Friday, February 16, 2007
Last night I took my older daughter to an event at the Phoenix Zoo (I am not a fan of zoos in general, but this was where it was being held) to see Richard Louv give a lecture. He is the author of Last Child in the Woods, which I have not actually read yet. My dad, who is a biologist and teacher, recently read this book and was moved greatly by what Louv writes, pertaining to how this current generation of children are no longer taking part in nature, and how this may affect their health and happiness. Their sense of wonder is removed when nature is taken out of their daily equation.
I grew up in Virginia with a huge backyard which led into some woods, and spent many countless hours roaming freely, full of adventure. I was able to be alone all day, rolling around in the grass and watching ladybugs without my parents fearing the worst. My dad would take me out on hikes to go bird watching and to look for salamanders underneath logs. I had a great nature oriented childhood, and I realize now that my children have not had the same freedom I had. My husband and I have bought into the fear of the unknown, and unfortunately, the fear of nature. This fear is so pervasive that we do not let our kids outside alone even in our own backyard, which like most yards in Mesa, is surrounded by a giant cinder block wall. We are fearful of bad men jumping over the wall and stealing or hurting our kids. We are scared of everything and nothing.
Going to this lecture has opened my eyes to the need to bring nature back to our kids. I teach my children reverence for the outdoors and respect of all living beings, but I have forgotten to let them be kids, free to be wild and free to discover the world without constant supervision. There will always be a chance that something will happen to my children, be it a scraped knee or a broken bone, or maybe even worse, but I can't let the fear of these things stop me from opening up the world to them and allowing them to explore it, on their own as well as with us. It will be gradual, as I am sure it will be hard for us to break from the fears that surround us as parents. We will always be hawks, watching them with sharp eyes, but we also need to let go a bit, and give them back that sense of wonder that has been lost.
When my dad finished the book, he read the last paragraph over the phone to me, and wept. It was a powerful moment for both of us, as he understands the fears of today, but is thankful that he provided me with a chance to grow up with a sense of nature and the world.
"We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist. These will be their turtle tales."
I bought the book at the lecture and had Louv sign the title page. He is a sweet and gracious man, and he seemed genuinely affected when I told him how my dad reacted to the book. I imagine reading this book will really enlighten me, just as his lecture did. I hope you all get a chance to read it or see his lecture, and take something positive away, too.
Thank you for posting this.
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