Kerry Crisley, senior media relations manager for The Nature Conservancy.
By Kerry Crisley
"Are we going in the canoe again, Daddy?"
"We sure are."
"Can I go fishing?"
"Of course you can."
"I'm getting good at casting."
"You're great at casting."
I'm listening to the whispered conversation that my husband John is having with our five-year old, Ben, over in the "Boys Tent". Here in the "Girl's Tent," our daughter Erin is shining her flashlight on the ceiling, making shapes with her three-year old fingers.
We're settling in for the second of a two-night stay at Tully Lake, a Trustees of Reservations campground in Royalston, Massachusetts. In the last day and a half we've canoed; caught and released fish (a yellow perch and a pumpkinseed); scaled the just-begging-to-be-climbed boulder near our tent site; and tracked painted turtles and frogs.
What's more, we've spent this time entirely outside (tents don't count as inside, do they?).
Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy the outdoors. Ben and Erin love swimming in my parents’ pool, and they can happily spend two hours at our local playground or zoo. Each day, though, these activities are punctuated with a reoccurring scene: the kids jockeying for space on our family room loveseat, fighting over whether to watch Iron Giant or Kipper.
And from what I read, hear and see, this scene is also playing out in homes across the country. Studies, books and even casual conversations with my friends all point to the same thing: our kids aren’t camping, hiking or exploring nature the way I and my friends did as children.
As a parent, this worries me. I vividly remember the long summer days I spent outside with my friends. Together we climbed trees, poked around ponds, explored tidepools and swam in the ocean. And I’m certain that this consistent exposure to the outdoors – especially the cool outdoors, like hunting for hermit crabs and catching frogs – is part of what led me to a career supporting conservation.
But with visits to our state and national parks declining, and more kids checking out video games instead of vernal pools, how many will eventually line up to lead conservation? More importantly, who will take the baton in the generational relay race against climate change?
This is what I was thinking as the summer marched on and I realized that my kids had yet to experience what it felt like to sleep outside, so John and I impulsively dusted off our gear and headed to Tully.
While I have camped before, I can’t call myself an expert, so the weekend was a mix of good, bad and yes, perhaps a bit ugly. But as I gently take the flashlight from my now-sleeping daughter’s hand and mull it over, I’m happy to realize that the Good List is longer than the others.
What I'd Do Differently Next Time:
I don’t want to be focused on “next time” when I’m still awake in my tent, listening to a symphony of spring peepers. But I’m happy to know that there will be one. Perhaps we’ll start planning it when we’re home tomorrow.
May 01, 2012