Climbing With Kids: Becca Caldwell Interview
For any of you out there that buy Patagonia kids clothes, you’ve probably seen the adorable kiddo Fitz Caldwell. Most likely those pictures were taken by his talented mom, Becca. She does an amazing job at documenting all the adventures that Fitz goes on (from her Instagram feed to their family blog).
In his short 18 months of life, Fitz has been down to Patagonia, on a three month trip across Europe and road tripped around the United States in their Sprinter van.
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to show our little one as much of the world and outdoor lifestyle as possible. However, I also knew that traveling and living the outdoor lifestyle was going to take more work and be an adjustment from our normal lives. Lots of moms try to make their backyards as exciting as possible, as this is an easy way to get your kids playing outdoors. It might mean having to invest in some extra lawn care (take a look at https://www.lawncare.net/service-areas/ohio/ if you’re not sure how to go about this), but children can learn an awful lot from it. I thought this was a great idea but also wanted to challenge my kids to more adventurous outings too. So, just like with any new thing in life, I looked to learn from others who were on the same journey. Becca definitely fit those aspirations. Ever since then, she has been a wealth of information for our first adventures with Theo. She was kind enough to take the time out of her very busy life to answer these questions. I know I’ve found her answers more than helpful and I hope you do as well!
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Tommy and I are both firm believers that getting outside is very important in life. So naturally we were on the same page about making sure Fitz has a childhood spent outside exploring and getting dirty and breathing in the fresh air. I have read things here and there (I can’t remember any to cite) about the importance of getting kids outdoors, how it helps their imagination and the stimulation is great for their brains, etc. The outdoors naturally provides opportunities for kids to run free, to take risks and test their boundaries, to explore different textures and objects and colors. We really try to give Fitz a lot of freedom when we are outside to encourage him in these opportunities. We try to keep a close eye on him and are ready to jump in if we need to, but we want to give him space to figure things out. We also hope that by Fitz spending a lot of time outside will create in him a love for nature and the outdoors and instill in him a desire to take care of it as he gets older.
Traveling and showing Fitz the world and a broader perspective is really important to us. We know he’s not going to remember a lot of these early trips we have brought him on, but I think they will have some kind of an impact on him, whether that’s extra brain stimulation from hearing different languages/seeing different sights, having different interactions with people, trying different foods. I think getting him in the groove of traveling will also open him up and help him adapt to more of those opportunities down the road.
Fitz seems to thrive when he’s outside. It’s better for all of us when he gets a lot of outside time. Ever since he was an infant (which I think is the case for most babies) stepping outside would always calm him, and it still does. Now that he’s talking he asks for it (“ow-sye”). I find my days are easier when we get out. He seems to entertain himself better and is typically in a better mood.
What were some of the first adventures that Fitz went on? Altitude? Bouldering?
When Fitz was 5 or 6 weeks old we took him on some hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. I think around 2 months old we summited 2 peaks with him (Flattop and Twin Sisters). We also hiked him up to Upper Chaos bouldering area around that age and Wizard’s Gate crag. He went on a road trip with us at 4 months to the Canadian Rockies, Yosemite around 6 months. We did some other domestic travel with him, Patagonia at 10 months and then had his first birthday in the beginning of a 3 month trip in Europe. So he had quite the first year and surprised us with how well he adapted to life on the go.
You just wrote a great blog post on flying with kids, what are some pieces of advice for parents wanting to camp with kiddos?
Believe it or not after we were in Yosemite last fall we have ended up doing mostly airplane travel (taking advantage of the nearly free tickets while we can), so now I feel like I’m figuring everything out again. Not to mention a year is a big difference in a small child’s life so it’s a new ball game this year in the Valley.
One thing that has been nice is to have some sort of contraption that you can put your kid in to give you just a little bit of free hand time. We have a chair that clips on to a table and it’s nice for dinner time – I can put Fitz in there and I can cook and eat and he can feed himself and it’s not a constant game of chase.
Having great layers for kids living outside is a must. Being able to throw layers on and off as the temperature changes makes life easier. We are all about Patagonia’s Capilene and Micro D and then whatever weight jacket/hat is necessary. It seems that no matter how much dirt Fitz pours on himself and how many days in a row he wears them they hold up great! Speaking of dirt, let your kid get dirty!! Hygiene goes out the window for us when we are camping and Fitz seems to do just fine going to bed dirty at night. We change him out of his outside clothes before bed and then in the morning put him back in the same clothes to preserve his pajamas and then do it all over again. And one last idea: Have snacks on hand. With all of the running around Fitz’s appetite seems to have grown. A hungry Fitz isn’t usually very pleasant.
