Last week, our family was able to go on our camping trip up to the Sequoia National Forest.
Where we camp there are no showers and no toilets, but it’s high enough up in the mountains to see only the stars at night, to have the perfect temperatures during the day, and no wifi or cell service to distract. We unplug and leave all technology behind; we are able to be present with each other, reading, playing games, roasting marshmallows, and going on hikes.
The kids ford streams, weave baskets from tree bark, assemble fishing poles, whittle, collect fools gold, and occasionally rescue one another from ledges. It’s a time where we all are able to be “wild and free”.
The precious time with family and the memories we make are well worth the mosquito bites and the smell in the car on the way home. 🙂
We have all heard the famous words by Henry David Thoreau, “All good things are wild and free“. In preparing for homeschooling my children, who with each year are getting older and older, I stopped to really think about this quote. Childhood doesn’t last forever. In fact, it doesn’t last very long at all. And so many of our children are being robbed of a childhood that is wild and free.
So today I am sharing my thoughts on what a childhood that is wild and free looks like to me.
A child who is wild gets outside and spends time in nature; spends time with things that are wild. They climb trees, roll in the mud and touch gross stuff. For most mother’s, this can cause a bit of fear and anxiety. Believe me, I get it. I see my six-year-old up in a tree 15 feet off the ground and my gut feeling is to yell at him to get down. But do I allow my fear of him falling to discourage his sense of adventure and the building of his confidence? There is a fine line between caution and adventure, I know. I believe each mother must find her own line in this. I’m finding mine as I go, child by child, situation by situation.
A child who spends time in the wild takes the time to stop and really see it. They become familiar and comfortable with it. This is one reason I love nature journaling. It trains the mind to see the little details, the intricacies, the complexity of design. We must be out in the wild to see the wild, to experience the wild, to be a part of the wild.
A child often experiences the wild through reading about it. Literature has the ability to take us to another time, another place, experience another culture. Thoreau has also said, “In Literature, it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness.”
The free part of this quote can mean so many things. But for me, it means that my children are free to be…
Free to be still. When my husband was little he was found sitting weaving a basket out of bark and was staring off into the distance. After awhile his sister asked him, “Don’t you ever get tired of doing nothing? ” He replied, “I’m never doing nothing. I’m always thinking.” So often our children do not have the opportunity to sit still in nature to ponder and think about life; time to sit in the quiet and just be.
Free to wander and explore, to go on an adventure. Children should be given an opportunity to be outside, without an agenda, to seek and to discover, to imagine and to play.
But free to me also means protecting our children. We live in an age, in a time, in a place, where I believe it is difficult to raise our young. We live in an age of busyness, in an age where we look for happiness in things, and in an age where technology invades at every angle, taking precious time away from connecting and being present with those we love. So I also want to raise my children to be free from certain things.
Free from the busyness. Free from the stress. So many children’s days are filled with school, homework, music lessons, sports. What if we stop filling their days with all of this stuff that is robbing them of their time, robbing them of connection with nature and with family, robbing them of their childhood?
Free from wanting more stuff, from looking for happiness in things, rather than finding it in Jesus. I blame much of this on advertising, on consumerism, on the culture that is ours from being raised in the United States of America, a place where most of us have it all. We grow up always wanting more. And getting it. Kids see so much on TV and the ads have them believing that they need it to be happy in life. We are raising our children in an atmosphere that depends precious little upon Christ. So many find themselves chasing happiness all of their lives. We believe we have all we need and so much more. So why do we need Jesus?
Free from the addiction to technology. We are growing children in an age where technology permeates at every turn. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.”
It amazes me that despite how busy our children are, they are able to find an average of seven hours a day for technology instead experiencing adventures in nature, building relationships with family and friends, and connecting with their God.
“Our kids are actually doing what we told them to do when they sit in front of that TV all day or in front of that computer game all day. The society is telling kids unconsciously that nature’s in the past. It really doesn’t count anymore, that the future is in electronics, and besides, the bogeyman is in the woods” (Richard Louv).
John F. Kennedy said this before his death, “By the age of six the average child will have completed the basic American education…. From television, the child will have learned how to pick a lock, commit a fairly elaborate bank holdup, prevent wetness all day long, get the laundry twice as white, and kill people with a variety of sophisticated armaments.” While I could not find a date for this quote, it had to have been said prior to 1963. So what would be said of an average six-year-old today?
I believe it is up to me, as the parent, to give my children a childhood that is free from the busyness and stress, free from the addiction to things and to technology. I am not saying here that we say no to it all. But I am saying that we, as parents, need to teach our children, need to guide our children in making good choices. We need to model good choices. As parents, we must remember that we are being watched with every choice we make. It is not what we say that matters to our children, but what we do.
In her book, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst has said this, “The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.”
When our children are young, it is up to us as parents to mold them, to assist them in their choices, assist them in choosing their “Best Yes”. Habits are formed so early in life. I want to choose the “best yes” for my children while they are young so as they grow, they learn to choose the “best yes” for themselves. Often it isn’t so much saying no to technology but saying yes to being with our kids, saying yes to outside time, to reading, to games, to playing and spending time with family and friends. Because with every “yes” to technology, comes a “no” to something else; and usually that “something else” is so much better. For our family, it means limiting the stuff we buy, being choosy in how we fill our days and use technology. Is our family perfect in this? Absolutely not. But I know that I don’t have to make these often difficult decisions alone. God is right beside me, ready and willing to participate in those small day to day choices that we make, those small, seemingly insignificant choices, that end up adding up and shape us into who we are today. And He is ready and willing to forgive me when I fail. I’m so thankful for His grace. Every day affords an opportunity to start over. It is never to late when we have grace.
Every family is different and “wild and free” will mean something different to each of you. What does being “wild and free” mean to you?