Last Sunday was a perfect Spring day – the sort of day when you can sense summer coming on the breeze, hear it singing in the trees and see it blossoming around you. The kids had an amazing time messing around in the garden doing all the things any self-respecting kid let loose in a garden should do – making mud pies, constructing a wormery, planting seeds and digging in the dirt. I captured it all on on my iPhone and love the photos – they’re not particularly well taken but they show the kids getting up close and down with nature – something that always gives me a ‘good parent’ glow.
Ah, nature, my duplicitous friend; so wild, so beautiful, so uninhibited. As parents, it’s our hope, – nay, our duty – to get our kids out there, knee deep in earth’s playground, breathing in her fresh air, skipping through her fields, climbing her trees and kicking up her surf as often as possible.
So long as they do so in a civilised manner. Cos here’s the paradox: we want our kids to behave in nature in a way that totally contradicts their own.
We tell babies whose instincts are to put everything in their mouths, not to eat the greenery.
We tell toddlers whose instincts are to climb, not to scale trees.
We tell 3 year olds whose instincts are to build and test their strength, not to throw stones.
We tell children whose instincts are to explore, to stick to the path and not go out of our sight.
We tell everyone not to pick the flowers, disturb the animals or eat things without a guide.
I’m not saying I agree or disagree with these rules – of course they have a purpose – it’s just that sometimes it feels absurd that there are rules at all. Turns out hanging around in nature, isn’t that natural after all.
Same goes for the pics I took of the kids at the weekend. Nothing natural about them! See that one where Bouncing Boy is looking all contemplative with the Dandy Lion? I had to beg, yes beg, him to stop brandishing it as a weapon and stand still long enough to take the photo. (He picked it for a friend on the way to his house. When the friend met us at the door shouting ‘I’ve got a light saber,’ Bouncing Boy retorted ‘I’ve got a Dandylion!’ Cue; Lump. Throat. Multiple kisses.) And that shot of him building the wormery? I tidied away the unaesthetically-pleasing bags of industrial compost in the background lest anyone note we don’t have our own homemade organic heap in the garden. That one of Bouncing Boy covered in mud? Brought him out in a rash. And not one of the pictures shows the rage I suppressed in my chest while mopping muddy footprints off the floor for the 4th time that day. Or the tears when Baby Girl went feral with a trowel. No, I was careful to only capture a civilised, Pinterest take on the nature of our afternoon.
God, wouldn’t it be nice if one day we could just throw caution to the mud and go wild?
Until then, there are a some take-away messages; if there’s something we can learn from nature, it’s that we can’t tame it, we can only harness it’s power. And in nature there’s no rewards or punishments, there’s only consequences.Worth bearing in mind next time I’m faced with a muddy, grass-stained force-of-nature waving worms in my face.
My word of the week is wild.