On any given morning you will find me and the River monster exploring the park near our house. This particular park is home to a playground, pond and a hiking trail that meanders along a creek, which happens to always be populated with canoes. As much as River loves to swing we hardly spend any time at the playground itself. Now don’t get me wrong, playgrounds are awesome, but there’s something magical about a place where a 20 month old explorer can wander around and discover nature on his own. Actually, it’s pretty awesome for me too. My little budding scientist can dig in the mud, catch bugs, feed the ducks and turtles, splash in the water and hike along the creek without being restrained in the hiking backpack. Just watching him explore on his own makes me feel like a young child again. Children need to make mud pies and get dirty from head to toe. They need to be able to feel the freedom that comes with outdoor exploration, but you guys already know that. So why am I telling you all of this?
I have discovered over the course of the last 9 months (the time River has been with us) that perhaps our best “bonding” time has been during these morning explorations. There are no restrictions and no time limits, no rules, no piles of laundry that need to be done or annoying phones ringing in the background. There are no T.V.’s and my cell phone does not get service in this particular area. There are no distractions. Just me and my baby enjoying what nature has to offer. These moments are the only time I get what I call the “special smile.” It’s kind of like an all knowing grin that you flash to your best friend during a moment that’s too special to fill with words…a moment that you know would not be nearly as grand had the other person not been there to share it with you. Each time we venture out into that wilderness we call the park, I feel our bond grow deeper and stronger. There is no dvd or toy that lights up River’s face like a trip to the park or a hike through the woods. The look on his face is priceless and reassures me that being an outdoor parent is the best thing I can be. In fact, it sometimes is the only place where I feel like I’m actually in tune with my son and that I’ve got this mothering thing figured out. Well, sort of anyways
Now I’ve got to go awaken the little one from his way-too-long nap. Exploring is hard work, you know!