For our first parent profile, meet Deborah Williams, mom to Hwitley (five years old), wife to Bradd, passionate #outdoorist, and Outdoor Industry Association managing content editor. 

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1.    What has been your greatest adventure before kids?

Skiing with (big-mountain freeride skier) Ingrid Backstrom in South America. It was five days of hiking and skiing, in bounds and out, pushing the limits with other rad women... I didn’t have kids then, but I think I was training for it. I’d find myself holding back—that maternal preservation thing. It was a good opportunity to check in and say, “It’s okay to take a step back, and go at my own pace as long as I don’t stop.” (Read more in SKI.) With social media, people post about doing amazing things and anything less than extreme often isn’t good enough. If they can’t go huge, some people back out and are just not going to go. Even if you can’t hike a 14er, go for a short hike, walk around your
own close-to-home neighborhood or city park. Go at your own pace. But go.

2.    What has been your greatest adventure with kids?

This morning! I feel like every day is an adventure!

Also, our recent trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park… Hwit has autism and with special needs, his communication makes everything a bit of an adventure. When we get outside of our routine and familiar surroundings, he’s resilient and isn’t averse to new experiences. But also you have to communicate with him differently about what some of the risks can be. 

The Sand Dunes are incredible for anyone, but it was especially exciting seeing them through the eyes of a kid who thinks and communicates differently and who has such rich sensory experiences. In the world's biggest sand box, your hands feel like they’re on fire and your feet burn. But he was running around without shoes, and he loved it. He was so happy.

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3.    What are some of your favorite everyday adventures together?

Hwit is not interested at all in TV, but my Dad introduced him to YouTube videos of (Scottish cyclist) Danny MacAskill's "Wee Day Out." Hwit was just fascinated. He watches it dozens of times every week now. He got a strider bike and was into it right away. He immediately tried to take it down stairs and over concrete parking blocks because he saw Danny doing it. Now whenever we want to get outside, we grab the bike and say, “Alright, Danny, let’s go!”

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4.    Where do you find parenting inspiration, ideas and encouragement?

Friends, family, Facebook, my own parents. Most parents want kids to do the sports or activities they did and if kids say they want to do something, they’ll let them try it. But Hwit doesn’t express verbally what he wants to try. We have to pay attention to see what he gravitates to… like Danny and the bike.

His sensory needs also pull him into things. He really loves to pull grass. He likes the sound of it coming out of the ground, and he likes to spin the blades between his fingers. Sometimes it seems like he’s in his own world and we find ways to break in… We’ll ask, “What does the grass smell like?” or “How
many blades are there?” and that will tune him back into us and invite an interaction. I’ll follow his lead. If he takes his shoes off to feel the grass or the sand, I’ll take mine off and see what’s so great about it. We introduce him to new experiences, and he does the same for us.

5.    What do you wish you had known before having kids?

I’ve traveled a lot, but I wish I had traveled just a little bit more and been more present in what I was doing. When I traveled, I was always thinking about how I’d be able to say ‘I’ve been here,’ and I’d try to amass as long a list of ‘been-there-done-that’ as I could. With such limited time, now I wouldn’t put such a premium on the quantity of things as on the quality of my time and interactions.

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6.    What advice do you have for other parents trying to explore more?

My advice is, especially when it comes to exploring more, just try it. Too often we think, “Let’s go on a weekend trip,” but then you start to think about it and say, “Oh, it’s a long way…” You focus on what is challenging. You might even say “Oh, it was so much easier before kids” and talk yourself out of it.

You know what? If you load the car up and get out on your way and halfway there, the kid’s not having it and you need to go home, you still had an adventure. It’s better than not doing it at all. Sometimes parents say, “it’s just so hard with a kid or two or four… it’s too much so we’re just not going.” You make it easy on yourself by not going, but you deprive of kids of really cool opportunities.

7.     Which top two things can you not live without when out and about with kids?

A change of clothes. Hwit loves being in everything, which is awesome, but it usually means he's going to get dirty, and it's nice to change afterwards. And a water bottle.

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8.    What do you want your child to learn about the world?

I want him to learn that a lot of life is adaptive… I used to work the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), and I had an incredible experience skiing with an instructor named Bill who was on the PSIA Demonstration Team. Bill had been paralyzed in an accident when he was younger. He skied in a sit ski, and he absolutely ripped. He said to me, “You know, Deb, skiing is adaptive for everyone. No one is born with skis on their feet. It’s new for all of us.” That idea really stuck with me, and it applies to a lot in life. Kids and parents have to learn that and adapt to things. Hwit can adapt to anything and as he does that, the world will figure out how to adapt to him as well.

9.    What’s your parenting motto?

My motto is one my mom has said: Kids rise to the expectations you set for them. If you expect kids to do great things, dare to take adventures, behave politely, whatever it is… they will. No matter what kids have going on, wherever challenges may or may not be, expect great things and they’ll achieve them. And you'll be along for the ride.

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