As an adult that was a ‘self -raised’ child, or latchkey kid, I tend to linger over lost time. I’m not talking about growing up to fast or facing things that children shouldn’t have to. In fact I wouldn’t take back any part of my less than ideal childhood. It has made me who I am and for the most part, I think myself a pretty alright person. The time I find myself wanting to have cultivated more, or wishing a parent or teacher would have begun cultivating earlier in my life, are the character building lessons I learned from my experiences in nature.
In early elementary school I would run wild in the riparian zones along the Platte River. I would try to talk to the horses in the wood lot on the edge of town. I would swim through duck weed algae filled murky pond water. On a gravel road the chain on my bike dropped, dragging my knees 10 feet before I finally crashed. I picked gravel out of those scabs all summer, I still have the scars. I climbed trees and sang to birds. When the field behind my house would flood with spring rains, I would hunt frogs barefoot…stitches, right foot; I can still faintly see that scar. I built forts out of old broken sheds…tetanus shot. I was between the ages of six and eleven.
In retrospect, these are the things I learned from this childhood.
- Problem Solving/ Know How- If you want to get to the river and you crash your bike; you can either cry and bleed or fix your bike. I did both.
- Empathy/Respect- Horses eyes hold old souls. Even as a kid I could tell they weren’t being taken care of properly.
- Contemplation of Fear- I mean there could have been sea monsters in that pond!
- Imagination/Coordination- I was so sure the birds were trying to show me flying unicorns at the top of that tree.
- Critical Thinking- “Why aren’t the frogs here all the time?”
- Perseverance- No scabs, stitches, shots or rules kept me from doing any of this.
I am so grateful that I naturally wanted to run wild and was not completely raised by my T.V. In the current modern world the temptation probably would have been too great for me. I wonder how long and through what experiences I would have begun to learn the above life skills. How much more time would I have lost in cultivating them into my character if I wouldn’t have had nature?
What experiences today are cultivating children’s ideas about themselves, the world and their place in it? On average, children are exposed to some form of electronic media 49 hours a week. I dare say they are in a cage. After time, any caged animal will start to exhibit signs of emotional stress through aggression and depression, eventually leading to actual physical illness. Our society’s children exhibit these very symptoms.
If we create our own reality, what will reality look like when our children rule the world?
Choose to live.
See you out there!