Kid style, at 18 months!), but the rest is learned.  What better way to learn balance then to climb on rocks or straddle tree branches!  As for the balcony, when I was about 4 my dad was trying to impress a girl (his future bride). He invited her and another family member over for dinner.  For some reason we had to run out and get something, leaving the two ladies at our apartment alone.  When we returned, my dad decided  to surprise the two women by coming in through the 2nd story balcony window rather then the front door.  He lifted me and climbed, which was much easier said then done.  Finally we reached the balcony to discover the sliding door was locked.  Of course, rather then surprise the women, we scared them to death by pounding on the door to be let in.  I suppose overall, my dad's antics worked because I gained a new mom from it all.      
  • Water- Whether it be fountain, creek, river, ocean, or stream, or puddle, water is there for swimming and exploring.  I've had the pleasure of fishing in lakes, swimming in green rivers, frog hunting, walking along creeks, and enjoying hot springs.  Never once did we think about parasites, germs, or other microscopic creatures that may be residing there.  Despite my husband's pleas, I do the same for my kids.  One of our favorite activities is playing along a creek at our local park.  We've caught tadpoles, hopped on rocks, and yes, sometimes, fallen in.  But that's a part of the whole experience is it not?  At another park, I've been known to let my kids play in the water...and I have the blog posting to prove it!  
  • "Reckless" Experiences- What one person considers "reckless," I consider a learning experience.  Life is full of experiences and you can either take them or miss them.  I try to encourage my children in experiences (i.e. jumping from some rocks into a creek).  My father used to do the same.  I remember being allowed to walk into the woods near our campsite (at the Grand Canyon) with my compass and my new found knowledge of survival learned at 6th grade camp.  I felt so grown-up exploring those woods on my own...until I ran into a fence alongside the RV camp.  One of the most "reckless" experiences my father and I was involved in included a tube shoot in New Braunfels, Texas.  Families rent inner tubes (or bring their own), float down the river, then are shot through an old cemented waterway into small rapids.  You can then continue to float down river or you can swim rapidly to one of the stair cases along the far side of the river and take another run on the shoot.  Shoes are recommended due to the rocks underwater, inner tubes for safety, and even life jackets are suggested.  My dad and I didn't like any of those suggestions!  Going shoeless meant putting your feet down at the right moment and sliding down the mossy bottom of the shoot, gaining a bit of speed.  Inner tubes and life jackets also slowed one down.  The video below will give you a good idea of how much reckless fun we had!

 Of course, if you didn't push yourself to the right at the bottom of the shoot, you were sucked into a whirlpool and usually had to be rescued by the life guard (yes, I know this from experience). was something you only did once!  Once you made that mistake, you didn't make it again.  That's a learning experience!

  • Nature- We did a lot of camping when I was a kid.  I fished, hunted for bugs, watched wildlife, hiked, and trampled through the underbrush with nothing but a compass.  One of my other favorite activities was tide-pooling.  Of course this involved a lot of what I've already mentioned: rock climbing (and learning about black moss!), water, and experiencing all that was around me.  My dad and I explored every nook and cranny we could find along the tide pools, hunting for small creatures and rare finds.  Now, I do the same with my kids.  We always get wet (especially me and my son) but we always have a good time outdoors.  We haven't done much camping, which I hope to change, but we do hunt for bugs, watch for wildlife when we hike, and trample through the underbrush (barley escaping poison oak recently).  Most of my love for the outdoors and nature comes from my father, and I hope to instill that into my children as well.
  • Art-  I remember my dad carving foam with an electric knife.  I remember him glueing fangs onto one of my Cabbage Patch Kids and transforming her into a cannibal for a poem I recited in 8th grade.  And I remember the countless hours he worked on the set designs for the plays we performed at church.  My dad can sew puppets, create magic tricks, and change the look of a Sunday school classroom with a bit of fabric and some cardboard.  Artistically he is amazing and never afraid to take risks with new materials.  I may not create elaborate sets for plays, but I love to try new materials with my kids when it comes to art.  We've created egg shell sculptures and painted with toilet plungers.  I want my kids to realize that painting can be done with more then brushes and art can come from anything.  I want them to take artistic risks and be OK with making mistakes.  That's how we learn in art and that's how we learn in life.  
I love my daddy very much.  I love that I can share what he's taught me with my children.  I'm proud to be a parent that allows my children to explore rather then standing over them every step of the way.  I love seeing them climb trees, walk across creeks on a rock path, and gently touch a sea anemone to watch it close.  I love the wonder on their faces when they discover something new or find the simple joy of splashing in a puddle.  I suppose, it's how my dad felt watching me.   


  1. What a wonderful tribute! How lucky you are, and how lucky your kids!

  2. beautiful! you are lucky to have had him influence you in those fantastically positive ways :-)



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