Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

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Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by Castlereagh » Fri Jan 11, 2013 4:48 am

So I just got off a phone conversation with my mom, and really this is a constant bone of contention with my family: having moved out west to pursue mountain/summit related activities, I am constantly a subject of worry for my parents and my family. They are worried about me every weekend I go out.

This bothers me for a few reasons:

1. Obviously I dislike my family, particularly my mother, being so constantly stressed out, especially on my account.

2. Selfishly, I feel like by their worrying, they pretty much dismiss any assumption that I, in pursuing my hobby, do my due diligence, research, and assessment of the risks that I take.

From my perspective, their fear, their worry of me being in danger, is a blind phobia, rather than a rational assessment of the actual risks of those of us who pursue the mountains. To them, everything, ranging from a class 1 trail or walk up a dirt road, to a basic cross country scramble in the desert, and upwards, is comparable, indeed, indistinguishable from, say, the gauntlet on Annapurna (if they knew what that was).

I think most people here at this website do worry about their own safety in the mountains. However, our worries, our fears, are things that are grounded in our own knowledge and experience of our own hobby. Yes, we are aware of risks, and we are aware of the fact that we take calculated risks. And yes, obviously despite all our precautions shit like a randomly falling rock, or a slip on a slope, or yes, sloppiness and mistakes on our part, no matter our experience level or skills, can all result in accidents. I personally approach every mountain with a certain amount of fear and apprehension, and part of this reason is so that it keeps me grounded and aware of the risks. Could bad shit still happen? Of course.

But I really feel like the fear my family feels for me is born of ignorance, reflexive phobia, even superstition. At the risk of sounding arrogant I try to explain to them, what I fear and what you fear are different. They'll read about accidents in the news and give me the most basic advice (it's like if an astronaut's mother was telling him/her "don't forget to put your helmet and oxygen tank on before you go into space"). And yes, from a personal/ego standpoint (and aside from the fact that they disapprove of something that is very important to me), I feel like from their fears they are completely dismissive of the work, research, and due diligence I put into each mountain before I ever get into my car (and yes, I realize that bad things can happen despite all that).

I guess what I'm trying to ask here is, how do you folks deal with this kind of concern from your family and loved ones? I hate the fact that I do stress them out, that they do worry and grow more figurative grey hairs on my account. How can you try to rationally explain what you do to people who know nothing about it, and are unable to understand the very esoteric reasonsing that exists within our hobby/pursuits?

And trust me, I've tried the usual arguments, there's risks in everything, from sitting on a couch and playing video games to walking down the street, but it makes no difference. They argue that I'll never understand the worry that parent feels for a child, but I feel like that's just a false metaphor, if that makes sense (and, without naming specific members, obviously there are many parents here on SP who teach their kids out to enjoy the outdoors and the mountains safely, at an early age even, and 20 years from now will feel comfortable with their kids going off into the mountains on their own, if they choose to do so). And no, I don't know how a parent feels. But obviously there's a difference between being worried for an experienced, peakbagging friend going to tackle a tough peak, and being worried about a meathead friend who's never stepped outside a city before going out to try climb a mountain for the first time.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by awilsondc » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:16 am

This is difficult because it's natural for family members to worry about each other. People with little experience hiking and climbing mountains could easily feel that being out in the middle of nowhere with no people around and no easy way to get help is extremely dangerous. In reality, the danger is much less for an experienced hiker or climber as most people know the limits of their abilities and know how to read a situation as far as when to turn back if necessary. With people who worry about me I often describe to them times where I have felt that my safety could be at risk and turned back from a summit attempt and that helps them realize I am aware of the risks, know my limits, and practice safety in the mountains.

Another way you can help family members feel at ease is to carry a SPOT, or InReach, or similar personal locator and rescue system. The Delorme InReach appears to be the best, especially when paired with their GPS unit. It will enable you to actually send and receive text messages in the mountains as well as alert rescue if you need assistance. It's somewhat spendy ($250 for the InReach, $250 extra for the Pn-60w GPS), but you may get the concerned parents to foot some of the bill if it will make them feel less worried about you.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by Andrew Rankine » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:19 am

Interesting thing that I think most of us have to deal with at some point. When I began rock climbing I read a lot about it, and I learned from people that my family trusts. That helps. I've also talked their ears off about climbing a few times, so they understand the level of safety concern that is a constant part of vertical adventures. You can try to get them to understand how things work. So, that way they understand a bit better what risks, or lack thereof, that you are taking. Take them climbing and prove how safe it is.
Even so, none of this seems to work for my Grandparents, for example. I can show them how safe climbing is, and while they may understand it they'll say : "Sure, but I read Into Thin Air you know!" At that point I'd just let it be and do what I want, and don't let it get in my way a single bit.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by soepherle » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:09 am

I have exactly the same problem...
My parents are always concerned and my father even blames me for acting so selfishly.
I gave up to try to explain the risks and my reasons for doing this because they just read articles in lots of newspapers about lost and deadly injured people in the mountains and think this would happen to everyone and everywhere...
Well, I guess we have to live with this and accept to live another life. I even stopped talking about my trips or showing photos to them.
On the other hand there are many people who do understand what we`re doing and why, so I stopped trying to be all things to all men.

Enjoy your tours!

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by pvnisher » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:25 am

Obesity and heart disease have killed about 1,000,000x more people then climbing accidents.
The most dangerous part of *most* climbs is the drive to the trailhead.

