Today, we’ve been in the woods. My son, like many modern children, doesn’t spend enough time outside. His childhood is more supervised by adults than mine was. With fewer distractions to keep us ‘in-doors’, my early memories are of being in the garden. Out of sight of adults, digging holes or dressing the cat up in dolls clothes. My mother brought ‘squash’ or called us in for lunch. My son hasn’t had the luxury of a proper garden, we used to have a small, shared, paved yard. Now we have a bigger paved space, it’s uninviting. It will have to do until we have our ‘own’ home again.
By primary school age, I walked the mile to school with friends. Summer holidays were spent with gangs of local children roaming in the woods, I have brilliant memories of the sense freedom and exploration. We felt as if the local woodland was ours and in some ways it was, it was our playground. We’d returned to our parents at tea-time, tired.
It wasn’t perfect, my Dad always seemed to be at work and my Mum never had much time to play with us. Housework took longer then, clothes got washed in a twin tub, it wasn’t a machine that you just loaded and pressed a button. Meals made from scratch, seemed to take hours to prepare.
More time outside, more fresh air, more walking, more running. We were more lost in our own imagination, rather than lost in a lap top.
The amount of time my son doesn’t spend outside, niggles at me. He has the opportunity to play in the street, once a month. The council supports a scheme to close roads to cars. Children have the road to play in. Of course, I supervise him, sitting on the kerb. It is an opportunity to get to know local parents and neighbours. Sometimes, he mixes in with the other children, sometimes a couple of months pass, we miss playing out and he is out of the loop and sticks by me.
A while ago, I came across this trailer for a documentary:.
It’s about reconnecting children with nature, getting them outside. Finally, a week ago I saw the whole film at a screening at Yeo Valley (the lovely yoghurt people). It made me laugh and I wanted to cry. There’s a line which basically says: “My children’s generation is going to be the first in history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents”. That chills me. Having seen Project Wild Thing I want to try my best to spend more time outside with my son. He won’t have the childhood I had, but the childhood he does have is in my hands.