I grew up surrounded by trees.
Not these kind:
(end Dr. Seuss-style poetry here.)
In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I lived until I was in the 8th grade, trees are everywhere. So when my teacher first read The Lorax out loud to our second-grade classroom – and later, when we saw the original movie from the early 70s – I truly didn’t “get” it. How could the trees go away? You might just as well have told me that there might one day be no snowmobiles or guys wearing orange hats during deer hunting season.
But since moving downstate in my teen years – and then living in several other states since – I came to notice a few things:
- Snowmobiling: not a national pastime
- Most people work during deer-hunting season
- Trees: not quite as abundant in most places as they are in northern Michigan.
I’m conflicted about it. After all, I like restaurants and stores and museums and paved streets. But I grew up loving trees and wild places, and when I return to those wild places, I feel a kind of yearning that makes me wonder if I wouldn’t be happier living off the grid in a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere.
But then, I probably couldn’t have my iPhone.
I think that’s the problem with the modern world and the way our kids are learning to relate to it. We see things as extremes: either you live in a big, noisy, dirty, exciting, materialistic, culturally interesting, technology-driven city, or you live in the middle of nowhere with solar heat and a couple pair of long underwear you knitted yourself out of the wool you gathered from your free-range sheep.
I believe what this all-or-nothing approach teaches our kids is that nature is “other”, something you have to make become a hermit and move off the grid to experience. Or, at the very least, something you only have access to in small bits and pieces, like a week-long summer vacation.
Like the quote in The Lorax says: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” And the more detached we are from the forests and trees and natural world, the harder it is for any of us to care about it…or at least, to remember that we care, between checking Twitter and rushing to drop our kids off at soccer practice.
I’ll be writing a series of posts about this conflict between modern life and nature over the next couple of weeks, as part of a sponsored conversation celebrating the release of the new film version of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I’d love to have you along for the ride as I explore these topics: how do we introduce our kids to “the trees” and other nature around us? How do we raise kids who are comfortable with nature, who value nature? And how do we re-learn how to appreciate it ourselves?
I hope you’ll join in the conversation! How important is nature in your home, to your kids? Do you make a special effort to enjoy it as a family?
Like this post? Continue the conversation with Raising Kids Who Speak For The Trees, Part 2: Parents, Get Outside