I’m not one of those parents that is going to harp on you and tell you that you shouldn’t let your child sit in front of a computer screen, iPod, or television set. In fact at the core of our family, technology really defines a huge part of who we are and what we do. We have many nights where we sit together as a family and watch some of our favorite television programs together, or just mellow out on a Sunday afternoon playing on our phones and game devices. There is nothing wrong with it and I think that by denying yourself and your children access to current technology you can sometimes set them back in our ever-evolving and fast-paced world. However, there is another side to that as well.
My initial defense of technology aside, some days it is imperative to power those phones off and get outside and into the sun. I remember when I told my daughter we were going to the state park she looked at me like I was totally uncool. As she asked me what exactly we were going to do there I knew the type of response she would give me when I told her we would “hike around and check out nature”. To a child that loves sitting in front of a computer and designing power points, losing herself in elaborate games, and reading books, walking around aimlessly in the woods didn’t seem like much of a treat to her at all. She be grudgingly tagged along and took part in one of my all time favorite family activities, going for a walk.
At first I noticed her rolling her eyes a lot as I told her all the exciting things we would see. There was a good possibility we would see some wild hogs, bald eagles, or even a bobcat. It didn’t take her to long to get into the spirit of things when she heard some rustling in the bushes. What she thought would be a dull and boring walk through some woods turned into an adventure for all of us. It’s not that I think nature is superior to technology, (though most times I do) it’s that it is a fun family activity that rounds out the spectrum and forces us to really interact with our surroundings and each other.
As I jot down these notes and write my way through this article, I am in the middle of a 5 mile hike through the woods myself. Nothing clears my mind, or gives me a blank page to work with like a good long walk. As I round out the last few corners of my hike I want this to be a defense of state parks, family camping trip, day hikes, picnics and going outside. You would be surprised to see the wonder and excitement in your child’s eyes as the sunlight gleams through the tops of trees and gently lands upon a patch of grass untouched by suburban sprawl.
“I think that is a bobcat track” my daughter said to me. She felt like she was an explorer walking through the thick jungles of the Amazon. When I confirmed to her that she seemed to be right about the footprint, she grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly. It’s moments like these that I will remember forever, not the moments our eyes are glued to a TV screen. She looked behind us to see nothing but the path we had been following and in front of us to see nothing but more wooded trails. “We are just like explorers!” she exclaimed.
Taking a hike, even for the day is not so much of an escape as it is a journey that brings my family closer together. For the price of admission to a state park and a free afternoon, the memories truly are priceless. As a kid I remember spending almost all day out in the woods with my friends, and when telling that to my daughter it seems like she couldn’t even fathom such a thing. I feel like it’s my duty as a dad to show her that there is a world outside of her iPod, and that there is a time and place for them both in our lives without leaving either in the dust.