I know one thing for sure: Lucas will never be diagnosed with Nature Deficit Disorder, the new diagnosis coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods. Lucas loves to be outside. In fact, after Dada, Mama and wawa, outside was Lucas's first real word. Come to think of it, I need to begrudgingly admit that he started saying outside even before Mama. More days than not, Lucas says, no pleads, outside before he's even had any breakfast.
He's not deprived. Lucas gets outside everyday. Usually multiple times a day. We have a great backyard. And, we have a playground about five houses away which we take him to pretty much every day. His favorite thing to do? Swing? Nope. Slide? Nope. Play in the mulch pile? Ding ding ding! Forget the equipment. Give Lucas a pile of dirt and a few sticks and you've got one happy little boy, content to play for hours. Okay, this is a 20 month old we're talking about. Content to play for tens of minutes.
This weekend the weather was so beautiful in our area. We were outside a lot. On Monday we explored an amazing arboretum just a few miles from our house. I can't believe we'd never been there before, but now we'll definitely be regulars. It's free. With lots of parking. And, there were no crowds. It was like our own private paradise. Lucas had so much fun. He ran around in the open grass. Played under the trees. Ran through the gardens. Of course he collected sticks the whole time. This kid loves sticks. We all had a blast.
I grew up with a strong appreciation for nature, too. My dad was a park ranger when he was younger and I loved the nature hikes he'd take my cousins, siblings and me on at Camp each year. On a road trip Dad always took the time to point out a hawk flying overhead. One of our favorite family jokes includes making fun of one of his college courses: Flattened Fauna.
Long before I studied great philosophers like Rousseau and Kant in college and their theories on universal law and morality, my Dad taught me that you shouldn't do things that, if everyone did it, would be harmful to nature. I know I'd be killed if I ever took a flower or rock or branch (other than dead for firewood) out of a forest, especially a State Forest. I always take the sidewalk and try hard to never cut through grass. Afterall, what if everyone did those things? There wouldn't be any forests or grass left.
We are lucky to live in a little urban town that truly appreciates nature. Our town was founded about 75 years ago as a planned community that worked with the land. Our yard and neighborhood are full of mature trees. I don't think there is a straight street in town because the roads work with the rolling hills. (Side benefit: very challenging walks!)
I hope Lucas always loves to be outside. I hope we can continue to help him develop his appreciation for nature. I hope and pray that our generation will start taking better care of our Earth so that his children still have something left to appreciate.