Happy Earth Day!
As I continue on this journey of motherhood I am baffled at how fast time is flying. I just hope that I am doing a decent job, and covering all my bases. Everyday is a moment to moment balancing act of making sure my kids have a least eaten a bite of their meal, that we are following what we are supposed to be doing for school, that their hair is at least halfway combed with maybe a bow stuck in it, that their shoes are not too stinky, and that they are hopefully nice to the other children.
I love being a mom, AND I sometimes long for the days of being a backpacking counselor at camp, or being drenched in rain for 5 weeks straight in the mountains of Patagonia. I long for the days of living in a tent and knowing the peace and comfort that only nature brings.
Will I be able to instill this same love of the natural world in my girls? Will they grow up to know how important it is to be connected to the earth? As a camp director, I hope I don’t miss the mark on this one. However, during the winter months, it does seem like we get stuck in our routine of school, play dates, extracurricular activities, birthday parties, and trips to the playground. We live in a world that does not always lend itself to being connected to nature. My phone or computer are never too far away, and at ages 3 and 5, Kate and Ellie are magnets for any technical gadget they can get their hands on. Kate can work the cell phone like she is a little adult and Ellie could play Angry Birds on the iPad for hours if I would let her.
As I am a firm believer in the movement to reconnect children with nature, I decided we were past due for a little trail time out of the city. I wanted to honor Earth Day, and April being the “Get Outside” month, and walk my talk. I packed up the family for a little day adventure across the Causeway to Fontainebleau State Park. Ten minutes into our drive, the questions started, “When are we going to be there?”
Ellie said, “Ya know Mom, the other day I saw a car with a TV in it.”
I replied, “Yes I know, those are pretty cool aren’t they,” thinking of all those gear hungry people who cannot leave the house without a gadget and then I started to blare our favorite songs from the Sound of Music, and we all loudly sang along. Then of course we had to play “Pretty Girl Rock,” because we think it is hilarious to hear the girls sing “Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful.”
As we entered the gates of the park, that feeling of a slower world hit me. It was an awesome feeling for me to be bringing my girls into nature, and to share the love and appreciation that I have for it. To be present with them and away from the hustle of our daily lives was what I needed. We walked under the beautiful trees and admired their huge roots, watched dozens of dragonflies and other bugs, and listened to the birds. I did forget to pack the bug spray, and the mosquitoes were very large and plentiful, so we did a lot of swatting
In Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods,” he writes: “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience. Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical and spiritual health directly to our association with nature – in positive ways using health information technology
In our 91st season, I sometimes find myself apologetically explaining to new camp parents that they will not get emails, calls or texts from their children, as I know this is new territory for them. I find myself worrying that there might come a time when parents and children do not want to be “unplugged” for the summer. I worry that the desire for skills and knowledge will outweigh the desire for strong character. As a fourth generation camp director, I dedicate my life’s work to providing a summer experience for youth which allows them to play, grow, and learn among the beauty of nature. I strive to stay true to the powerful mission that was set forth by Frank H. Cheley; he believed so strongly in the phrase, “Great things happen when youth and mountains meet.” And as a mother, I dedicate myself to the movement to reconnect children and nature, and I will start with my own.
Take the time to celebrate the Earth, today and everyday.