When Mia was not-quite-two, we went outside with my mom and Mia acted prissy. I remember Mia stepping in mud and getting all upset because she thought it was poop. My mom jokingly made fun of me and said, “What? Don’t you ever take this kid outside??” We did, but not in the same way as Nick does now. We lived in small apartments when she was really little and we did go for walks and to parks regularly, but it isn’t nearly the same as the amount of time they spend outside basically every single day now. Whether it’s in our backyard or with friends or going on walks or to the park, they’re outside a lot. But the one thing that we haven’t been doing much is venturing into the woods.
I drove by a spot early this week that I didn’t even know existed and I’ve been thinking about it all week, so we headed out this morning to explore.
Nick spent the entire time running around like a man set free – running ahead of us, touching everything, squatting to see things, spinning in circles to drink it all in. He left filthy, happy and exhausted.
Mia is more of an observer in a new situation, so she stayed close. She spent a lot of time with her hands in her pockets or holding my hand, timidly looking around and stepping carefully. She told me she was a-scared of spiders crawling in her shoes and of getting mud on herself(to which I replied that I HOPED she got mud on herself and it at least brought out a smile and helped her relax a bit.) She begged to go back within minutes of starting to walk and scolded her brother for excitedly running ahead. She was clearly out of her comfort zone and that kind of breaks my heart. By the end of the time, she was certainly more relaxed and announced on the way home that she couldn’t wait to go back, but there was still that little bit of her holding back that I want so much to respect for her, but I also want to see her relax.
In our backyard, she’s comfortable and free and spirited. It just made me a bit sad to see her lack of comfort in the woods where any kid should feel comfortable and excited to explore. I can’t help but wonder (MOTHER GUILT) how much of it is just personality and how much of it is the lack of time we spend in nature together. It kills me to think that that could possibly be the case. There are a million books out there that you can read about the amazing things that nature does for children, but I don’t need a book – I know it already to the core of my being. I know how it feels to be in any natural setting and feel comfortable and to take long deep breaths and to feel a sense of peace that just doesn’t happen anywhere else. I know what it felt like as a kid to just get dirty, to find new things and places to explore, to come upon an open clearing and imagine the possibilities of pretend scenarios, to tilt your head back as far as you can and still feel like you can’t even drink in the hugeness of the trees towering over you.
I want my kids to have that. The fact that we live in the middle of a state called Pennsylvania – that literally means “Penn’s Woods”(Hi 4th and 5th grade teachers out there! We really do remember state history!) and the fact that this great spot is literally less than 2 miles from our house makes me realize just how much we need to do this more often. Not just at this spot, but at the tons and tons of great spots nearby. It would be so good for all of us.
Don’t get me wrong – we have an absolutely lovely, fun time. It’s just funny sometimes to do something so familiar and near and dear to your heart and realize how little you’ve actually been doing that thing. Especially since we’ve been consumed with kids and house and jobs and stress and blah blah blah – here’s the simplest of things to bring joy and happiness and fun and -hello!- free entertainment!
Anyone nearby want to go for a walk soon? We’re going to be going back often:)