I love the way we have embraced getting our children out into nature, forest schools, outdoor activities, summer camps the list is endless, but have we ever asked ourselves why we do it?
That might sound like a strange question but is it? I often wonder are we merely acquiescing to the pressure on us, as parents, to get our children away from computer screens, or are we doing it from a deep sense of connection within ourselves? So why do we want to rewild our children? I wanted to create a shared love of nature with mine, and along with the thousands of others who live and work in the wildlife field it’s easy for us, we understand the joy of finding a mother earwig tending her brood of eggs, but for those who never had the chance to experience it, it’s hard to understand. Thankfully our enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on the wider community as the forest schools and wildlife organisations have embraced sharing that joy with kids, but we really did forget about the parents who somehow got left behind.
In my daily life I go about the world considering the billions of creatures and plants we share it with, I notice birds, insects, new plants growing in the strangest places and feel connected but that isn’t the case for the majority of people I know, too busy and stressed to even blink let alone stop and notice feathers on the floor marking a sparrow hawks kill pole on the walk to school. My kids stop and look too, because I stopped and we looked at them together, but if you don’t know what these signs mean you will walk on oblivious to the other lives around you.
This is one of the biggest reasons we need to rewild parents and other adults, there is so much life going on around us, and once you find the tiniest connection to it, your life is changed forever. It becomes impossible to walk without seeing nature in every place you go. My kids are grown now, but that doesn’t stop us standing on the street with phones out photographing a gathering of snails or some wildflower peeking from a crack in the pavement while people walk past wondering what kind of nutters we are. We don’t care, seeing what others miss brings a joy you just can’t duplicate. We really are big kids looking at the world through a different lens.
How can you start rewilding yourself? As a parent it requires some hard work. Yes I said hard work not the physical kind but the mental kind that lets you throw off the constraints of time and being an adult. I used to be a stickler for doing a set task, not allowing for distractions at all, but once I started home-schooling the boys, I realised that there are more important things than moving through the world with our eyes closed. Getting outside into nature was a lesson and although I would set a time limit, we always spent way longer out than intended. It was as much a learning curve for me as it was for them, we would initially just go to feed the ducks on the castle lake, but then we became aware of the number of different species, followed them, found the island the herons nested on, looked for tracks of otters we knew were there but never actually saw but felt the thrill of seeing their tracks on the river bank. That’s when you get hooked, and you can never move around without seeing the signs of life you were blind to before.
Begin rewilding yourself by going for a walk with your kids, don’t do it if you have to be somewhere, do it on a weekend when you can spend as much time as you want. Start small, feed the ducks in the local park, and see if you can name the species, if you can’t look them up when you go home. Pick up pinecones, especially the ones that have been chewed on, it
could be from a squirrel, take them home, did you know you can tell if a squirrel is left or right-handed by the way it chews a cone? It’s true look it up! Pick up feathers see if you can identify the bird they came from, look on the ground and search for anything that stands out, take pictures with your phone, just look for things you would have overlooked before. Then research things with the kids when you get home, it’s astounding the things you will come up with, and you’ve learned something about the world you never knew before.
Remember you don’t need to be David Attenborough, although that would be awesome, to interact with the natural world around you. You need the simple tool of curiosity to become the wild parent of a wild child.