Just in case you're inclined to think I've done a magnificent job of kicking my kids outdoors to commune with nature, let me share an anecdote. Earlier this very early spring we've had, I corralled my son into hiking up at Delaware State Park...
Dear Columbus Parents, Just in case you're inclined to think I've done a magnificent job of kicking my kids outdoors to commune with nature, let me share an anecdote. Earlier this very early spring we've had, I corralled my son into hiking up at Delaware State Park. It was a sunny day. The first signs of greenery were popping out of the crumbly earth and from the ends of twigs. When we spied a cluster of "puffball mushrooms," I dazzled my son by predicting what would happen when he stepped on one (a puff of tiny spores would be shot into the air). I chased my prediction with a fascinating explanation of asexual reproduction that he will doubtless take back to the classroom. (Or not.) And our hiking unloosed conversation that doesn't always happen at home. But any thoughts I had of being a Highly Exemplary Parent came crashing to the forest floor when we hiked past a marsh where an insanely loud posse of spring peepers, those fingernail-sized frogs, were going berserk with their springtime mating rituals. "What is that?" my son asked me. I explained, then he listened some more to the reproductively inclined peepers. Finally he asked, "Is that a recording?" All I could think of was a long-ago TV ad for those old "See and Say" toys, where a city kid hung over a country fence and called, "Here, doggie, doggie," to a cow.The two hapless TV-ad parents looked at each other and realized they needed to buy a See and Say so their pathetic child could learn what dogs and cows really sound like. And my 21st-century child's reaction to an unusual noise was to wonder if it's a recording. But I share this, not just to poke fun at myself, but to assure myself that it's OK to not be the Perfect Outdoorsy Mom. Sure, there are kids who, from the age of 3, could tell you which peeper call was male and which was female. There are parents who can create woodland shelters using twigs, shoelaces and dryer sheets. I didn't have that kind of childhood and, even for the hiking we have done, that's not the kind of childhood I've given my children. But I have been able to give them time outdoors, thanks to the really magnificent park systems we have in this state.And in this issue, we again use the month of May as a jumping-off point for getting outdoors (with John Ross's easy-to-digest guide to family camping sites in Ohio), for traveling (looking at disruptions to kids' habits), and for making memories through kids' photography and gift giving. The point is we need to give ourselves permission to get out there and do things with our families. We don't have to do them perfectly. We just need to do them together.