Author and father Charles R. Scott of NYC writes a letter on boredom, wilderness, and love to his two young children with whom he has taken on a 46-day cycling adventure around Iceland.
Charles Scott with his children, Sho and Saya, in Reykjavik, Iceland in June 2011 at the beginning of their 46-day cycling adventure around the circumference of the country. Read more of his adventures on his blog Family Adventure Guy. Stefan Helgi Valsson
I held each of my two children in the first moments of their lives, cradling them into my chest, nuzzling their soft marshmallow cheeks, and looking into their unfocused eyes. And ever since, I’ve felt a deep, marvelous father’s love. I am amazed at the power they have to influence my decisions. I literally changed my career because of my children and cannot thank them enough. They gave me the nudge to seek out ways to slow down time, treasure each moment, and encourage others to do the same.
I cannot dictate my kids’ personalities or futures, and they must learn many important lessons the hard way, like all of us. But I can share my hopes with them. So to celebrate Father’s Day, I offer here a letter to my children.
Remember how I’m always encouraging you to eat broccoli instead of Cheez-Its? It’s not because I want to control you or make you unhappy. You know the answer, right? Exactly! It’s because I love you and want you to be happy and healthy. Well, I have opinions about a lot more than just which foods are good for you. Here are a few more things I’d like you to keep in mind:
• You were 10 and 4 when we rode bicycles around all of Iceland for 46 days. Many people worried in particular about you, Saya, asking if you wouldn’t get bored sitting for hour after hour in that bicycle trailer, with only crayons and a pad of paper to distract you. I told them, “Yes, she probably will get bored. That’s what imagination is for!” Boredom is like being tickled. You don’t just sit there when someone tickles you, right? You do whatever it takes to make them stop. There is nothing wrong with being bored, but there is something wrong with staying bored. The trick is to find a way to make things interesting again. The answers, Sho and Saya, lay in your creative minds, which are full of interesting questions and ideas. You just have to practice letting them out.
• I hope you struggle often and are frequently uncomfortable. You may think, “Wait a second! A daddy shouldn’t make his kids feel bad, right?” That’s true, but being uncomfortable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve run all the way down the soccer field and are out of breath, you still push a little harder to score a goal, right? Discomfort is a natural part of growing and learning. Muscles get stronger and brains get smarter when they are challenged. Sho, when you and I cycled for 67 days from the top of Japan to the bottom, many people we met said that was too hard for an 8-year-old. Remember what we told them? “A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think.” You finished the ride. The naysayers were wrong. Don’t forget that.
• I hope you fall in love, not just with another person, but with the dwindling wilderness around us, with the creatures who whisper the secrets of a world that is quickly vanishing. I hope you love yourself and recognize that you belong in this world and have a duty to care for it. If you have children when you grow up, take them out into the woods and mountains regularly. The more time you spend in nature, the more you realize how connected we are to everything around us.
• I want you to pay attention in school and learn as much as you can. But don’t worry too much about your score on a test or getting into a prestigious school. “Success” in life comes from surrounding yourself with people you love and trying hard to make the world a better place. Don’t follow the herd. Wander away from the others to discover a new flower, a different view, and the path that is most meaningful to you. You may find that, before long, the herd will start to follow you.
All of my hopes and advice up to now apply equally to boys and girls, but here I want to say something different to each of you based on your gender.
To my daughter Saya: I want you to know that you are growing up in a society that puts a lot of silliness into our heads. Girls wear pink, boys wear blue, for example. It was to mess with this particular stereotype that I told you my favorite color is pink. Look for other ways to flip the stereotypes. When I watch you on the playground, I see a strong and brave warrior princess who can outrun the boys while wearing a dazzling sparkling dress. As you grow, do not let anyone take away your fierce self-confidence.
To my son Sho: Our society teaches boys to be tough, hide their emotions, and avoid open expressions of love for their family and friends. As of now, you still share your affection openly, but I worry that this will change when you become a teenager. You should work hard to be strong and stand up for yourself, but do not be afraid to show love to everyone around you.
And most importantly, even if you ignore all this advice and decide you want to figure out everything on your own, know this: From the first day I felt your tiny fingers grip my pinky, I’ve always loved you both. And I always will.