Whatever Works

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Emma Sidoli at Triple Falls
Is it bad to bribe your kid with candy? Will I get in trouble for even asking the question? Before you respond with shock and horror, let me state for the record that my daughter is not overweight or unhealthy. To me, she looks about like all the other seventh graders in her school. Her pediatrician assures us that she is in the appropriate height and weight ranges for her age.

Yet, like any other concerned parent, I worry about the alarming obesity stats in our nation, particularly among our kids. I think about issues like our supersized culture and sugar in schools. I become enraged when I hear that her limited outdoor recess time has been replaced again by a classroom “dance party” because the teacher did not want to take the kids outside in temps below 70 or above 75. And I hate the fact that my daughter seems to prefer playing Super Mario Bros to being outdoors.

Knowing what an outdoor junkie I am, one might assume that my kid would be just as passionate about playing in the woods. Not so. On the eve of our summer trip out west, as I gathered the camping gear and gushed about the beauty of Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon, she informed me that she prefers “luxury vacations”. To which I replied that she should be thankful that I was packing the Therm-A-Rest.

Being the trooper that she can be when she puts her mind to it, she made the best of the situation and in the process, learned how to pitch a tent and keep a campfire going. She hiked more than she had previously believed was humanly possible with nary a complaint, even when the three mile round trip to the waterfall turned into a six mile slog without any water in sight. Okay, so she and her cousin did spend an inordinate amount of time charging their various electronics in the bathrooms that we did get to visit. At least they weren’t like the French girls we encountered, whose primary camping activities seemed to be blow drying their hair and applying make up.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and one that I hoped had installed a love of the outdoors in my tween. When we returned home, scraped up from a mountain bike wreck in Park City and sunburned from a long hike across the Utah desert, but happy and strong, I mistakenly assumed that our wilderness adventures would continue. Alas, the call of the Wii was just too strong. I had to come up with some motivation that would prevail over the seductive siren song of the electronic world.

Enter the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Hiking Challenge. I stumbled upon it one day and knew right away that it was just the sort of thing for me and my hardly hardcore kid. You complete eight hikes in the southern Appalachians, get to check out some of the most beautiful areas in the region, support a local nonprofit, and are rewarded with a very cool hiking patch and certificate. And a twenty-dollar gift certificate for Mast General Store.

While idea of a patch and certificate wasn’t too motivating for my daughter, her ears perked right up at the mention of that last prize. “Of course,” I responded to her question about whether she could spend the card on anything she wanted. As soon as the words left my mouth, I remembered the bulk candy bins at that store. While I was picturing weekend treks into the Great Outdoors, her head was swirling with visions of gumballs and Jolly Ranchers. Before I could change my mind, she was signed up and anxious to get going on the hikes. We’d tackle the first one that very afternoon. Now, with four down and another on the agenda for this weekend, we’re well on our way to completing the challenge. I’m achieving my goal of spending more time in the woods with my kid and she’s realizing her dream of…candy? Which brings me back to my original question. Have I just become the enemy of dentists and pediatricians everywhere, or am I just doing whatever it takes to get my kid outside?

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