5 Things I Don't Say To My Daughter When We're Out in Nature

5 Things I Don't Say To My Daughter When We're Out in Nature

Ahhh Mother Nature. She brings out the best and sometimes the paranoia in us. It's those unconscious fears and thoughts that have a real potential to shape my daughter's perception about the wild outdoors (no pressure). So for her sake and mine, I'm working hard on embracing both butterfly and worm, dirt and flower. As my wonderful friend Bobby says, "It's all part of it."

Here are the things I'm trying not to say when Cora and I are out in the wild together:

1) I'm Scared

Whether a spider crawls near us, Barred Owl sounds off, or if it's getting dark in the deep woods, I try to focus on what's interesting or beautiful about the moment. Most kids aren't inherently afraid of nature, in fact they are brave and push to explore the outer edges of any territory. Fear can be a healthy defense mechanism, but it's about balance.

2) Don't Get Dirty

When we are outside with the purpose of free play, I want Cora to feel the pure joy of being out in nature. But sometimes even though she's in her old clothes, I hesitate for a second when she wants to jump in a puddle. Dirt is such a dirty word in our society, and I don't want Cora to have a negative association with something as amazing and alive as the soil beneath her feet.

3) Ewww Gross!

I hear so many kids react to worms and other insects with revulsion. It's sad because these creatures are so integral to our own wellbeing. I try hard to remain curious even in the most challenging cases (i.e. a leach on my bare leg). It's not just with bugs - the cycle of life and death often gets the dreaded "Gross!" Cow pies, bones, vultures circling above - they're all a part of it.

4) I Hate (insert any type of weather here)

Confession, this is the hardest one for me. We live in Michigan, so you can imagine how cold it gets in the dead of Winter. Still, I'm working on it. How flexible and accepting our children are to different weather patterns will largely impact their desire to be out in nature. I want Cora to tell me when she's cold, but it's important she enjoy herself out there for as long as she can. My husband and I even took a pledge not to complain about the weather for a whole month. Read about it here.

5) Leave That Alone

I try not to use these words unless the kids are in imminent danger of getting hurt. If it's a poisonous looking plant or animal, we can back up a bit and talk about it from a distance. If it's not something I really want Cora to handle, I explain why and we move on.

Well, that's my world what about yours? Is there anything you are consciously trying to say differently when you are outside with your kids? I'd love to hear about it.

Your Woman Gone Wild,

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15 comments

  • Thanks for the article! Very good to keep these things in mind.

    Would you consider the reverse, about things TO say to your kids?

    One line that stuck with me from my boy scout leader is, “Don’t step on it if you can step over it; Don’t step over it if you can step around it.” Good for safety, and for making less noise so creatures don’t hide.

    Nikki and Jim
  • I tell my little girl to focus instead of be careful. I dont want her going through life thinking she has to be careful all the time. But if she wants to do something tricky or dangerous I want her to know she can try if she’s willing to focus on the task fully.

    Tamsin Carling
  • When in the wilderness (which is at times simply our own backyard),
    I use “Be aware…” when my children venture out with us, or further away from my immediate rescuing hands.
    Living and often camping in the remote wilderness of Northern Australia “the wild” has various poisonous or at times life-threatening inhabitants (world’s top deadliest snakes; crocodiles; jelly fish; spiders; wild pigs; even plants that cause nasty (hospital treatment needed) stings; that we have raised our children alongside.
    Fortunately, actual sightings of dangerous animals have been 0 to date for deadliest and a few here or there of the lesser variety, perhaps mainly due to how we alertly venture into “the wild”. But the reality is ever present and possible to come upon IF NOT vigilant, or as I like to teach my children, to “be aware of”.
    Hence, you will not hear me use my inward fear words, my “don’t go there”… I have always only said to my children, "OK, we are going here today, you need to “be aware” that snakes love this habitat and like to live under…." or “so if you want to be the leader (to my 5 yr old), then you are responsible for looking out for snakes/pigs/stinging trees for the rest of the group” … and so on like that! :-)
    My parenting has taught me that a simple change of HOW we say things can achieve the same result of reducing risk but without building in fear, or wrapping them up in bubble-wrap to such an extent that they never want to get out and see this amazing planet we co-exist upon.
    Happy “wild” exploring,
    Tammy :-)
    PS. Our reality is, that on some of our trips, an emergency rescue team is a minimum 1-2hr flight away once they get our distress call and are mobilised. That’s potentially a 5 hour round trip to possibly much needed hospitalisation for treatment. Therefore, we have always ensured we have current first-aid knowledge on how to treat emergency situations if we fall victim to such threats; we carry a registered emergency beacon on every trip (we also log every remote trip); and as soon as my children could understand, we have taught/revised, basic first-aid treatment and how to use the emergency beacon to them, in case we are the ones who are hurt or injured….
    In closing, I ask that readers keep perspective here too… percentage wise, car accidents are higher killers or cause greater injuries, than any of all the inhabitants put together, that I have written about here today…??

    Tammy

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