In addition to being the editor of Leaf Litter and Biohabitats’ communications director, I happen to be a mom. I’d love to say I’m one of those “I-made-my-own-baby-food-from-veggies-I-lovingly-grew-in-my-organic-backyard-garden” moms, but the truth is I’m an ordinary, working, suburban mom. Though I do have chickens in my backyard, and I do drive a Prius, I’m no eco-hero. I have occasionally (gasp!) eaten an out-of-season fruit, thrown a potato peel into the trash rather than the compost bin, and, in the rush to get dinner on the table after work, allowed my kids a shameful amount of screen time.
Editing Leaf Litter is always inspiring. I get to interview fascinating, brilliant people who are making this world a more just, biodiverse, and hopeful place. (In other words, they’re doing a lot more than raising chickens and driving a Prius). But my work on this issue of Leaf Litter has affected me on a deeply personal level. It has motivated me to get involved in the movement to connect children to nature (anyone in Maryland wannna help me organize a “Nature Play Day?” ) and it has caused me to seriously examine my own behavior as a parent. On that note, I’d like to share a little story.
After interviewing Richard Louv, the man who coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” in his book Last Child in the Woods, and Bob Peart, founder of the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada, I felt compelled to take my son (8) and daughter (9) out for a hike on an old trolley trail in my town.
Initially, they didn’t want to go, so I bribed them by offering to buy them each a hot chocolate when we got to the end of the trail. Two minutes into the hike, they were laughing, running, noticing birds, and actually being nice to each other. They even smiled together for a picture.
Three minutes in, they asked if they could veer off the trail to climb some rocks and explore the nearby stream. My first instinct was to say, “No! That’s too dangerous and we have to make it to the coffee shop for hot chocolate before dark!” Remembering my chats with Richard and Bob, and thinking back to research I had read about how parents’ perceptions of safety contribute to the decline in kids’ outdoor experiences, I caught myself, and said instead, “Sure! Go explore.”
Tears actually came to my eyes as I watched my kids climb up and slide down the rocks on their bottoms (unharmed, I might add). When my daughter fell in the creek (as a girl who hikes in flats will inevitably do) she laughed. We all laughed.
We never did make it to the coffee shop, but we had a beautiful afternoon together that I will remember for a long time. I view that experience as a gift from people like Richard Louv, Bob Peart, Stephen Kellert, and all of the folks around the globe who give their time to help ensure that a child’s right to enjoy nature is forever protected. In thanks, I encourage all of you to give the children in your lives the gift of nature!