Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Last child in the woods

Every child comes with a message that God is not yet discouraged by man.

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore was a Bengali poet, writer, artist and general all-round genius whom I was introduced to last time in India. Yesterday, as we were walking to a park we don't normally go to, we passed a gate on which the above was emblazoned across. What wonderful words. I'm never without pen and paper so wrote them down and as we continued our journey to the park, I thought about them and how right he is that children possess that wonderful ability of pure, unbridled enthusiasm and joyfulness. I know we must not over-romanticise childhood because as a child the world can seem huge and scary and confusing. But what is certain is that, as children, we still have not piled on ourselves (and allowed others to impose on us) the demands and insecurities that characterise our older years.

Anyway, the reason we were going to this new park was because I recently read a review of a book called 'Last Child in the Woods'. It's written by a guy called Richard Louv and sounds fascinating. He's coined the term "nature deficit disorder" to explain how children now spend so little time alone in nature, exploring. In his own words, "In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy
and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace." I know, we've heard it all before, that we don't let our kids out of sight these days, but it's true: we over-parent, over-worry, are over-paranoid and I know evil people out there exist who abduct our children but Louv claims that children today are no more likely to be abducted than they were 30 years ago.

The reason I'm waffling on about this is because, as much as I like many things about Bangalore, sometimes I just heave a great big sigh and would like to be transported to wild, wide, green open spaces so Maya and Lily can run through long grass under vast skies. But hey, right now, it's not possible. So the next best thing is going to a park and I thought it would be fun to try out a new one. I did an activity with Maya where she had to find one thing of about eight different colours in the park. When we'd done this, I started thinking about that book and decided to let Maya and Lily have a little 'wander'. They were funny - they held hands and off they toddled behind a couple of small kids they'd spontaneously befriended whilst I sat on a bench. Every 30 seconds or so, they'd turn round and wave at me and Maya would yell 'We're going on an adventure!' I know it's not the same as being in nature 'proper' BUT Maya seemed genuinely excited and proud of being in charge of Lily, away from her mama and doing her own thing.

So there I was, sitting on the bench and taking a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about my own lucky childhood when I spent countless hours both with my siblings and alone dreaming, imagining and playing in the fields at the bottom of our garden. I don't know how long I was sitting there for before I realised that Maya and Lily had vanished from my sight....so much for 'letting go'! I jumped up and tore off to find them (largely because daughter number 2 has barely been walking for two weeks rather than fear of abduction!). When I rounded the corner, the pair of little devils had already climbed almost to the top of some stone steps on the outside of a small house in the park, Maya helping Lily hoist her chubby legs up from one step to the next.

I look forward to the day when I can really let them explore. I've said this before and I'll say it again: oh, for a plot of land and a cob house and a few fat chickens surrounded by fields!

(ps - the first photo above was taken last weekend, not in Bangalore I hasten to add, but a night we spent away at a farm, and picture two was taken last summer in England.)

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