I grew up visiting my extended family in rural Mississippi, where exploring the woods with my cousins was a normal weekend event. I don’t know how young I started going out on my own, but I don’t think my mom ever worried that I was out in the wilderness alone; and I never worried that I could get lost or kidnapped or hurt or suffer any other misfortune. Now I’m a mom in San Francisco. The idea of my kids roaming the forest unattended terrifies me. I’m a city mom, and my kids are always in my sight. Going outdoors for us means taking the kids to the playground or zoo. There is no such thing as freely exploring nature.
Case in point, today we trekked across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods to walk on a carefully constructed path through a redwood forest. After finding parking and paying admission, we walked on the paved path with the herd of tourists and pointed to the trees, careful not to take so much as a twig as a souvenir. It was beautiful and controlled and clean and fun. We do have some parks where the kids can actually touch things and collect pine cones and bark and sticks, but they are still city parks and always have a parent nearby.
I have only travelled back to Mississippi twice with Falco, never with Murdock so far. The last time we were there, Falco was two, and we were clearly fish out of water. Falco was afraid of the four wheeler ride with his cousin; I was trying to keep him neat and clean; he wasn’t allowed to play guns or fight or wrestle like his cousins. Matt and I joke about hippie Berkeley parents (in good fun). I can only imagine what Mississippi parents say about us!
I hope we can take the boys to Mississippi soon. When we do, I will try to let them get dirty and explore a little more. As long as I can see them. And they don’t pretend sticks are guns. Until then, we’ll enjoy our version of the woods.