Almost Fearless

The Wild Beastie Years

As we’ve been biking through Spain and now France, I’ve been thinking more about parenting — and how it varies so much from culture to culture. My official point of view is this: mostly everything will be fine. I think some cultures create more independent kids, other ones create ones that do better academically. Some create risk takers, other create well-balanced rule followers. There’s so many factors involved I think every attempt to unravel it tends to do little more than expose the researchers or writer’s own biases. There’s no right answer, and there’s very few wrong ones too.


So I do what makes me happy. Which is in part a reaction to my own childhood. Some things I hated (the dysfunctional home) and other things I loved (playing in the woods with my sister). I didn’t like being a latch key kid because it felt lonely and my mother was always stressed but I loved the independence. I loved riding my bike miles and miles away from home. Even when the sky opened up on me and I was drenched to the bone. Even when it was so hot and I was dying of thirst, I would deposit a quarter on the counter of the little shop in town with my dirty, sweaty little hand and get a juice. I don’t expect that I’ll be able to create an environment where I concoct perfectly happy, independent, creative and hyper intelligent children — out of the mish-mash of whatever DNA we’ve passed onto them. Environment, peers, community, their personalities and just plain luck will have at least as much of an influence. So I release that expectation, that I can have any discernible impact beyond “loving them to pieces” (check, done) and move on to enjoying their childhood with them.


In Bordeaux, camping. I hold open a space for my kids to be messy little kids.


It’s not easy for me. I don’t know if that makes me uptight or what, but I would love to have clean children. But they seem so happy being in the woods, playing with sticks and dirt, and most likely, a little bit of duck poop. So I hold the space open for them to be a little wild, to shush that voice that would say, “don’t touch that!” but instead says, “woah, cool!”

I remind myself that they won’t remember being clean, but they will remember a stressed out mom. They will remember if I shout at them or threaten them into the shower. It takes so much time to maintain tidy kids, you have to bathe them (wrangle, convince, cajole, and actually bathe) and then you have to prevent them from ruining the effort (“don’t touch”, “watch out”, “come back here”). What else can we do with that time?

Maybe photography:


(Cole took that photo with my camera, he actually got quite a few of our neighbor, while on his own — but never said a word about it, I just found the photos when I downloaded them).

There’s drawing on ourselves with marker.


(Also popular: drawing on mama with marker).


There’s chasing frogs around the pond.


Or blowing flower petals away for a wish.

We have been very busy.

I would love to make this a tradition: every summer is about pure outdoor play. Biking has been great for that because we don’t have a house to return to, we stop and take breaks at playgrounds or in the woods or by a river at least 3 times a day. We spend our evenings camping, once the tent is set up there are hours to fill with snails, flowers, sticks for swords, dirt, throwing rocks and more. It’s one of those periods where I’m instantly nostalgic, I feel little pangs of “they’ll never be this little again”. I want to capture it all and bottle it up. I can’t, so I try to will the days to go slower or to at very least, to appreciate my two little wild beasties.

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • Totally agree Christine–the only thing I would add, is that I think Happy Parents contribute to happy kids–so let’s do what makes us happy too! Get wild!

  • As parents we probably got a lot wrong over the years but one of the things I know we got right was to take the kids camping when they were young. Remote national park type camping. They’d be filthy. So would we. Washed only by salt water. But what it’s given them is the ability to to know how to stop. To step away. And just be. It might take them two or three days to decompress but it’s hard-wired into them. It’s a beautiful gift your giving your wild little beasties. Do it lots. Do it every year. They’ll talk and laugh about all their little adventures for years to come. They are memories definitely worth bottling.

  • “I feel little pangs of “they’ll never be this little again”. So true, Christine! Now I’m saying the same about my grandkids! In the blink of an eye. Keep doing what you are doing and treasure the moments.

  • I have that thought about them never being this small again every day. On the days when I just need some rest and we don’t do much I feel like I’m going to miss making a memory! I know it’s silly, but I don’t want my kids to only see stressed mom who takes them to day care everyday. I love what I do, but there are many days when I wish I could do something else so that I get that time with them.

    This trip sounds like heaven, if heaven meant riding a bike that far.

  • Wonderfully well said. Although I don’t have any children of my own, I have recently begun teaching and your starting sentiments about the different types of children that different societies create really run true. Thanks for sharing.

  • Christine, I loved this post and encourage you to “make this a tradition: every summer is about pure outdoor play.” I have been thinking about this topic a lot and wrote about it in my last post,
    I had a “wildhood” of unstructured summer play described in that post. As a parent, I’ve done things quite differently than my crazy, hands-off, semi-neglectful dysfunctional parents — but now I appreciate more fully the unstructured summers they gave me and feel my kids’ summers were overly scheduled. I’m sure there’s a healthy middle ground there, but I don’t think I hit it and I don’t know many parents who do. I’m glad we gave our kids a year of nomadic travel when they were 8 and 11, but when you’re raising kids in “regular life” and working, it’s really tough to achieve free play during the summer months. It’s worth trying, though! It’s also important to let your kids get “bored”; I find my kids get most creative once they work through boredom on their own. Good luck with your travels; I really enjoy following along.

  • Beautiful, thanks for sharing! This summer I had both of my kids at home instead of in camps and daycare, as in previous years. While working from home with 2 small kids around isn’t always a recipe for success, I’ve loved taking time to walk around the block, go for a quick swim, and just see what happens when they have the day to play at home (which to my surprise usually involves sleeping in, lots of making forts with blankets, and playing teacher or “Ana and Elsa”. A very special time that will be gone all to soon.

E-Commerce powered by UltraCart