In approximately 35 days I will have a one-year-old son. One year. The cliche is true – the days are long, but the time goes fast. My son is happy, healthy, and for the most part seems to be adjusting to the human world quite well. He has the will power and determination of his mother and the stubbornness of his father. It’s a great combo. I can’t wait until he’s a teenager. As his mom, of course, I know that one day he will move mountains. But until then, he will be climbing furniture, running when he should be walking, and basically getting into anything and everything he can. He is extremely active and we are already hearing the “he’s all boy” comments from family and friends.
As I reflect upon the first year of his life and look forward to the life ahead of him, and the years that he will have once I am gone, I want to give him something that will carry him through the thick and thin. That is the gift of nature.
I recently found the Born Wild Project, and from there, feverishly launched into a few books about our kids today and their relationship, or lack thereof, with nature. The book Beyond Ecophobia by David Sobel discusses the disconnect that kids have with nature versus their education about nature. They learn in school that we should be saving the rainforests, protecting the oceans, fighting for the polar bears, and yet most kids go days without spending time outside.
“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.” David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia
In the book How to Raise a Wild Child, Scott D Sampson sums it up well. “The average North American child currently spends about seven hours a day staring at screens, and mere minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors, a dramatic transformation within the past generation. Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth. Regular exposure to nature can help relieve stress, depression, and attention deficits. It can reduce bullying, combat obesity, and boost academic scores. Most critical of all, abundant time in natural settings seems to yield long-term benefits in kids’ cognitive, emotional, and social development.”
Inspired by these messages, inspired by my own childhood spent roaming the natural world from sun up to sunset, and inspired by my beautiful son, I have made him a promise that we will get outside as much as possible. To honor this commitment I’ve become a branch ambassador for our Grand Rapids, Michigan Hike it Baby branch and I’ve committed to the 52 Hike Challenge. My goal is to hang that 52 Hike Challenge finisher medal on the wall of my son’s bedroom in January of next year, so he can see it as he grows, and know that he and his mamma did it together. We got back to nature together. That I passed along my love of nature to him.
My goal is to hike at least once a week, in all seasons. I will use the term hike loosely. I have a small child after all, and as he learns to walk I hope he can lead me on some hikes too 🙂 . For us, it’s about dedicating that time to be wild. To explore. To find a new path. To wander. To play in the mud. To catch frogs and lightning bugs.
On New Years Day we did our first a hike, a 4-miler on the White Pine Trail, which is probably where at least 50% of our hikes will take place. The sun was shining and the day was mild. It was a great way to start off a new year, a new challenge, and spark a love for nature that I hope will last a lifetime.