You guys live in the van for a good chunk of the year, has it ever been difficult for you or Fitz to not be in a home? Do you have to bring a lot of toys? Or does nature do a good job at entertaining?
There have been moments where I have thought that life would be a little easier if we were at home (mainly when Tommy is up on the wall and I am trying to cook dinner in the dark while Fitz is running over to our neighbors bon fires or into the road), but other than that it hasn’t been so bad being away from home. However, we haven’t had a rainy day yet or exceptionally cold weather. I think when those elements come into play that’s when things are going to get more difficult. On beautiful sunshine-y Yosemite days it’s equal to or better than home; there’s fun stuff to explore, Fitz loves being outside. When considering other places we’ve typically adapted quite well. Daily life usually isn’t as easy as being at home with all of your tools, but the experience generally outweighs the ease of life for me. So if you focus on that it’s easy to not look back. We don’t travel with too many toys. It seems Fitz gets over toys relatively quickly anyways so if we are renting a house somewhere the kitchen tools become toys or our recycled containers. Lately Fitz has been obsessed with little cars/trucks so I have made sure to have those around. Rocks and sticks and sand never seem to get old, though. Nature usually delivers.
Any advice for people who are apprehensive about having kids because it might change their lifestyle?
Having a kiddo is definitely going to change your lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to completely change it. It becomes more work to do what you used to do, includes more planning and time, but we’ve done almost everything we did before having Fitz with Fitz and we’ve enjoyed it. We’ve definitely had moments where we have had to change our expectations and that’s just what you do. In any situation you make the best of it and be your best and you just keep looking forward. Attitude is key. You just need to make that decision and commit. There’s not a better way no matter what you decide. Every child and family dynamic is different, but it is possible to make it work. Sharing our somewhat unconventional way of life with Fitz is really fulfilling and we think a lot about how it might shape him. We’ve just chosen to try to continue doing what we do in hopes that it will inspire him to make his own path because we think there’s value to that. Sometimes we are even inspired to do more than what we would have done before because of the obligation we feel we have to show Fitz the world. So you never know!
What have been some favorite destinations so far?
Every place has been great for different reasons, but a few that top the list…
Yosemite is always a favorite because we love so much about it, but it’s really great for a kid. There are bike paths, kid friendly trails, soft ground, rocks to climb on, kid friendly bouldering areas. It’s just a magical place.
Patagonia was really fun because we felt a little adventurous bringing Fitz down there. It was definitely a higher commitment level trip and because we were all-in going there we were able to feel more of a reward from the trip (if that makes sense?).
Europe was a highlight, too. Traveling around and experiencing different cultures and watching Fitz adapt wherever we went was really cool. We met up with different friends in the different destinations and that was amazing to share this time in life with others, and it’s also key to helping make it work (especially on climbing trips).
It’s funny. Thinking about our favorite trips the big ones/logistically harder trips are what come to mind and feel the most fulfilling. I think it is probably the higher risk/higher reward principle. I really can’t put a finger on why those were my favorite, but they were and it must be because we had to put more work into them so we got more out. Who knows. Maybe it was just the good wine in each place. ?
Do you have an idea on your approach to Fitz and climbing? Do you think it’s something you will try to push?
Tommy and I both love climbing (Tommy as a passion obviously and me more as a hobby, but it’s also a lifestyle for both of us) and we are definitely not going to keep our love for it from Fitz. We also aren’t going to force him into it either. We will give him plenty of opportunities to experience it and choose to partake in it, but there’s no pressure from our end. I think climbing is an amazing sport athletically and mentally, it brings you to beautiful places and in interesting positions. We built a little climbing wall in Fitz’s room and some people think this is us pushing climbing on Fitz, but I think it’s important for kids to have opportunities to move their bodies and explore their capabilities and limits and I just thought this was a great way to provide that opportunity for Fitz in our home. And what kid doesn’t love to climb? So we will see if he takes to the sport or if he’s uninterested, but there’s definitely a bit of both of us that hopes he likes it so we can share those great experiences with him.