Like so many parents this year, to say our family is adjusting to a new way of life would be a massive understatement. Both my wife Jenny and I work full-time, and I’ve gotta admit, it can sometimes make being a full-time parent (our most important jobs) challenging. Meetings are now taken from the kitchen table, often interrupted by at least one photobomb from my youngest son. Time seems irrelevant. The Zoom fatigue is real, and I’ve traded adult conversations over beers, for Star Wars conversations over mac and cheese. Yet, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how grateful I am to be in a position where everyone in my family is together, healthy, and safe. As some adjustments start to wear on me, I’m finding that others are giving me a new perspective. Life’s been put on hold for a while and I’m here for it.
Being outside in nature is something that I grew up loving, and today it’s still my favorite way to spend time with my family. As the son of a geologist, I developed an unwavering appreciation for nature and the outdoors at a young age. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents, my sister, and me piling into our baby blue station wagon and visiting the National Parks, spending as much time together on the trail as possible.
Yet somehow, somewhere, this simple, back-to-basics, and down to earth (literally), outdoor family time has been replaced with lavish birthday parties, overly competitive team sports, and excessive screen time. Then 2020 came along, and with it, a really big secret I’ve been keeping: many of the adjustments we’re making this year have been softened by the silent satisfaction I feel every time we’ve been forced to put plans on hold.
Another canceled birthday party? “Oh darn.” Rescheduled baseball practice? “Oh well.” Postponed recitals? “There’s always next year!” I find myself not only breathing a sigh of relief but delighted in my contentment of these canceled plans. My 10-going on 16-year-old daughter later explained to me that “…it’s called JOMO, Daaaaaaadddddd….” (aka, the joy of missing out).
For me, time spent outdoors with my family is and always has been quality time in its purest form. Even when I’m not working, as CEO of a leading health & wellness platform I often catch myself physically in the presence of my family but mentally focused on work. Now, as I find myself with more time to commit to my family, we’ve made a point to get outside together at least once a day. Sometimes it’s just a walk or quick bike ride around the neighborhood. Other times we have enough flexibility to hit the trail for a family hike. Slowly but surely, as we rack up the miles, it’s become apparent to me that time spent together on the trail is drastically different from time spent together indoors. I’m not a doctor, but something about getting your blood pumping outdoors with your tribe does incredible things for bonding, morale, and overall happiness. The sibling fights stop. The conversations start. Questions are asked. Curiosity is at an all-time high. We’re mentally and physically recharged. We’re connected. We’re a team.
Even when Jenny and I were stressed about homeschooling, I quickly realized that my kids were learning things they could have never learned from a book, absorbing life lessons that are molding them for the future, all while getting dirty on the trail. I personally do my best thinking while outdoors, but to watch lightbulb after lightbulb go off in each of my kiddo’s brains as they overturn rocks, race up hills, and play hot lava has been one of my most rewarding parenting moments to date. I’ve always wanted to make sure that the wild places that shaped me are still here to continue teaching and be appreciated by my children. Now, I’m watching this desire unfold as my kids step up, learn to appreciate our planet, experience her beauty, and develop a renewed sense of protecting our environment.
Time may seem irrelevant right now, but ironically, it’s the gift of time that’s helped me stop and appreciate the little things – the truly important things. During such an unprecedented period, it’s necessary that we come together as a community, look outside of ourselves, and help impart change. Yet, amongst all the anxiety and angst, I’m thankful for even the chaotic moments that I share with my personal Schneidermann community of five. As we start to adjust to whatever our new normal will be, I’m taking a new and improved outlook on the mental and physical health of my family with me. I’m not sure what the rest of the year will hold; none of us are. But you better believe, I’ll be taking my time. Bring on the JOMO.