I’ve mentioned several times about doing nature study with Boobear. I’ve talked about where to do it, when, and so on. But I’ve never talked about the benefits.
Sure, everyone gets outside. That’s a benefit – away from the screens and into the fresh air. And yes, everyone gets to see nature – even if it’s just a pigeon – and gets to hopefully see something new and interesting to learn more about.
But those aren’t the only benefits of taking a nature walk with your children.
One thing I have learned about Boobear is that he if he wants to talk about something that he feels is really important – he avoids eye contact. Oh, he’ll look you right in the eye if he’s talking about something like Pokemon. (And if you pay attention and talk long enough, you’ll notice he starts looking at your forehead or nose instead.) But if it’s really important? Nope, not gonna do it.
He talks to me the most about things that he feels are most important when he knows I’m not going to look too closely at him. When I’m elbows deep in suds washing the dishes, when we’re both working on a craft project, when I’m working on my computer and he’s lying beside me on the floor drawing.
But it’s on nature walks when he talks the most.
Something about being outside, with nothing but me, him, and nature as witnesses makes him feel more comfortable. It was on a nature walk while hunting for mushrooms we came across a dead butterfly. It led to a discussion about death, what happens after, and our lost pets.
It was on a nature walk he decided to talk about his ideas on the theories of where we all come from. Or aliens. Religion. His dreams and his fears.
I don’t know if it’s because he knows he has my full attention or if it’s because he knows I’m looking for interesting things to show him as much as he is looking for them to show me, so he thinks I’m not actually paying much attention to him. But whatever it is, I believe our nature walks have actually opened the door to better communication between us in all ways.
We can be walking along, and a conversation can go from talking about the clouds, to talking about angels, to discussing the idea of Heaven…then a jump to birds. Later on that evening, or even a couple days later, he’ll quietly ask “Hey, Mom? Remember when we were talking about the angels in the clouds?” and he’ll pick back up on the topic. Sometimes, he’s just seeing if I really remember.
During the entire nature walk, he’ll look up to see if I’m looking at him – but he never keeps eye contact. Instead, he’ll tell me about a bad dream while he points out a mushroom. How he feels like he’s not as good as other kids because he can’t balance on a bike while we watch a line of ants working. Good or bad, he’ll talk.
So if he’s having a particularly rough day – out we go. A good day? Out we go. Whenever we can. If something is bothering him, out we go and it’s inevitable he’ll tell me all about it.
Maybe it’s because it’s a time that it’s just us. Oh, Grandma Bear goes sometimes. So does Papa Bear. But he doesn’t open up like that with them as much. I’m not sure why really. Sometimes it seems we all have our spots in his mind and we don’t drift out of them.
Or perhaps, he just feels that if I can accept sitting in the dirt and watching an ant nest for an hour or watching a spider wrap its dinner up from catch to finish, then I can accept anything he has to say.
Whatever the reason, it works. I highly recommend that, if you can, you grab your children and head for a walk. If you have one, they might just open up in ways you never thought they would. If you have more than one, they may still or perhaps it would be a good way to connect with the child you feel might be drifting a little too far away.
Nature is healing in many ways. And sometimes, it’s what we need to connect to each other on a deeper level when we most need to.
‘Til next time,