There is a meme going around Facebook that caught my eye:
When I was a kid I didn’t have a computer, internet, Nintendo DS, XBox, or Wii. I had a bike and a curfew. My toys were the outside world. If I didn’t eat what my mom made me, I didn’t eat. I didn’t dare tell my parents “no” or dare to talk back. Life wasn’t hard, it was life… And I survived. Repost if you liked the way you were raised…and drank water out of a hose.
I did have this kind of life growing up, but the difference I’m seeing between most of the people posting this and my experience is that I still feel like I have this kind of life.
I have a computer. And I know how to shut it down. I have a tv that is usually turned off. I don’t have a bike, but I have my feet and a pair of hiking boots. Some of my toys are electronic, but some of them are trees and caves and small pebbles that I still pick up and put on shelves. I was encouraged to tell my parents “no” – if I had a well-constructed apologia to back myself up. Life wasn’t hard, it was life. And it still is.
I still drink water out of a hose. I still gleefully pick toads up and bring them into the house to present to my mom (she wishes I would grow out of this habit).
That kind of life isn’t dead, and never will be – as long as there are parents and teachers willing to raise children with an appreciation for the world around them and a society that allows them to have the support to be able to do so. So instead of mourning the death of a faux-pastoralist past, bring that past into the future and continue it.
It’s easy. Take your child outside, or your niece or nephew. No children handy? Look up a local nature center or science center or urban garden. Consider volunteering if you have time. Consider donating money if you have money. Don’t stay silent when people question the benefits of such places. Yes, some children are lucky enough to have the resources to live a life that is connected with nature from the start. Others have to rely on their community to help foster the sense of joy and wonder that comes from such a life.
You can be a part of the community that will make sure that the next generation is able to enjoy such simple pleasures as drinking out of a hose or presenting their dubious parents with small critters. In doing so, you can continue to enjoy those things that made you happy as a child.
In looking up websites that have exactly this goal, I couldn’t find one good list of sites. I’ve included the ones that I frequent enough that I have bookmarked on this computer, but they are just a start. If you have favorites, or run such a site yourself, please comment and I will add them to this post.
Children & Nature Network