Becki loves nature- everything about it- the beauty, the vibrancy, flowers, bird, and animals. So, why was it so hard to get her children to feel the same way about it? Here she tells you what she did wrong- maybe others can learn from her mistakes
Note: Unedited version- forgive the mistakes
Our friends were visiting from Washington DC and they brought their fifth and eighth grade daughters. They wanted to go hiking. And I wondered. How do they do it- get their kids to love to hike in nature?
It had worked for me when they were little, but as they grew up…. well you can imagine, just imagine!
One time, it is a warm spring afternoon and I managed to drag out my 11 year old daughter. The hills were a rich green sprawling before us, sprinkled with orange California poppies and sunny yellow buttercups. I stretched my arms out and breathed deeply (take a deep breath), “Isn’t is a glorious day for a hike?”
(vocal variety) “No” says my 13 year old daughter,….. “no, do we have to go? I hate to walk and even worse walking uphill. Can’t I just go to San Francisco today, to a show with my friends? ”
“Come on, just a short hike.” And so, we begin hiking up the hill. And to survive this hike to get and forget that each step was torture, I started singing. First it So, I start singing to keep her going “The hills are alive, with the sound of music….” She squeaks out a tiny laugh, panting.
Then I sang “oh sole mio” and between pants she started to join me “La, la, la, la, la, la, la”
My purpose here is to help any young parents or grandparents in Lakeview Toastmasters not make the same mistakes that I did as you try to instill the love of nature in children- based on what I did wrong. Which seems to be everything. (pause)
How many of you have young children? Good, so listen carefully.
How many of you have teenagers? Oh you poor folks- there still might be a chance
And grandchildren: you might be able to salvage their love of nature somehow.
Any of you hope to have kids in the futre or grandkids in the future?
When I break it down, there are three main rules. First off: Don’t marry someone who hates to walk (this might be a lost cause already). Second: Don’t move to where every hike starts out uphill, and Third: don’t live near a fabulous and alluring city- which we all do- but there is still time to move- take heed.
Let me take you back. When my husband, Rito and I were newly in love, we worked together. One day on a trip to a Miskitu Indian village in the warm tropical forest of northern Nicaragua we snuck off for a short walk on a tiny little creek. There we sat quietly in the cool waters and saw a tree with 12 toucans sitting in it. It was a spectacular sight, their bright clown-colored beaks with brillant green and orange, their black bodies and bright yellow chests and red rumps. Rito and I both loved nature and knew this man would make a great father for my children.
Before we met, I had backpacked in the redwoods and sierras, hiked volcanoes, and fallen in love with the rain forest. When we had kids, of course, I wanted to transmit this love of the earth. He loved animals and I assumed that would make for a perfect Swiss Family Robinson. But I forgot to make sure he liked to hike.
And now, I would like to tell what really happened.
Yes, as I said, my husband and I both love nature. On every vacation we went camping in all the great national parks. “Let’s go for a hike.” I would say.
He would immediately interject “Who doesn’t want to take a hike, raise your hand?” And of course up goes his hands and those of all three children. Well, Becki, “majority rules, four against one.” So, we viewed the animals from the car. We saw bears in Yosemite, buffalo in Yellowstone, elk at Rocky Mountain park- along with a million others who made long traffic jams as the stopped in the middle of the road to snap a picture of the wild animals. Rule number one: Don’t marry someone who hates to walk.
So, OK, Rito won’t walk, but we will move to somewhere beautiful. The kids will be able to see green hills while playing in the school yard and I can take them into the hills for long walks right out of the house. In case you don’t know, I found that in El Sobrante. We moved to a street just below Wildcat Canyon Park, where we live to this day. But, there was one problem. Every walk was straight uphill for at least the first 30 minutes and the “let’s sing opera” trick only worked once! So, my second rule: Don’t move somehwere that requires walking straight uphill- that opera trick only works once.
Now El Sobrante was a great place to raise kids. It was near San Francisco where my husband worked, just 20 minutes when there was no traffic (hah). And that brings me to rule three: don’t buy a house near an amazing and alluring city like San Francisco. It is just too tempting. And now my kids are all grown, and guess what they love to do together, go to drag shows.
So, if any of you are considering ways to get you kids or grand-kids to love nature- first- don’t marry someone who hates to walk. Second, don’t start every walk straight uphill. And third, get the hell out of the bay area, because a walk in the hills is no competition for a great day in the City!
I learned from my visiting friends what you should do instead: Offer the kids a dollar if they are the first to spot an animal. Offer a measly dollar. It seemed to work. The sullen 8th grader. was told, “instead of staring at the ground- stare down at the water” and sure enough, she was the first to spot a whale. And guess who was the second who wanted a dollar for spotting an otter on the banks of the San Pablo dam? ( pause) My husband.