Sunday, February 3, 2008

No Child Left Inside

My daughters do not play outside nearly as much as I did at their age. One might tend to think this is the result of their age or that they are girls, but I think not. My mother's litany was, "It's a beautiful day. Go outside and play." And I did. I did not worry, and think my mother did not worry much either, about various dangers and accidents -- that was all just part of raising boys. The horrors of predatory adults were not high on the radar either -- at least I think not.

I am concerned that even though I live in a distinctly rural area, my kids are living a suburban life. They don't play as much as I think they should. We tend to think of kid activities as things we must take them to. Yet our house is surrounded by woods. I can't think of a better playground. It's not that the girls aren't interested in it, either. The eldest loves all things vegetable, animal and mineral. But tell them go to outside and there are a million reasons why things get uncomfortable or scary and the boomerang back in.

An article I recently came across in Drive Magazine made me think of this more. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks that we are raising kids who are very "concerned" about "the environment" but don't actually spend much time in it.

Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment – but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. That’s exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child. As a boy, I was unaware that my woods were ecologically connected with any other forests. Nobody in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my fields; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt paths. I wandered those woods even in my dreams. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest – but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.

Worth Reading and thinking about. I'm sending my kids out there and locking the door. It's for their own good.


The Scylding said...

A profound post. I'm going to have to think about it...

Anonymous said...

This is so very true. My Mom had to drag us in the house. In the summer we were outside long after our bedtime. I was intimate with the fields, trees, creeks and stars. To this day I think there is no greater feeling than going barefoot on the grass.


Ps. My cell phone went out on our conversation and I immediatly got busy. Sorry.

kokomo said...

Enjoyed this post so much. Growing up in Eau Claire, my sister and I were hardly ever in the house.

Summer was spent riding our bikes to the pool or kickball or making mud pies or doing something fun with a ginormous cardboard box from my dad the builder.

Johnson's Hill was magical in the summer for it's blackberries and clay and even better in the winter because it was perfect for sledding, as it had about a dozen different hills branching off the main one, each with its own magical name, practically whispered as sacred.

The memories are incredible. Every kid should have them.