Being a parent is the most important job in the world. For a few years, the life of a human being is dependant on you. You have to feed and protect them, teach and love them. These basic needs alone can sometimes be challenging to fulfill. Being a decent parent can be hard enough, how do you become an amazing one? Jan Kotyk, is definitely on the short list for Searching for Sero’s parent of the year! How did he get there? By taking his 3 years old son Asher on all kinds of adventures, getting him to experience the outdoors playfully.
“When we were younger, my parents had us outside a lot. I think a part of it was maybe we didn’t have as much money when we were younger, so it’s a very cheap way of entertainment. I remember my mom showing up at our school picking us up with skis sticking out the side window. Everyday after school we’d go cross-country skiing. Then we grew up, myself, my two brothers and my sister were all lifeguards so we were always swimming. We’d spend a lot of time out and it just seemed a lot more exciting than spending time inside.”
This lifestyle is, in the end what brought the young man from Saskatchewan, over the Kicking Horse pass and into BC’s wilderness. After spending some time tree planting with his brother and a friend, the trio who was visiting friends in Golden fell in love with the place and after only two weeks there, ended up buying a house.
“The activities that you do there, back home, I couldn’t find all the activities you can have here. That’s why I want to live here, even if it costs more. In Golden, everything being so close, it makes it pretty easy and no matter where you work, you can just get on your bike, even if you only have an hour.”
Those spare hours between jobs, Jan spends them outdoors between his numerous passions. Cross-country and downhill mountain biking, swimming, snowboarding, alpine and nordic skiing, skateboarding, paddle boarding he enjoys doing it all and when on vacation, surfing is his go to.
“I tried really hard to just do one thing and make that the thing that I’m really good at. Then, I don’t know if I get distracted or what, but I get so excited about all these other things. I want to do them all. I end up meeting a lot of people though, even if it’s briefly through trying things out.”
Being so active, Jan entered parenthood wondering how this new role would impact his ability to enjoy the outdoors.
“There was definitely a part of me, the more selfish part, that was unsure. Right before he was born, I started thinking that I had to get into as much as I possibly could, because I didn’t know what it was going to be like.”
In reality, no one ever knows what it is going to be like. Jan didn’t know his son would be born with a congenital heart defect. If having a young kid is not enough of a life changer, spending days at the hospital for heart surgeries is. Ultimately, it motivated Jan to cherish the time that’s given to him and with his wife, they take their little man everywhere, trying to create as many memories as possible. Because really, we never know what is waiting for us around the corner and they have learned that lesson. Plus, Jan doesn’t feel like having Asher prevented him from doing the things he love.
“It has never slowed me down because we were always able to do things with him. Erin and I take turns as well to do things on our own, but a lot of the adventures, he just kind of comes with us. You can take him cross country skiing, snowboarding, skiing. It just means that not all of it is spent just on what I want to do.”
In fact, not only having a chid hasn’t been a hindrance, Jan would say it is quite the opposite. It is making him appreciate the outdoors on a different level and forces him to go out regularly to keep his son happy.
“It’s like when people say, “I’m going to get a dog because It’s going to help me get outside more”. You can’t just sit at home when you have a little one. You have to do things, you have to keep them busy and for that, outside is the best. If he’s having a bad day, go outside and it’ll clear up pretty fast. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”
Asher is making it enjoyable too. His laughter and enthusiasm when he hits the trail on his dad’s bike or on his own strider would melt any heart.
“It’s so fun. I’m kind of lucky because he enjoys a lot of the things I enjoy. For sure you introduce kids to activities you enjoy yourself but he seems to like all the things that we like already. I don’t know if this will always be the case. If he likes it and he can take some of his energy out, it’s so much more fun than sitting at home. It still gets my craving of wanting to go and do things and the it gets him excited and then when he gets old, he’ll want to continue and obviously surpass me with everything that he does.”
For a lot of the previous stories we have featured, love for the outdoors started at a young age and in many cases, it derives from great times with their family. Not only are Jan and his wife building great memories for their son, they also teach him the importance of play, being active and an appreciation for nature. Such values are so easy to dismiss yet so fundamental. For all these reasons, Jan’s parenting deserves recognition!