This is the second post in a sponsored series I’m taking part in this week – details at the end!
I have a very clear memory of playing in the sprinkler in my neighbor’s front yard when I was about eight, as my mom and the neighbor sipped lemonade on the porch, chatted, and wondered at our boundless energy. It was about 2:00 PM in the middle of a weekday.
This was a common occurrence when I was a kid – the kids playing and exploring while the grown-ups did their own thing outdoors – sometimes weeding, sometimes just sitting and talking.
In the totally amazing, inspiring and paradigm-shifting book Last Child In The Woods, author Richard Louv quotes a parent on the differences between today’s generation of kids and previous generations:
“Something else was different when we were young: our parents were outdoors. I’m not saying they were joining health clubs and things of that sort, but they were out of the house, out on the porch, talking to neighbors.”
Point taken. As a work-at-home mom who makes my living on the computer, I’m definitely inside more than I am out – even on some lovely summer days. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone under the age of 60 sitting on their porches or in their yards in the middle of the day in my neighborhood – and I live in an area with a lot of kids and a fair number of stay-at-home parents. Even on weekends and in the evenings, a lot of people just aren’t out.
We feel more pressure to do, do, do than our parents did; whether it’s working, playing with our kids, or driving them to an activity. Like a lot of adults my age, I go outside when I feel like I have a purpose out there, like cleaning the garage or tending a garden. But when the work’s all done, I’m likely to head back inside, where there’s more “stuff to do.”
Because doesn’t it always feel like there’s stuff to do, somewhere? (Usually wherever the computer is.) The result is that we’re inside a lot more than we should be – and our kids follow our example. After all, if we never seem to want to go out, why would they?
In my last post about nature, I made an assertion: that if we’re going to get our kids to speak for the trees – to protect the environment and natural spaces – we first, as the Once-ler in the Lorax said, have to get them to care. A whole awful lot. After all, kids can’t care about something they never knew they missed in the first place.
So how do we do that? Well, one crucial way is for parents to model enjoying, using, and living in nature. You know – to go outside. Not just to entertain the kids. Not always with an agenda. But just to be there. And I know it’s something I have to make more of an intentional effort to do.
Maybe it’ll mean just hanging out in my front yard with a book and a friendly smile for any neighbors who might want to follow suit. Maybe I’ll take up knitting or something else that keeps my hands busy while I watch my daughter dig in the dirt and the boys ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk. And okay, occasionally I might be sitting out there with my laptop, firing off emails while the kids run in the sprinkler.
But one thing is certain: it’s not always enough to say “Kids, go play outside.” To really get them to care – a whole awful lot – about nature, we have to show them we care, too.
And that starts, in part, with just going out: to work, to play, or just to sit and breathe the fresh air.
How will you set aside time to simply be outside with your kids?
Like this? Check out my first post in the series.