why I let my baby hang out by the pond
I love this article SO much I’m going to propagandize it here:
On the Wildness of Children by Carol Black:
“When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. “Don’t worry,” the nice teacher says sweetly, “As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust.” And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds … Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”)
But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning. It is in this context that today’s utopian crusader proposes to teach “eco-literacy.”
It’s summer and time to let my daughter out into the world. She is three now, and at this toddler-turned-preschool age, it’s time to give her a wider berth. She can keep her head out of the water, she can run and tell me when something is wrong, and most importantly, she trusts her own instincts. Out in the country, so long as she stays away from the busy main road (quite a ways away, we live off a small, private dirt lane), she needs to run as free as she possibly can. And this article neatly sums up the reason I feel this way.
Yesterday it was sunny and warm, and my daughter ran about in her bathing suit (bottoms, anyway) splashing in the icy lake water, finding bugs, spending hours searching the pond’s perimeter for frogs and turtles with a ratty net slung over her shoulder. She looks proud and strong, like a mini- Athena with her hunting bow resting on her shoulder. It’s never been more obvious where she belongs- in the wild, dirt-splattered and free.
What’s sad is that I can’t teach her much about her element. It was schooled out of me systematically. I can navigate the waters of the education system, getting all As, passing standardized tests, bullshitting essays and sucking up to teachers. I can earn a degree and pass an interview. I can clock in and do my prescribed duties and clock out. I’m just a diligent little soldier in the system. So the best I can do for my daughter is roll up my own pant legs and let her lead the way.
But the truth is we don’t know how to teach our children about nature because we ourselves were raised in the cinderblock world. We are, in the parlance of wildlife rehabilitators, unreleasable. I used to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and the one thing we all knew was that a young animal kept too long in a cage would not be able to survive in the wild. Often, when you open the door to the cage, it will be afraid to go out; if it does go out, it won’t know what to do. The world has become unfamiliar, an alien place. This is what we have done to our children.
This is what was done to us.
Now go read the rest of the article!