Your Kid Finished the Appalachian Trail? Be Quiet, Maybe

In 'Outside' essay, Krista Langlois explains why she doesn't like stories of young record-breakers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2021 1:49 PM CST
Your Kid Finished the Appalachian Trail? Be Quiet, Maybe
We're not sure what parent is bragging about this young climber, as it's a stock photo.   (Getty Images/Arseniy Rogov)

We've all seen the occasional headlines about kids who set mountain-climbing records or hike the entire Appalachian Trail, but Krista Langlois doesn't want to hear about such feats anymore. In her latest piece for Outside, she explains it's not that she's unimpressed by the youngsters' abilities, or is trying to minimize what they've accomplished. "I am awed by their stamina and patience," she writes of the high-performing children and their parents. However, in her eyes, this trend to add the tag "youngest" onto every activity in the great outdoors may be doing more harm than good. For one, spurring kids to undertake these often-difficult adventures may promote an "outdated and increasingly unhealthy attitude toward outdoor recreation," where the desire to conquer and set records could lead to unnecessary risk-taking, she notes.

Second, this drive to get kids to hike, swim, or climb faster/higher/better can make regular parents and kids feel inadequate, and undermine what outdoor rec should really be about, in Langlois' view: forging a connection with Mother Nature. Instead, she'd like to see everyone slow down. "What if we also celebrated the family who just took their 10-year-old camping for the first time, or whose 5-year-old played unsupervised in the ditch behind her house for hours?" she writes. "What if we talked about the realities of hiking with a toddler?" Langlois concedes, however, this revision may be easier said than done. "Ensuring that our children's relationship to the outdoors is one of gratitude and joy rather than competition and conquest may require a shift in our own deeply entrenched mindsets," she writes. Read her essay in full here. (More climbing stories.)

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