Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Born to be wild

A big part of my focus lately as R's parent has been on making sure he has time to be wild. I don't mean crazy and out of control. I mean giving him access to places where he can be free to run, explore, and climb. I mean time outside, not just at the playground or on the paved bike path, but in the woods, at the ocean, in caves, knee-deep in rivers. Places where he can get dirty and wet and where he can find crabs, snails, snakes, bugs, and fish.

It has made a huge difference for R. He needs that time. I wish it could be more often because of the freedom and joy it gives him. It's not like his world at home is full of rules and restrictions, but in wild places, we all seem to relax and breathe easier. I've thought pretty seriously about moving somewhere where R could have that access to nature and wildness daily, instead of just on the weekends or during vacations. But for now, that's all we can give him. At least we're lucky enough to be able to do that.

Last weekend, we visited my dad and walked down to the nearby river. We toted R's fishing rod and Star Wars tackle box, and R and A fished while my dad cooked up hot dogs on a little grill. Using pieces of hot dog for bait, R caught two fish. Hanging out with his dad and grandpa and me, eating in the woods with yellow jackets and mosquitoes for companions, catching fish and learning how to unhook them and let them go again (and that fish are really slimy) -- all of that made for an amazing experience, one that R will always remember.

Suze Orman mentioned on her show the other day some study that found that people end up placing far more value on experiences in their lives than on material things. R and I talked about that this week, and he agreed with the findings. My job as his mom is to make sure he has those memorable experiences. For him, I think most of those experiences will involve wildness and freedom. And, I hope they do -- because I'm realizing he's not the only one who needs to be wild.


sandwhichisthere said...

you are right about the experiences. They are what is left after the mundane aspects of life are distilled out. Being in love and testing oneself against the world and thinking serious thoughts or reading them are most of the things that make life memorable.
It is the wish of every young parent that they might get their family away from the frenetic life of living in the city and shelter in the bucolic life of the country and its slow peaceful existance. There is a downside to such a plan.
I have met many people in my life who were raised in the country. There is something different about them. They are in no way inferior to the city bred but there is something different. They seem a little slower. Slower and more resolute in their actions and words and thought processes.
The city has so much to offer. The bustle of activities and relationships and life, seems to give a vibrance to city life that is absent from country life. Growing up as a child of Nature would be a wonderful life but would it prepare R for the life that he will live after childhood?
Museums and libraries and hanging out with a gaggle of friends and knowing how to use public transportation have value also. The rocks and the trees and the crayfish will always be there for the times when there is time for them but the crucible of social interaction is best learned to be navigated when young.
There is beauty in the city. It is a different kind of beauty from that of the countryside but it is still beauty. I remember the statue in the Northwest corner of the Public Gardens. I was always struck by its simplicity and meaning.
The festival of San Gennaro is different from a Grange picnic. There is a thrill and exuberance that is rarely matched by a King Corn Fair.
As far as wild places go, I was once chased by a bear and once by a moose. The fear and adrenaline overload are not pleasant memories.
There is a middle ground between an urban environment and a wilderness, it is called the suburbs.
Living there is like having a seat next to the buffet table. You can pick a dish from the city and pick a dish from the wild places as it pleases you. You can peruse Landsdown Street or the Arboretum as it pleases you.
Your feelings for the wild places have been passed on to R. When he is older, he will have the choices available to him from the experiences you have acquainted him with. He will probably never be a Wendell Berry but he will never be Thomas Wolfe either. The full menu of life will be open to him because you have opened his mind to all of the possibilities,

Anonymous said...

Love it! It's great that you are giving him the freedom to be wild a bit and that you're learning to enjoy it, too! You're right that the meaningful moments to a child come from spending time with loved ones and doing things that make them happy, not material items. xoxo