Sunday, August 4, 2013

It's cold outside...

I hate to admit it but I am a bit of a home body. I'm not very adventurous, nor am I very brave. When life is going smoothly, I love staying at home. I have a few friends whose houses I feel very much at home in and when there, feel no urgency to return to my own. Daniel is a bit of a home body also, so on weekends if we don't make a concerted effort we could very well end up spending the weekend inside.

Nicholas on the other hand is your typical adventurous toddler and loves to be outside exploring. He would very happily go outside on rainy days and doesn't seem to notice too much if it is freezing cold. He gets upset when we have to leave the park or the beach and I struggle to get him to come inside from the backyard most times. For Nicholas the outside world is full of exciting new things to see and experience. For me, its cold and I have to use energy I don't have walking around and being active (I'm also innately lazy). It's a real challenge for me, but I feel I have been kindly rebuked about my attitude towards being outside after reading this post: Outdoor Play in Australia: Why has it become such a challenge to early childhood educators?

As a kid, growing up in the Western Australia, my sisters and I spent most of  our time outside. We walked or rode our bikes everywhere we could. We spent hours in our backyard and in the bush. We were free. Free to roam around as we pleased. Free to explore without parents watching over our shoulders making sure we are ok.

I hate to put it out there but this century feels different. Everyone is hyper vigilant. There are predators at every corner, and we are expected to be with our children 24/7. You hear of children who are 9, 10 or 11 years old being allowed to walk to school by themselves, or playing at the park by themselves and people are outraged and shocked. I remember this news story from a few years ago about a mum in New York letting her 9-year-old son go on the subway by himself. There was a huge fuss about it. 'How could a parent be so irresponsible?' Are they irresponsible? When I was nine I rode my bike to school and home again without parental supervision on a daily basis. Was my mum being irresponsible or was she just showing her trust in me? 

We worry about the future effects of the Internet and technology on our children, and yet we limit their time and potential freedom spent in the outside world. We expect our children to develop responsibility for themselves, but we don't give them the freedom to do so. For myself, it is just easier to have Nicholas inside where everything is controlled and relatively safe. It is also warmer and flat (our yard has a bit of a slope, and I have to be out there as we don't have a fence yet). 

For Nicholas' sake (and in the future Beth's too) though, for his health and well-being, for his cognitive and creative development I am going to work on spending more time outside. It's really not that cold in winter compared to other parts of the world, so what am I complaining about. I have warm clothes, wet weather gear, gloves, socks and gumboots. I just need to suck it up and deal with it. For Nicholas' sake I am going to work hard at being an outdoors type person. We will go on walks in the bush, we will go park and get our feet wet on freezing cold days. We will stay up late and look at the stars. We will walk up steep mountains and sleep outdoors. 

We will explore the world around us, not just from the window in our lounge room or in front of the TV. And when he's ready, he will go off and explore it for himself. It is only through our experiences with the natural world around us that we can develop a real appreciation for it, and an environmental conscience that makes us want to take care of it for generations to come. 

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to from only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I can to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau. 

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” -Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.