Many of us nostalgically recall our childhoods spent outside. Personally, I grew up on the Canadian border nestled amongst a national park, a national forest and the BWCAW. I wore my swimsuit, and only my swimsuit, for three solid months every summer. I relied heavily on my bike. My dog kept me safe when I was wandering through the woods by myself. In short, I went inside to sleep at night (usually), to warm up during the winter and when I was at school. In these ways, my childhood was perfect bliss.
And I’m alive today to write about it. Nothing happened to me. In fact, I am certain I’m a much better adult because of it.
I want this for my kids too. I want them to be wild children who flourish in the outdoors. I want them to be dirty, exhausted, proud little explorers. And I don’t always want to be a part of it. My partner and I practice what we refer to as “detachement parenting.”
To us, this means we give our kids the space to make mistakes, figure out solutions, create, learn, thrive… and the best place to do this is outside, roaming free. As soon as our kids can crawl, we let them be free. (Within reason, we don’t let them crawl into the fireplace, for example!) Our daughter, who is three, doesn’t turn to us when she can’t do something herself right away – she tries to figure it out on her own. I have watched her become a confident little girl already. She knows that if she can climb up it, she can climb down it. We live by “Squirrel Park” (her name) where the squirrels have homes in the trees that we can’t fit in and where they mostly brush their teeth and take naps. Imagination and nature. Like peas in a pod. Or squirrels in their squirrel house.
My friend Jen recently said, “We must allow ourselves and our children to fall in love with the earth.” Allow your children to fall in love with nature, let them play freely and create their own worlds in it, give them the space to discover and learn. Remind yourself along the way what it is you love about nature too. Take a deep, healing, peaceful breath of fresh air. Fall in love over and over again.
Start in your backyard. If you don’t have one, we are fortunate to live in a place with parks everywhere. My best piece of advice for parents who may not be quite as comfortable just handing over control to their kiddos is to simply go at their pace. If they want to sit for 37 minutes playing with the same two rocks, let them. Or if they want to blow the fluff of every.single.dandelion in the whole field, let them. Or if they want to try to climb the same tree every day for five weeks, let them. Nature isn’t to be rushed. Neither is learning. Because one day they’re actually going to make it to the top of the tree…and that reward will be magical for everyone!