The most effective piece of safety equipment you have is that lump of grey sponge between your ears.

When they cite particular accidents, state what those people did wrong and that you've learned from their mistakes and would never do it. Of course, there's some lying there because sometimes you can do everything right and still get hurt. But just telling them, "yes, but they should have known to turn around when they saw those storm clouds. I don't want the summit so much I'll push into a thunderstorm." Or when the say that someone slipped and fell, say, "yes, but I make sure to always rope up and use running protection on ridges like that, so even if I slipped I wouldn't fall far."

Humans are bad at assessing risk. Violent, unpredictable things are far scarier than insidious, creeping death. That's why people are terrified of guns but accepting of swimming pools. And we spend billions on proactively attacking terrorists but very little on combating heart disease.

Try to remove the violent, unpredictable bits from your adventures, and it will *feel* and *sound* safer to your family, even if it actually isn't.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by splattski » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:18 pm

Well, I think the first part is to fess up. When I look back at some of the stuff we were climbing when I was in my teens- stuff that I'd have a hard time climbing now- I have to admit that some of that is scary. For example, two 17-year-olds climbing Rainier on their own (and much harder stuff). I can't imagine teens today doing that, but at the time I thought it was just fine. So admit there is some danger involved.
Second is to realize that it's a parent's job is to worry. I climb with my 30-year-old daughter. Watching her rappel off Rainier last year put me in a sweat. Watching her descend a rocky trail on her mountain bike terrifies me. But she's more than happy to show me the scars on her elbows, etc. Thank your parents for their concern and love.
Last, we climbers really are pretty selfish. Didn't Lionel Terray called it "Conquistadors of the Useless." I think it's unlikely that a climber could ever truly explain the Why to a non-climber. Accept that they may never understand, but explain that you are a better person for it.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by norco17 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:24 pm

Would they be willing to go on a short hike with you? That would put some nerves at ease since it allows them to see that it isn't all crazy steep shit. My dad won't look at any of my climbing pictures, because it makes him worry even though he use to climb. He has recently started backpacking with me and I think he worries less when I go out now.

My mom on the other hand, I have excepted the fact that no matter what I do she is going to worry. Just keep the "more interesting" stories between you and your climbing partners. Parent do not want to hear those.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by norco17 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:27 pm

awilsondc wrote:Another way you can help family members feel at ease is to carry a SPOT, or InReach, or similar personal locator and rescue system.

This would make my mom worry more if I wasn't hitting the OK button every five minutes.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by surgent » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:45 pm

Most people have little idea what "mountain/rock climbing" actually entails, and what little they know comes from the occasional spectacular situation like Everest '96. Thus, they lump a boring trail hike in with what they've seen on television.

Your best bet is to do a combination of what you and others have suggested: engage them as reasonably as you can, even offer to take them along on a hike, but don't mention other cases where you know they're going to worry disproportionally.

My mother worried about me for years, but not to the point where she got sick about it. Now that she's retired, she joined a local hiking club in the Las Vegas area and does hikes even I would find kind of challenging. She's 71, and I worry about her! :)

I have learned never to tell them I am hiking anywhere close to the border, which to them is anything within 50 miles. In those cases, I tell them nothing, then maybe later I'll mention what I did. My father told me outright not to go there, as though I were a child again. I respect what he says, but on this one topic, there is no bridging the gap.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by Sierra Ledge Rat » Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:08 pm

You're never going to convince anyone of anything, so stop trying.

Let your parents worry, and go out there and live your life.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by Scott » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:24 pm

Obesity and heart disease have killed about 1,000,000x more people then climbing accidents.

Exactly. The most dangerous thing you can do is sit around and around home and do nothing.

If they are worried about you climbing and putting yourself in danger, find a nice way to chastise them about (if they do those things) watching TV, movies (or eating thanksgiving dinners, etc.) and putting themselves in danger.

A few random links on the dangers of sitting around and not climbing: ... fographic/ ... do-all-day

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by MoapaPk » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:48 pm

Even if their fears are not rational, compared to other causes of death (e.g. driving Nevada's highways), their fears still hurt them. You can't lock a claustrophobe in a closet and tell him to get over it. Three suggestions:

1) don't ask don't tell -- except find a good, anonymous (to your parents) friend who will get your detailed itinerary and maps and expected return date. You can tell them (loved ones) that someone else is watching, but this will take the onus of "looking out for you" off them.

2) get a spot. Lots of places in the SW don't have any cell reception, You can even make a special group on facebook, with just a few friends, and post your spot locations there.

3) carry a cell phone.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by Andes6000 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:29 pm

One small detail that makes a huge difference on a trip, shut off the cell phone and only use it to update family when YOU want to. Exploring and climbing around the world should be a great faraway adventure and that's a state of mind, i grew up in the third world and a long distance call back home to illinois was a big deal and that was by radio. So after my first trips and climbs were distracted by calls from work or home i just keep it off now and update once a week or just text the a ok. When i get back to the hotel after a climb everyone's stuck on their devices uploading pictures and facebooking instead of hanging out and talking about the mountains or hitting the town. So climbing is about me, very selfish indeed. They can have me the rest of the time.

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Re: Allaying Parental/Familial Concerns

by Matt Lemke » Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:23 am

Join the club...I am constantly in the same situation


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