A New Dad Balances Parenthood and Adventure

The day I found out I was about to become a father, I’d just returned to Seattle from my annual week-long, 3,000-mile road trip down to Moab with two of my best buddies. We mountain biked miles and miles of singletrack, camped out in the desert, told appallingly bad jokes, and drank too much beer and whisky. Pretty much a perfect trip.

I arrived back in Seattle dusty, tired, stinky, hungover and happy, with my beautiful wife, Karaka, welcoming me home. After I’d carried a couple armfuls of dirty gear from the car to the house, she asked me to sit down.

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

When she thinks about that moment, Karaka recalls how the few small drops of sweat on my brow instantly turned into a torrent.

“That’s great,” I said as I hugged her and my heart rate climbed higher than it’d been on any of the previous week’s rides. “We’re going to be great parents.”

“Can I still get a new bike?”

-

For most of my life, ever since my first overnight backpacking trip as a teenager, I’ve been passionate about outdoor adventure. To a large extent, my love of the outdoors — of backpacking, running, mountain biking, snowboarding — has shaped the person I am today. And I’ve always had the time and resources to pursue my passions, going so far as to set goals for nights spent outside in my New Year’s resolutions year after year.

I was always terrified of becoming a parent, believing my time would be dominated with changing diapers and reading picture books, while my bike, boots and board collected dust in the basement.

‘Not me,’ I swore.

-

Now, just over a year after that Moab trip, Karaka and I are the proud parents of a happy, healthy five-month-old boy, William.

And yes, I spend a lot of time changing diapers and reading picture books. But I love it. I love spending time with Will. He’s a little tank, and I have no doubt he’ll be out there with us in the not-too-distant future. But for now, he spends his days napping, eating (milk) and trying to get a handle on being a human being.

I often wish I could go for a run (stroller free) or take off for a week-long backpacking trip at a moment’s notice. But those desires will have to take a back seat for just a little while. At least, until Will is old enough to come along.

I’m reminded of a recent Op-Ed by Michael Roston of the New York Times, in which he described the desire to do everything he could for his newborn daughter, but at the same time felt the “gnawing need to return to those things that had been the basis for (his) adulthood.”

I hear you, man.

I suspect for those of us who love to adventure in the outdoors — or maybe anyone whose passions require long blocks of uninterrupted time — that gnawing need might be even more keenly felt.

But again, quoting the Times’ Roston, when you’re a new parent, “You take that will to do something else, and you put it aside. Someone needs you more than you need to maintain the person you’ve been for so many years.”

And it’s not as if I’m not exercising. I’m getting out for lunchtime runs — thanks, Outdoor Research — and I occasionally sneak out to some singletrack for a few hours on the weekend. But even during that time, I find myself missing Will and wishing I were with him instead of on my bike.

“You need to take time for yourself,” Karaka reminds me when I tell her how I’m torn, wanting to be in two places at once. “You can’t be some loser dad with no hobbies.”

With that in mind, Karaka and I are planning the family vacations in places where Will can have fun, and where she and I can ride, hike or run.  I’m really looking forward to the days when Will can do all those things with us.

Karaka and I are still doing the things we love. It’s just life’s been redefined a little for us.

And I did snag a new bike this year. Now I just need to make sure I get it muddy.