It seems so much of life these days is being broken down into all or nothing, one way or the other, no middle ground. So it shouldn’t continue to surprise me, really, to learn that things I think are so obvious and good (eating well, turning off the tv) are, well, not seen that way by everyone.
But it does surprise me.
I came across a great blog post the other day on UrbanMamas.com called The cult of spring: Perspectives on mamas’ need for nature. The author is responding to an article she read called “Guilt Trip into the Woods” railing against the eco movement as yet another way to make parents feel incompetent and lacking. I’ll spare you the blow by blow, but read the posts. Cafe Mama Sara Gilbert offers a thoughtful commentary on the original article, and I agree with pretty much everything she says. It is an interesting argument on both sides. I am certainly not a fan of dogmatic parenting or anyone telling me I must do this or can’t do that if I want to be a good parent. The great thing about parenting is that there are so many different ways to be good at it! There are always going to be people who take things to extremes. But do we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater?
The thing that struck me most was that the Guilt Trip author says something along the lines of why should I bother to take my kid outside when he would rather draw comic strips than daisies. Really? Does it have to be all or nothing? I mean, most of the time when my kids are outside they aren’t dissecting worms or studying rock formations. Most of the time they are playing Bakugans or pretending to be Pokeman trainers or wizards from Hogwarts. Most of the time we sit in the hammock and read – not books about nature necessarily, just books (often about Pokeman trainers or wizards from Hogwarts – are you seeing a trend here?) Most of the time there is swinging. Most of the time there are forts and battles and water fights with the hose. Most of the time there are popsicles.
The nature part, that just sort of seeps in around the edges.
And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
I have said it before, but I was not by any stretch an “outdoorsy” kind if kid and I am not an “outdoorsy” kind of mama. I like air-conditioning and high heels and my computer. I dislike bugs and only enjoy hiking if I don’t have to carry anything (and there aren’t any bugs and it isn’t too hot!) But my mother, to her credit and knowing full well I would rather be in bed reading, was pretty good at pushing us out the door and saying “Go play!” I imagine a fair amount of that was to get us out of her hair, but I see no fault in that either. I do it too.
I think the thing I like so much about our time outside is that it offers breathing room. It gives us the time and space to process, to let our minds wander. So much of our lives these days are structured and scheduled and hectic. We spend so much time rushing from one activity or event into another that it all becomes a blur, none of it is really absorbed. We need some white space. Creativity happens in those moments of quiet, of boredom, of nothingness. When I peek into the backyard and see Lola Gray hanging upside-down on the swing drawing circles in the dirt, or Fletcher stretched out in the hammock staring at the sky, I know that connections are being made. They might look bored to an outside observer but in truth they are quietly, intensively engaged. Even if it only lasts a moment.
The other night I was tucking Fletcher in and giving him one last snuggle and he sleepily said “Mama, my favorite tree bloomed today.”
He has a favorite tree.
And it bloomed.
And he noticed. And he drifted off to sleep thinking about it.
And I thought he was just playing Bakugans out there.