geocaching, just being outside in creation.
Today I was thinking about this as I led a group of 8 kids, my kids and some of their friends through a nearby pond area we love and frequent. My kids and their friends have named different areas of the pond. Names like Devils Haunt, Witches Pass, Turtle Cove, Frog Swallow and others I can't think of. They run around and and talk about where they want to go next. They build forts, climb trees, big dirt piles they call mountains and run through deer trails. They catch frogs, turtles and snakes and watch tadpoles grow into frogs they will later catch. They alternate between being loud and quiet, so as to not scare away the animals, from running fast to walking super slow and taking it all in. They negotiate with each other over where they will head next and how much time they will spend there. They want to spend all day there and I believe my son would if he was allowed to. One day I think I am just going to say we can spend as long as they want but I need to go ready to spend an entire day there, bringing provisions for us all.
This part of parenting comes easily to me. I like being in nature myself and I love being in nature with other kids. I love watching kids explore, learn and just have fun outdoors. I like watching them gain independence and some freedom within boundaries, discover they can do things they did not think they could before and challenge one another to push just a bit harder. I also love the quiet calm when they watch a turtle on a log, a bird in flight or take time to sketch a beautiful flower. It makes me think this is what being a kid is about. It is kid in fullness to me in some ways.
My kids don't really have a choice but to at least put up with being out in nature often as they have been forced to since they were infants really. I think we took each of them camping before they were one. Though I must admit it is much nicer to camp with older kids than it was with toddlers. I think being outdoors so much has given them an appreciation for it and a desire to be there. My son is hard wired to need it so his sisters would have to put up with it one way or another. Thankful they like it as much and can be found holding the turtles, frogs and yes even snakes. They still hold out from spiders and bugs though - there is some girly girl in them.
During the school year I remind myself every once in awhile to throw everyone in the car and just get outside and suddenly we are all a bit nicer to each other. The great outdoors is a wonderful place to get a bit of space and breathing room from each other even if we are all still in the same general area and in view of each other, it still feels freeing and spacious in a way being in the house simply does not.
I know our nature walks, our nearby pond, arboretum and nature center will be a large part of my memories of their childhood when they grow up and move out. I hope it leaves positive impressions in their minds as well. Of course as I write this they are indoors playing Band Hero on Wii and singing together. I can live with both of those things being part of their childhood memories. Wii has its place in our home too.