I grew up in the woods in Pennsylvania. I really only ever knew the woods as the nearest “city” of 3500 or so folks was 25 miles away. I never saw any real city until I was much older and to me, that very much felt like living dangerously. Cars moved so fast (except for when they didn’t) and then there were the people. People were louder and looked different and talked different. The city was very scary indeed but the woods were easy and safe.
Years later now, my kids are city kids. They see people and roads and city stuff as normal and safe. They like to mess around at our place in the country but they never really stray too far from where Emily and I were. I am always amazed at how they like to sit inside the shell of our cabin and read rather than being outside playing in the stream or rolling in the dirt.
So, the kids were at the place last weekend and, to my amazement, wanted to explore in the woods. “Sure” I said figuring they would take two steps into the tree line and come running back. A neighbor girl came over too and the three of them ventured off.
An hour passed very quickly, so when I looked up and they weren’t back, I was a bit worried. You see, city kids just don’t venture off into the woods for an hour. They were out of sight and hearing range so I didn’t know what they were up to. I waited and eventually they traipsed up the hill with flushed cheeks and big smiles…and mud.
It occurred to me that kids used to be gone all day and the parents had no idea where they were. Emily’s granddad talks about swimming cross the local river (with barge traffic and chemical plants, etc) before he was 10. Likewise, my grandpa hopped trains and rode around as a teenager. I can’t imagine allowing my kids to do that but I am absolutely thrilled that they struck out on their own and acted like kids in the woods should act.
There are many books and discussions on letting your kids experience a little danger. Isaac took me down to their “end-point” and I was surprised how far they had gotten and how wild the area was. There was a little danger for sure and I think they enjoyed the thrill. It worried me a little but they loved it and I couldn’t be happier to see their “country eyes” light up. The city may always be good with them, but I surely hope they come to understand and love the woods too!