Now, I don't have a huge social media following, and I really don't want one. I have about 200 Facebook friends (probably only half of whom actually follow me) and about 100 Instagram followers (again, probably only half of whom are real friends). So I don't post these photos and memories for my friends to enjoy, although that is a fun side benefit. And I don't post these photos to rack up more followers or build my brand or whatever you'd call it. I post these photos for myself... so I will remember the time we saw dinosaurs at Brookfield Zoo, drove to the beach on a whim, explored the lakeshore, went to a children's museum, went down the rocket ship slide at the park, walked to the local ice cream store, or got super muddy playing by the river.
Time flies when you're having fun, and these kids are equal parts awesome and exhausting. My posts are like postcards mailed to myself. Digital memories and scrapbooks that I'll be able to look back on, to enjoy these memories all over again.
But of all the things we do together, my favorite is always nature hikes. I got to thinking about why that is. I like zoos, playgrounds, and museums too. Visiting family and friends is always fun. Heck, I even like taking them to Aldi. But nature hikes are the best. Why?
- Nature > People. Playgrounds are nice and all, but have you ever noticed how many other kids and parents are hanging out there, ruining the atmosphere? Uhhh, how dare they. Contrary to all evidence, I am not a kid person (my own perfect offspring notwithstanding), and I really don't enjoy spending time in a place designed to attract the little heathens. Also, if you're an introvert like me, you simply cannot think straight if you are surrounded by other people for too long. You need some peace and quiet. And if you're an introvert with three small kids? You need to get them outside for your sake and theirs. As a wise person once said, "They can't bounce off the walls if there ain't no walls."
- Nature calms my soul. I've read a million articles about the healing power of nature, but all the evidence I need is in my own body. The way my lungs expand, my pulse slows, and my anxiety coasts (instead of raging). Being outside makes me a calmer mom, which makes me a better mom. Also, God made nature, so getting "back to nature" is getting back to God, yeah? When we enjoy nature and thank God for it, that's actually a powerful form of prayer. We are joining with the created world in singing God's praises. (See Psalm 19.)
- Nature = Discovery. Cabin fever is a legit thing, especially when you share your cabin with three hurricane-force kiddos. But also, what is there to discover at home? You live there, so you kinda know your way around. Getting outside means there are limitless discoveries just waiting for you to notice them. Look under some rocks - worms! beetles! dirt! Look in the river - fish! ducks! frogs! Look up above you - sunlight! clouds! trees! Look on the ground - grasshoppers! sticks! flowers! animal footprints! There's always something new to notice, if you keep your eyes and ears open. This is fun whether you're 3 or 33 or 103. For real, I hope I'm still going on nature hikes at 103. (Just kidding, I hope I'm dead by then. But if I'm not, I better still be enjoying the great outdoors.)
- Nature fosters the arts. Monet and his water lilies. Keats and his nightingale. Ansel Adams and his landscape photography. Bob Ross and his mountains and friendly trees. Need I say more?
- Nature fosters the sciences. Newton and his laws of physics. Audobon and his study of birds. Mendel and his garden peas. Again, need I say more?
So there you have it. Why do I take my kids on nature hikes? Because I want them to be curious, calm, and observant. I want them to be little artists and scientists in training. I want them to have fun exploring the beauty of God's green earth. I want us to make memories together that involve more than sanitized plastic toys and animated movies (which I'm not knocking, by the way. Don Bluth, you are my hero.)
I have no idea what my kids will grow up to be. But if they grow up to enjoy nature and appreciate being outside, I will have gotten at least one thing right.