There is nothing more magical than the excitement of a young child unzipping their tent at sunrise and peering into the foggy morning to see if Bigfoot has squashed the berries they scavenged for him and, in return, left an REI gift card, fur clumps, and scat at their campsite.
Celebrating Bigfoot is a joy for all kids. In fact, it’s so joyful that some people continue to believe all the way into adulthood! But if you’re a parent whose children are getting to “that age,” you may be wondering how to break the truth before a classmate spills the beans.
Here are five strategies you can try when it’s time to have the Bigfoot Talk.
1. Be honest.
On your next camping trip, sit your child down, hand them an aluminum mug of cocoa, and let them know you need to have a difficult discussion.
Use plain language to explain that Bigfoot is just a Pacific Northwest legend. Be prepared to answer questions like, “What about all of those blurry photos he left on my phone?” “Who stomped on the berries?” and “What’s the deal with the piles of poop then?”
Tell the truth. The blurry photos are of Uncle Ted in a gorilla suit, and Mommy and Daddy stayed up until 2 AM making footprints in the mud with a big metal stamp from Amazon, then crafting faux scat out of wet paper bags and modeling clay.
(Traditions vary, which is part of what makes Bigfoot special. If your family uses real scat, be honest about where you source it.)
2. Have kids draw their own conclusions.
If your child seems skeptical this camping season, allow them to work through their doubts by asking open-ended questions about Bigfoot. For example:
“How do you think Bigfoot sneaks in and out of every campsite undetected?”
“Why is it that Bigfoot leaves clumps of hair for every camper, but doesn’t have bald patches in those photos he leaves on your phone?”
“Do you think it’s fair that Bigfoot gives some children Patagonia jackets, but other children, who are equally good and deserving, only get off-brand windbreakers from Ross Dress for Less? Why or why not?”
Your child’s answers may surprise you or even inspire new traditions!
3. Explain that Bigfoot isn’t a material being but a “spirit.”
Start by reminding your kids how much people love Bigfoot. Ask if they’ve noticed popular examples of Bigfoot, such as beef jerky advertisements or novelty T-shirts at the Portland Airport.
Lay out gently that Bigfoot is not actually a corporeal ape-man lumbering through the woods to bring outdoor equipment to good boys and girls while punishing naughty children with poison oak and ticks.
Instead, Bigfoot is the “spirit of roughing it in the wilderness,” and kids can be part of the spirit too. Enlist kids to help with Bigfoot traditions by smashing up berries while their younger siblings sleep, or encourage them to think of ways to keep the Spirit of Bigfoot alive even after camping season is over!
4. Tell kids they have been “promoted” to being a Bigfoot.
Younger kids may start looking suspiciously at “Bigfoot’s” hair clumps, but haven't yet connected the dots that those clumps were just shaved off of the family schnauzer. Allow littles to hold on to the magic a little longer using this strategy that recently went viral. Here’s a script to use:
“I have a secret about Bigfoot to share. Bigfoot isn’t just one sole cryptid! Anyone can be a Bigfoot if they’ve proven themself worthy, like you did when you did _______. (You’ll insert a rugged activity your child completed such as: hiking Mt. Hood; catching a rainbow trout using a fly they tied themselves; or landing a complex mountain biking jump.)”
From here, give your child a “Bigfoot Mission,” like anonymously dropping off a basket of hand-foraged wild blackberries at a nursing home, stamping footprints in a neighbor’s yard, or even donning Uncle Ted’s gorilla suit and posting selfies to an Internet forum.
Just make sure they know it’s Top Secret! Kids enjoy being in on the conspiracy.
5. Just keep lying.
Some kids never want to let go of Bigfoot, and that’s okay! Just make sure that they understand that a passionate enthusiasm for Bigfoot Lore may limit their dating prospects as they age.
Having the Bigfoot Talk may be challenging, but can ultimately be a rewarding bonding experience for you and your child. And who knows, you may start a new outdoorsy tradition to celebrate for years to come! (If nothing else, Ted will be thrilled he can finally send that gorilla suit to Goodwill.)