Monday, September 2, 2013

From This Little Corner: Grounded

Before my children grow into that phase when being grounded means they can't go out with their friends, I want them to be thoroughly grounded in another way. I picture that grounding to look something like this:
A fort in the woods
I am a big proponent of letting kids outside to play with friends in the way so many Facebook memes describe - loosely supervised, unstructured, lively, creative, and with lots of other kids. It's the "be home before the street lights come on" philosophy. The thing about my slice of suburbia, though, is that there is little natural nature around. It's carefully landscaped or pushed to the margins. They don't have a lot of easy access or opportunity to get grounded to the Earth with dirty fingernails and muddy boots, but when they do, it's like their real best selves come out. They make stuff, cool stuff, like that fort. Their stories about their creations or woodland adventures are as rich and fantastic as those of Jesse and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia.

Sometimes, I find myself holding the kids back from grounding opportunities. I don't want them to get dirty. I don't want them to get lost. Mostly, I don't want them to get hurt. I am not fluent enough in the ways of nature to judge the "risks" and therefore I just keep the kids away from all of them. But there is risk in that, too. The risk there is a denial of a vital part of childhood - of human life at any age, really. I know how great I feel when I am close to nature, either paddling on the lake or walking in the woods or sitting at the beach. I have sometimes wished I could bottle that feeling, leave it on my mantel, and take from it when the daily grind wears on me. Perhaps, though, I should look at it differently. Perhaps, the bottle of restoration is all around, and I just have to find them here and there. Maybe I take the kids on a longer walk to the bus stop to go past the creek instead of just houses. Maybe I look a little closer at the family activities hosted by our local nature center or state parks. Maybe I should make it a habit, put it in the schedule, and be as deliberate about getting my children grounded as I am about their healthy eating and regular bedtimes. From this little corner, that seems like a good way to ground my children, and myself.

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