Truth be told, I am not that interested in getting out into nature. I’m not a hiker, or particularly interested in pitching a tent unless at a music festival, and my preferred interests all take place in the house and usually involve a screen. I know however that this sets a horrible example to my three children, and so I force myself to be outside.
We bought 12 acres in rural Nova Scotia five years ago, and the kids can run free safely. I’m not sure why the command, “Go out and play,” that my mother would yell at us when we were kids holds no weight in my house. If I want my kids outside, they fully expect me to be out there with them, and I can’t help resent that. Except when I’m in our garden tending to our raised beds, planting and weeding. This has become a happy place, and one where I bond unexpectedly with my kids.
When I’m digging in the earth, my four year old will happily pull weeds, soon distracted by a hunt for the biggest worm, while his little brother looks on adoringly. My preteen stops rolling her eyes and sits on the edge of the beds lazily pulling at weeds, gabbing on about whatever so and so did to whomever at school. I don’t take my phone out with me, and out there in the garden we are connected.
There’s a special joy and pride that comes with harvesting whatever we’ve managed to grow (and hasn’t been eaten by slugs or cucumber beetles), and finding an unexpected prize like a squash growing up against the fence. I’m not a particularly good gardener, but we’ve found ways to use the bushels of green tomatoes that refused to ripen (green tomato jam is surprisingly good), or the bumper crop of parsnips we had last year.
I’m still hopeful that there will come a point when they do want to just go out and play, and maybe there’s more chance of that with the boys when they get a little older. I don’t want to think that my lack of interest in the outdoors is going to rub off on them, so I’ll keep on going out there and playing hockey or helping build a fort, even though it isn’t my thing. And of course I’ll keep gardening with them, because it makes us all happy, and there’s no faking it for me when I’ve got dirt under my fingernails.
Lola Augustine Brown is a Nova Scotia based freelance writer and managing editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives on 12 acres with her husband, three children, two dogs, and a brood of chickens.
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