I woke up this past weekend to blue skies and sun and I knew it was going to be one of the last before school starts. I asked myself, "Have we done it all?" Going through my mental check list of beaches, forests, wetlands, and meadows all throughout this gorgeous city, I decided we'd go to a park that has it all. I thought the kids might like a bike ride, on their own bikes. I imagined wandering easily down quiet paths passed old historic homes while they pedaled along merrily.
Which is mostly what happened once we got into the car (and passed the whining and complaining.) As we arrived at the park and summited a hill overlooking the meadow, my daughter realized where she was. In 2008, when she was 20 months old, I started an outdoor parent toddler program called Itty Bitty Camps. She came with me every week to explore habitats at this park for over 3 years. She has been here over one hundred times, but it has been a year since we have visited this side of the park. She was slowly recognizing it again. As my two little bikers took off, easily coasting down miles of old paved roads, I began to think about an article I was assigned to write.
I noticed my daughter starting to remember this place. She knew there was a secret wetland over there and she wanted to go. It was farther than I expected to walk that day, but she pleaded and I happily said, yes. She was in the lead. Her brother and I were guided by her stories and explanations. It took her a bit to orient herself in this season of brown dry grass. That's when I realized: this place that was once hers, was slowly slipping out of her consciousness.
I told stories about the old days before there were cars and horses were the main mode of transportation. We were curious, where the families that lived here long ago shopped for food and what they bought. We spent the afternoon as if we lived in a small town. I thought about writing my article on "outdoor unstructured play", which the average child spends less than 30 minutes a week doing. I'm shocked by this statistic, but I know that structured activities are the safest choice in some places and many families may not even have a yard, or perceive parks as safe places to play. I'm starting to think "outdoor unstructured play" has become a privilege. This week is the start of my daughter spending more hours per week in school than at home. I hope that somewhere in there, she never forgets the countless hours she spent here as a toddler.