Yesterday I took a break from editing and walked downtown to pick up my grandson from preschool. On the way home (one of us ecstatically riding a tiny two-wheeler without training wheels), we talked about plans for our first sleep-out in a tent next weekend. Back at the house, we pulled all the suitcases out of the closet to find the tent. I hauled it out to the backyard to see if I could remember how to assemble it – even though it’s just a one-kid-one-grandma size tent. Miles was delighted with the zippered door and windows and the overhead screens affording a view of the maple trees rustling over our heads.
He was just turning two when I began working on Mother Nature’s Child. The simplest things would delight him. Yesterday, when we zipped ourselves inside the empty tent, that toddler magic seemed a little less accessible. When I suggested we might listen for wild animals outside our tent, his immediate response surprised me: “Let’s pretend we’re playing video games in here, Minnow.” (OK, not every grandmother is called “grandma”….)
“I’m not playing video games,” I huffed. He wasn’t deterred in the slightest: “OK, I’ll be playing video games and you pretend you’re watching TV.”
In his interview for MOTHER NATURE’S CHILD, tracker, naturalist and teacher Jon Young spoke about the molding of our children’s awareness: “Culture creates the awareness of its people. The next generation doesn’t choose their level of awareness, the culture chooses it for them. Exponentially, it’s getting worse because we have so many more reasons to stay inside that we ever did.” I’m now experiencing what he means. Tensions with my own sons about video games didn’t begin until they were almost ten years old – seems like the olden days now. Children are being introduced to screen life earlier and earlier.
Miles will be five in the fall. (It happens fast!) Though yesterday we ended up gathering twigs from the yard and making a pretend fire to cook “the bear” (for him) and “the duck” (for me) that he went out to “shoot”, such imaginary games involving nature may soon be difficult to initiate. These days, after a certain age, kids expect their entertainment to be pre-packaged, no imagination necessary, just plug in.
After our practice session in the tent, I returned to editing the film with renewed energy. I’m looking forward to our weekend sleep-out in the yard with our sleeping bags, a bunch of stuffed animals, books and a flashlight. It’ll be just a tiny adventure but, as environmental educator Yusuf Burgess reminds us in the film: “Exposure, exposure, exposure!” Every little bit counts.