One of our biggest motivators here at Wildling is being able to make a small contribution to keeping kids’ childhoods wild. But that involves a lot of things. Melanie from our marketing team shares her thoughts.
The sun is low above the little lake in our municipal park. It’s late and all the other kids have already gone back home with their families. It’s still warm. 27 degrees in April. A little group of kids are still romping over the playground. The water pump is in continuous operation and the more water that runs through the grid, the bigger the trickle on the ground becomes, until it turns into a little stream.
Sitting in this stream are my children, naked and covered in mud from head to toe. Building dams with clods of earth, spraying each other with water, digging ditches so that the water can flow around each side of the small hill.
I’m sitting on a blanket with some other adults, looking at this wild paradise from a small distance away. We live in a big city - this park is the closest to “nature” we’ll get for the next 5 kilometres. And this evening in this park is the closest thing to the “village” in “it takes a village to raise a child”. Children and grown-ups together. Food in boxes and bowls - whoever’s hungry can help themselves. The kids don’t pay any attention to us adults and are completely immersed in their games and imagination. Free of daily routines.
But this freedom is defined: On the one hand they aren’t allowed to leave visibility range, and on the other they can’t stay here all evening - tomorrow school starts all over again and it isn’t funny to have exhausted kids the next morning.
My first-grader is complimented on being brave because he walks to school on his own - barely 500 metres away as the crow flies. Just a zebra crossing and a traffic-calmed area between our home and his school.
I remember my own way to school as a child, cherishing memories of spending much of my time outside. My route to school was much further.
And then I remember a story about me that’s always told at family celebrations: That at the age of five I persuaded my neighbour to join me on a cycle trip to my grandparents. My mother, thinking we were playing in the garden, didn’t notice until my grandpa called her.
We pedalled hard for 3 kilometres, close to the main streets. Without helmets of course, it was the 80s. For us it was an adventure, freedom, a walk on the wild side. For my mother it was horror. But it made me feel 3 cm taller afterwards.
What does that mean for my kids? I want them to have a wild and free childhood. But does it makes sense to put them in the car and drive to a nature reserve to show them “nature”? Or to put them in outdoor camps during the holidays?
Do we have to relocate to the countryside in order to achieve that kind of freedom? I have a lot of questions. But this evening in the park I felt that we’d made a good start. Tired and exhausted, still with no clothes on, covered with mud, my kids hop on their bikes and head home (WITH helmets of course!).
On our way, an elderly woman glances at them. She smiles at us happily and says how nice it is to see children who are still allowed to be wild sometimes.
As difficult and risky as it can sometimes be, I do believe that running wild is an essential part of a successful childhood.
Our kids are capable of doing so much more. All we need to do is fight our own fears and let them :)
How wild are your kids running?