Editor's Letter | The Family Issue - December-January 17/18
This month is all about adventures for the whole family
A couple of days ago I met a friend’s 6-month-old son for the first time. Amid the chat about the sleepless nights and the screaming sessions (which quite frankly didn’t sound like a lot of fun) my interest was peaked when talk turned to his first Christmas (which definitely did).
I spend the festive season with my extended family most years, but it’s been a long time since there were any little people around our tree, and I realised how much I’d missed it. My friend's son may be too young to appreciate it fully this time around, but for the next few years he’s going to be as excitable as, well, a kid at Christmas.
"Wendy Fisher was expressing breast milk for her first child between runs at the US Extreme Skiing Championships."
While this time of the year might be made for talking about families, at first glance adventure sports might seem an odd way to do it. After all they usually involve an element of danger, which for many parents would put them a long way down the list of preferred activities. But there are just as many people who view adventure not just as child-friendly, but an essential part of raising healthy, well-adjusted kids, and rightly so.
Take Wendy Fisher for example, who Abi Butcher spoke to for this month’s Big Interview. An “utterly badass" free-skier, she was expressing breast milk for her first child between runs at the US Extreme Skiing Championships, and now regularly takes both her young sons out on the hill.
She’s more aware than most of the sport’s dangers too - horrifically, she watched her older brother die in a skiing accident when she herself was just a child. “Even though my brother died, this sport is awesome," she explains, and she wants her kids to enjoy it as she has.
It’s not like kids need slow you down either. Fisher’s two boys now often beat her down the slopes, and in fact, children can be the catalyst for their parents taking on new challenges. This was certainly the case for Jordan Romero’s family who climbed together and then, at Jordan’s instigation, summited Everest when he was just 13 years old - making him the youngest person ever to do so.
The achievement (and the family’s subsequent ascent of the rest of the Seven Summits) didn’t just put Jordan’s name in the record books, it made him closer to his father and surrogate mother, who he misses climbing with to this day.
Of course, taking a teenager up the world’s highest mountain isn’t for everyone, but you can enjoy a similar sense of collective endeavour and achievement closer to home too. This month saw features editor Sam Haddad and a friend taking their kids trekking round the bothies of the South Downs, an experience she documents amusingly for our Great British Adventures series.
As she found out, there’s something about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone - whether that’s camping with kids in an English winter or climbing the world’s highest peaks - that brings people together. And while you don’t have to be related to each other to appreciate this (Hugh Francis Anderson had an incredible time at the inaugural IGO Morocco this month with a friend), but it definitely helps. After all, if you’re going to be huddling in a tent in subzero temperatures, or pushing yourself to the extremes of physical exhaustion, it helps to know your companions inside out before you start.
Of course, everyone has family members they’d rather not spend any more time with than is strictly necessary. The stereotypical drunken uncle or borderline racist grandmother are festive-season staples for example. But for all they can infuriate you, it’s worth remembering that the best companions for any adventure you might choose to embark on are often the ones closest to you. So it’s perhaps no wonder that my friend can’t wait until his boy’s old enough to get a snowboard for Christmas.
Here’s hoping this month’s stories inspire you to get outside with your family this festive season.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year from all of us at Mpora.
- Tristan, Editor-in-chief