Thursday, August 14, 2014

Big, Scary Wilderness

Today we celebrated Not-Back-to-School.

I told my kids we would be traveling a few miles to the local arboretum and doing some hiking and after 2 hours of prep and packing and some mild attitude issues we were finally ready for our adventure.
I've been impressed lately for the need for us as a family to leave our comfort zones more often and do this thing called "travel". Some find this venture to be delightful but I personally would just rather stay home in my cluttered but familiar surroundings. So today we "traveled" a whole 20 minutes from our doorstop to the virtual wilderness of several acres filled with trees and wildlife but no people or comfort. Upon arrival we drove through the park and cased out a good picnic spot while I pointed out the nature trails we would be hiking later. I judiciously cautioned the kids to make sure they put on bug spray before hiking and to watch out for poison ivy.

That's when the most surprising thing happened.

My 5 year old daughter cried upon leaving the van because she was afraid of the grass. My 7 & 9 year old boys cautiously cased out the trees and grass before settling on a suitable tree to climb and my 3 year old son promptly unloaded his personally packed trike from the back of the van to ride.

So why was this all surprising?

Because these are the same children who are used to playing for hours in our yard. These are the children who are frequently covered in mud, water and various other means of filth on a regular basis. These are the same children who capture and proudly display icky little critters in glass jars.
Somehow I have had this notion that sending my children out of doors at home was enough to make them comfortable in the big wide wild world. I assumed assigning them to pick off potato bugs and harlequin beetles from garden plants would harden them to the unknown discoveries of hiking.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

We managed to "hike" a full 3/4 mile on 2 different trails. Most of our time was spent in waiting for the path to be cleared by the leading child from spiders and their webs. The most often repeated phrase was "I'm scared" used upon seeing greenbrier, mole holes, webs, tall grass, rickety bridges and mossy branches.

Somehow we survived.

My grand ideas of collecting nature objects to inspire nature journaling have been slightly dampened on seeing the need for my children to become comfortable in the wildness of being out of doors. I don't know if my children "learned" anything but I their mother did. There is a big difference between exploring your citified yard close to an air-conditioned house and working bathrooms and spending time in a primitive slightly wild adventure. It's not just about becoming familiar with the names and appearance of the natural world its about having the courage to explore and not being afraid to experience the consequences from that courage.

So I wonder who got too close to the poison ivy?

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