The biggest gift my parents bestowed to me was a love of nature. No matter where I am, what my life’s circumstances are, there is always nature to marvel and amaze. As a young girl the mantra, ‘No matter the weather, we’ll have a good time,’ was drummed into my subconscious. We would wrap up warm and head out in all weathers for our family walk on a Sunday, returning home for a hearty roast dinner around the dining room table.
Walking in the countryside, on holiday and in our local town, was just something we grew up doing. After many years of my sister and I grumbling about how far we were walking, the mud, the flies, the heat, the aching feet… (my parents were extremely good motivators and very patient, plus my Dad always had – and still does have – a good nose for a pub. The promise of a coco-cola in a glass, twirly bottle, with a straw, and a packet of ‘Walkers’ salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps was a big motivator!), I finally ‘clicked on’ to what was so great about walking.
In those growing years I didn’t realise the gift they were giving me – but there were times when I’d exclaim, ‘Isn’t nature just wonderful!’ (in a ‘Swallows and Amazons’ kind of whimsical voice). I would watch nature documentaries and spill tears at the cruel rawness and reality of nature. I would take ages to walk home from school, pausing to pick flowers, climb a ditch to see a butterfly (and get stung by nettles), pick blackberries and watch sticks floating down little waterways. I grew to love the rush of blood to my head after a long climb to the summit of a hill. I adored feeling ‘free’ in the countryside and surrendering to the elements. Wet driving rain and fog would make a walk bitter and sometimes frightening, but there was a feeling of acceptance at being at the mercy of the elements and wanting to battle on, survive and get to the end. Heat would make me yearn for shelter and thirst for a drink, but bring about a great appreciation when I did quench my thirst.
Now I am a parent, one of my favourite loves is immersing my children in nature. From the moment they could see, with their newborn eyes, they were marvelling at colours, the feel of the sun on their skin, or the rain surprising them on an inclement day. I loved pushing them along in their prams as babes, or wearing them close to me, wrapped in a sling, and watching their eyes look in awe at the leaves of trees waving in the wind and feeling the sun beams finding them through gaps in the canopy of shade.
As they grow there are so many other things, many of the material, man-made world, to distract them from nature, but it is perhaps my biggest goal as a parent to ensure they never lose sight of what is right in front of them. It is nature that matters, it’s free for the taking, there is no price on it, for it is priceless – but it is my job, as a parent, to ensure they grow to appreciate that.
As a young adult I sometimes met people that had never grown with that appreciation. It was sad to hear their hunger for material goods and services. They’d never been camping and could never see the pleasure in sleeping out under stars or climbing to the peak of a mountain to see a spectacular view. I admit that my life is surrounded by gadgets and I do embrace the technological world we live in – but I could not live without nature in my daily life. I have to spend time outdoors in the fresh air every day. I love to live with nature on my doorstep. I love to watch the seasons change and celebrate them for their uniqueness. I love to walk barefoot on the grass and run along the beach, dipping my toes in the surf. When it rains I don’t hide in my collar, but hold my face up to the sky and let the water run down my face and drench my skin (apart from when I’m dashing to a hot dinner date!).
Today, joining with ‘Becoming the Mama I Want to Be’ I wish to share a little nature loving from our Monday. Today we were rewarded for our patience. We have swan plants in our garden from previous years but, with no caterpillars or butterflies seeming to be around this year, we bought a couple of new plants from the garden centre – with caterpillars on. Once the caterpillars got lovely and plump they started their amazing transformation. After a fortnight of waiting the first chrysalis turned from vivid green, to black – with the wings of the butterfly clearly visible, and whilst we kept a vigil, waiting for the butterfly to emerge, we were blessed with the visit of a full grown Monarch butterfly, dancing between the flowers and seed heads of the swan plants in our garden. Finally, the chrysalis, we were waiting on, gave way to reveal a new butterfly and we delighted in watching it unfurl its wings for the first time.
I spent nearly an hour in the garden with Sophie and Alice, marvelling at what nature had gifted us.
Alice then made a butterfly out of play-dough and did some glitter art, whilst Sophie completed some worksheets I printed off for her on ‘Monarch Butterflies’.
Long may their appreciation of nature survive!
Becoming the Mama I want to be is about taking time to enjoy the journey of parenting,
to honour its value and to hopefully inspire and encourage each other.