Last August, the Children & Nature Network’s, with generous support from The North Face, the REI Foundation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, invited twenty-four young Americans to their 2012 Natural Leaders Legacy Camp at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The mission of the Natural Leaders Network is to empower youth leadership and strengthens the bond between children and nature. At 29, I was one of the oldest of the “young Americans,” and had found out only the week before that I was pregnant.
For more than a decade I have shared my love of nature and the outdoors with children. I have taught them to sail and canoe, to identify trees and birds and bugs, to put up a tent and put out a fire. I’ve baited their hooks with worms, with minnows, and even with marshmellows left over from s’mores the night before.
I am thankful for being a part of every one of those life changing moments when a child realizes nature is no longer a stranger to fear but a playmate who is constantly changing and inventing new games.
And now, with my first child days away from being born, my role as a Natural Leader has an entirely new dimension.
I am not sure what kind of mother I will be. I only know what kind of mother I hope to be.
A mom that:
- Does not use the TV as a babysitter
- Encourages tree climbing and bug collecting
- Does not discourage dirty or sweaty clothes
- Remembers to put her cell phone away and look her child in the eyes
- That asks questions and listens to the answers
I want to be a mom that encourages her child to complete Nature Play’s 51 Things to Do Before You’re 12 . (A great list from another Natural Leader’s organization. Though they are Australian so I’ll have to translate “Catch a prawn in the river” to “Catch a crawfish” and “Play beach cricket” to just about anything else.)
Yes, I know what kind of mother I hope to be.
But it is one thing to teach or preach.
It is another to emulate the lesson.