FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Returning Changed

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 05•13
  • my gym

“There are many terrible things that can happen along the way, and many terrible things that WILL happen along the way, but one of the worst things that could possibly happen is that you return unchanged.”

– Shawn Smucker

This is Shawn Smucker’s take on adventures near the end of his four-month, 10,000 mile trip across America, with his wife and four children (ages 2, 3, 7 and 8), in a 40-foot RV bus they called Willie.

I’ve been thinking about Shawn’s views on adventure while reading his book on his family’s trip, and his thoughts pinballec throughout my mind during my Saturday mini-adventures with D.

One of the Smucker’s adventures was driving down Teton Pass in Nevada, the highest mountain pass in the Western United States, and Shawn realizing the brakes on the 20,000 pound RV were no longer working.

He pushed down on the brake and pulled the parking break, but the RV just kept gaining speed before a runaway truck ramp appeared as salvation on the left side of the road.

Thus, the title Shawn’s book: How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp. Our adventures were nothing like the Smucker’s trip. We went to D’s My Gym class, McDonald’s Play Place, the Pet Store and Toy Store; basically, we went everywhere D asked me to go.

My dream is to ride the Amtrak Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Seattle and back, but I’ve never gotten around to making the trip, so I have to give it up to Shawn for taking his family on such an epic adventure.

I know a trip to the Pet Store fulfills D’s sense of adventure at age five; but I am looking forward to the day when his views on adventure will expand and grow closer to mine.

Like hiking the Yosemite mountains or traveling by train up the Pacific Coast.

I kept thinking of Shawn’s thoughts on adventure during D and my mini-adventures-that the worst thing that can possibly happen on an adventure is to return unchanged–and I feared this was going to happen to us.

pet store

By the time we made it home, I believed the “worst” possible thing had happened to us: we had returned unchanged. And I felt sad because I feel it is my responsibility as his dad to broaden D’s views on adventure.

I went into L and my bedroom and shut the door. I laid down in bed and my mind kept thinking, we had returned unchanged. Then D burst through the door and ransacked through the closet.

D was digging through a stash of books he discovered the day before in a plastic bag. They were books L and I used to read to him when he was younger, but will soon be donated to Goodwill.


We squeezed into a brown leather chair, and D brought me book after book to read, returning to the closet for a new one as soon as we had finished reading the previous one.

The books had only a few words per page, and I think we read six or seven books. We had spent most of the day together, and I was amazed D wanted to keep spending more time with me.

That’s when I realized my fear was unfounded: We had not returned unchanged. His love for me, and my love for him which grows during our adventures, this is how we return changed from our times together.

It isn’t so much where we go, I am realizing, it’s just spending time together. Looking through a glass window at the dogs at Petsmart’s Doggy Day Care or running down a steep hill at a park near our home.

Usually, there is an interesting event. The other day we met four older boys playing “army” with Nerf guns at the park. D followed them around a while, and when one let D shoot his gun, he nearly took out his eye.

Sometimes, nothing much happens. But we’re hanging out, and even during these times, a special moment may arise like when D met a new friend today at the Pet Store: Mia.

They read the names of cats on the cages (Sammy, Abagail, Frank, Peter, Tabby, Abraham, Harold, Joey) and played in the scratching post area as D bit the tail of a plushy blue whale and Mia hugged her stuffed cat.

Even in this small moment–though I didn’t realize it at the time–D was being changed by learning how to make a new friend.


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