Disconnecting to Connect

One part “Davis Parenting Pro-Tip” (LOL, as if anybody is a pro at this), one part photo-journal, all 100% authentic.  This post has what you want, whether you’re here for the article or just to look at the pictures.

It’s no secret in our household that both Jono and I are technology addicts.  We’ll quite happily sit playing on the Laptop/Tablet/Phone/Playstation/Netflix/TV for hours if left to our own devices (see what I did there?).

It isn’t healthy.

It isn’t conducive to good attitudes or behaviour.  We don’t really talk all that much.  “So what?” some of you are thinking – “That’s pretty normal these days.”  And it may well be normal for a lot of families, but it’s not what I want for my family.

So we’re in the school holidays and I’ve taken a bit of time off work.  For the last 24 hours Jono has been relentlessly nagging me to play Lego Batman 3 (great game by the way) on the Playstation with him.  His attitude has been shit-house.  He’s half-heartedly making an effort to be helpful until he determines he isn’t going to get his way then it’s total meltdown material. When he’s getting this way it usually means he’s well overdue for some proper Daddy-Jono time.

Normally that means a trip to the “Special Forest” which is a native reserve 5 minutes up the road from our place.  But it’s the holidays, we have a whole afternoon up our sleeves and it’s an opportunity to go check out something new.

So off we go on a trek to the Waitakeres, to go for a walk to the Upper Nihotupu Dam.  More on the actual walk later.  The point is that going for a walk is our special Daddy-Jono time.  We adventure together and generally do what boys do.  We piss on trees.  We walk in mud.  We break sticks and make noise.  We jump off rocks.  We head off-trail to check stuff out.

We also talk.  We talk a lot.  We talk about serious stuff and random crap.  Topics over the last couple of years have included:

  • Why it doesn’t matter if everybody thinks your ideas are dumb – lots of people thought ideas were dumb over the years (flat earth anybody?)
  • Why it’s important to push harder in the the last 15 minutes of a training session than the first.
  • Why are there pipes under the pathway?
  • Jono’s thoughts on how he might be rewarded for tries and rips in Rugby this season (his choice of topic, not mine!).  Which, no surprises, involved playing on the Playstation, and (this was a surprise) disencentives for leaving the field when he wasn’t being subbed off.
  • What building character means.
  • What we’re going to be when we grow up.
  • Why Pikachu is a pretty cool Pokemon, but Hoopa is stronger, but Pikachu is still his favourite.
  • How cool it is to be a big brother.
  • How much Natalie sucks because she takes up all of mummy’s time.
  • How Christian Cullen scored lots more tries than Beauden Barrett has, but Beaudy might be better (it was on the radio on the way there today)
  • How there’s no such thing as giant forest spiders (my fault, but led to a surprisingly long convo on how big bugs actually can be)

The point is that our walks are like a secret cheat code into what’s going on in my small boy’s complex brain at that time.  They also provide opportunities to bond in our manly way.

I know that one day he’ll figure out why we head into the bush, just the two of us.  That it’s one of my ways of connecting with him at a different level.  I suspect a small part of him already understands it, supported by the loving but firm “No Mummy, just Jono and Daddy” when Kerryn attempts to tag along.

I hope that when he does, he’ll understand it for what it is and keep looking for ways to connect well after going for a bush walk stops being “cool”.

I fundamentally believe that our children need to be equipped to dominate in a digital era.  I also believe that finding ways to unplug ourselves from our perpetually connected lives and share the world around us is more important than ever.  However you do it, make sure you do.  The great thing about heading bush is that most of these places reduce the digital leash in my pocket to a small and incredibly portable camera.  Which is really the only thing you might need when you’re making memories together.

I have yet to learn what Natalie and I will do together.  It might be bush walks, it might be cross-stitch, who knows.  What I do know is that it will just be the two of us.  And it won’t be shopping!

Now about that walk…

The Upper Nihotupu Dam walk is a Council maintained walk about 30 minutes from the CBD.  There is ample parking just off Piha Rd and it’s pretty hard to miss.

The track itself is metal and well maintained.  It’s able to walked two abreast and is stroller friendly.  Even after the heavy rain over the last couple of weeks there were only two small muddy sections (a couple of meters long).

It’s not a tough walk at all, with the gradients being gentle to moderate.  You are walking either uphill or downhill the whole time, so don’t expect a flat track.  It is nestled in the Waitakere Ranges after all!

There are a bunch of fairly well worn offshoots to check out some of the bigger waterfalls so keep an eye out for them.

The Dam itself is pretty impressive, and it’s worth going for a walk down to the bottom (a 20 minute detour) to get a proper feel for the size of it.

All in all well worth a couple of hours (including some time for sightseeing) on a fine day!

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Off we go in our matching walking socks.
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Off Jono goes, he spent most of the walk jogging ahead. If Rugby doesn’t take maybe something like the Xterra would be more up his alley.
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Not sure what it is, but it was big enough for J to stand in it and isn’t made by nature…
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Mini waterfalls everywhere. Constant reminders of all the rain we’ve had lately!
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Water, water everywhere.
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Selfie skills need work. In my defence, we are perilously perched on a rock on the edge of the pool, with everything being slippery as hell and Jono less than comfortable with the whole situation.
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Is that a Dam down there?
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Jono gets his first peek at a real live Dam!
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Objective achieved.
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Lotsa water in there. Almost looks drinkable.
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Dams are not nearly as exciting as the journey to get to them…
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Long way down. Let’s go check it out.
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Hard to read, but Width of dam at bottom 104 feet. Width at top 12 feet. Engineering yo.
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Obligatory product placement shot, boy adventure without dried meat is not a boy adventure. Also Camelbak to stay hydrated on those long treks in the wild. Somebody should be paying me for this shit.
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The Rainforest Express Tramline – a shame it’s out of service.
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Creepy train tunnel. Just needs a scary clown in there to finish the look off. #It #Pennywise
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Just add Dinosaurs and you have Jurassic Park.
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Jono had to go, so he went. With a vengeance. Settle people, he could have pissed into the reservoir. Then you’d be drinking his pee. And the decomposing bodies of everything that dies and falls in there. And the dead leaves. Actually I’m not sure I want to see what’s in the bottom of our water tank. It’s probably worse.
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Going up?
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Not your average set of stairs. More like ladders. Stair-ladders. Stadders. Yeah, that’s it, Stadders.
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The stairs keep going and going…
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Back at the top, time to head back uphill to home…
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Almost tempting enough to go for a splash around. But then it would be like I was taking a bath in your drink. Which seems all kind of wrong.
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