"Children seldom roam, even in the safest places. Because of their parents' fear of the monstrous things that might happen (and do happen, but rarely), the wonderful things that happens as a matter of course are stripped away from them. For me, childhood roaming was what developed self-reliance, a sense of direction and adventure, imagination, a will to explore, to be able to get a little lost and then figure out the way back. I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest."
- Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Reading has been a bit forced lately, most days I trudge through a few pages before drifting off to sleep. So, most books I've been working my way through for weeks now, including Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The quote above, just a few pages in, stood out immediately to me. She addresses so pointedly something I often find myself concerned about.
In our suburban life, lived behind locked doors, when will my children have the chance to roam? When we they be given the opportunity to really test who they are, to explore the furthest reaches of their imagination? Will they leave home timid and without trust of their self-sufficiency? How can I arrange their childhood to allow them to grow into courageous young girls and boys? I don't have an answer to these questions and it bothers me. They follow me throughout the week and I find myself looking for little ways to loosen the reigns, to let my kids be kids without my constant intercession of "be careful!" and "don't stray too far!"
Being outside is the simplest way to give my daughters' a sense of freedom. Letting Clementine wander around the next bend for a moment, allowing Hazel to lag several steps behind to inspect rocks and collect sticks. It isn't perfect, it isn't the free range living I'd like to give them, but it is what I have to offer and it will have to be enough for now.
This evening, we threw together peanut butter sandwiches and grabbed a few bananas for an impromptu trip to a nearby nature sanctuary. It was our first time and the girls had a blast searching for dragon flies and whisper-asking me to take a picture each time we stumbled onto one. (I was never quick enough or quiet enough to catch one, of course.)
Hazel appointed herself the keeper of the map, stopping every few minutes to clumsily unfold it, shouting "Wait! Let me check the map." At one point, she offered a few thoughtful hmmms before looking me square in the eyes and saying, "Mama. Please turn right."
Slowly walking the trails with them, I couldn't help but think that these are the moments of motherhood I want to remember. Clementine confidently marching ahead, calling out directions at Hazel and me or asking us to hurry up. Hazel wandering, as she does, stumbling through patches of grass to get a little closer to whatever bug or flower she has her eye on.
My time for hikes might be drawing to a close for a while, but I really hope to make this a regular habit with the girls and their new brother once he arrives. I want them to have the chance to roam and play outside of the confines of our front yard or the local park (even though I am endlessly grateful for the ease those spaces provide me) and I am so glad Kansas City has so many beautiful parks and nature centers to explore.
I hope you and your family are finding yourself outside often this summer.