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From Toddler to Teen

Nature is the antidote to stress and disconnect

"...Simply taking time to be together, I felt us connecting to one another and returning to the happy, grounded people we like to be."

By Kevin Morse, Director, Puget Sound Working Lands Program, The Nature Conservancy in Washington

It’s a fact of life: Teens can be moody. Some are emotional, others are negative. Many claim to be stressed. It’s all part of growing up in today’s culture and as parents know, it eventually passes.

Last week my 15 year old son Joe and I were BOTH feeling out of sorts. Too much going on, not enough downtime and a sensation I can only describe as disconnection – from each other, and from what matters in life. The solution? Fishing, of course! It was very last minute. Joe and I just looked at each other and said “Let’s do it!” Four hours later, we were on a small lake in the Methow Valley. Our trailer tent was set up and we put the raft in the water and started fishing.

What a day! The water was gin clear and we could see the aquatic vegetation and life20 feet under the raft. The sky was bright blue and dotted with huge white puffy clouds. We could smell the sage in the air and the fish were leaping out of the water all around us as they chased the insects that were hatching in the lake. We had never experienced such a wild feeding frenzy in all our years fishing and we raced to see who would catch the first fish.

As the hours unwound, so did our stress. The chaos of daily life dissipated and in its place, a sense of connection to each other and to our values, a profound reverence for the natural world and our place in it and that elusive feeling of calm!

Adding to the wonder of the get-away, I watched Joe study the lake, the fish behavior, and the insects then proceed to disregard all of my fishing advice, then out fish his old man! He caught 5 huge rainbow trout and I had the pleasure of watching him patiently reel them in then release them back into the lake. My biggest catch was a muskrat that tangled in my line which gave us both a good chuckle (it was released unharmed). Sharing the laughter and the entertainment nature always provides, shedding the distractions of day to day life and simply taking time to be together, I felt us connecting to one another and returning to the happy, grounded people we like to be. At the end of the weekend Joe was filled with pride and confidence. He gave me a hug and thanked me for a wonderful outing. I will forever remember and cherish the time we had together that weekend.

It shouldn’t surprise me that nature is the antidote to the chaos of modern life and a cure for the anxiety and stress that can weigh down all three of my boys. From the time they were infants, it always worked that way. All three relished being thrown into the baby backpack for walks along the shore or in the Chuckanut mountains near our home. There was always a peace in those outings that didn’t come any other way. Fretful babies, tantruming toddlers, restless preschoolers and awkward pre-teens were always calmed by time together in outside, experiencing the elements, playing and discovering something new every time. As it turns out, nature is never more precious and healing that in these rollercoaster teenage years.

What a gift nature gives us as it reconnects us to our children. As a father there is no better path to the heart of each child, than through time together in nature.

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