Get back to nature with your kids

My husband and I are both very fond of the “cranky old geezer” approach to ranting about “kids today.” You know what I’m talking about—if the kids complain about how everyone has a toy or a game that they’ll simply die if they can’t have as well, one or the other of us will launch into a story that begins, “You know, back in my day, we just played with a couple of twigs and some mud, and we liked it!”

This is largely done for comedic value, of course, and by “comedic value” I mean “the entertainment we derive from watching the children roll their eyes at us.”

Nevertheless, although I pride our family on certain basic and perhaps old-fashioned ideals—we eat dinner at the table together every night, we don’t let the kids participate in a million activities, I’m not above declaring a “pajama day” on the weekend if everyone needs a break—I had an interesting moment of clarity, yesterday. You see, yesterday I went on a field trip with my daughter’s class.

We went to a local nature center and learned about watersheds and stream ecosystems, and then the kids splashed around in the stream, fishing out various life forms for the specimen bucket so that we could examine the variety. Most of the children were about as focused as puppies on crack, if you must know, and we chaperones worked with the teachers and guides to ride herd on the excited students.

“It’s like they’ve never been outside before,” I whispered to one of the teachers in amazement, at one point.

“Some of them pretty much haven’t,” she replied—implying that some of the students never just go outside to play, but spend their lives in a classroom or on a couch.

And here they were, splashing through a stream, thrilled to be digging for snails.

You know, when I was a kid, we didn’t have big TVs and hand-held video games and fancy sites on that there computer. We had rocks and twigs and leaves and we liked it.

Funny, but it turns out that—given the chance—most kids today like it, too.

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