I want to start this by pointing out I will be the first person to admit I am not a perfect parent. In fact I’m not even close. At the moment my children’s behaviour is shocking at best and if we can get through a supermarket trip by taking just one child who is in full on tantrum mode back to the car with the entire shop watching then it is considered a success. While they aren’t the sort of children who grab things off the shelves or lie in the aisles, (they are pretty good with rules etc) they are the sort of children who will fight and bicker with each other relentlessly. Tom will argue until he is blue in the face over the smallest thing and Charlotte is so stubborn, she would give the Irresistible force paradox a run for it’s money. Add to this the fact they both love to wind each other up and you can see where I am coming from. The reason I am openly admitting this is because,
“I am about to commit a parenting sin. I am about to be critical of other parents-sort of“
An unpopular stance I know, but as this blog is aimed at giving a true insight into what it is like getting out and having adventures big or small with little children, and I feel this is something that needs to be mentioned. It is something I have noticed more and more but was highlighted on our Gruffalo Walk yesterday (perhaps due to the number of people there). The problem is…
A Lack of respect for the outdoors, or perhaps a lack of understanding…
I grew up knowing not to leave rubbish etc when outdoors, to leave everything as I found it, and most people follow these rules. But I was also taught the other rules such as not to climb on gates, or shake small fences side to side, or walk across grass when there is a clear path marked. I was always told off if I walked on flowers whether they were planted or wild.
When at the walk yesterday, part of the trail led you to a section of the park that was obviously used for working. They had used it for the snake section of the trail as it was where the logs were stored from the trees that had been cut and the new trees were being planted so it fit well with the “look under the logs to see what lives under them” activities. These logs were near the activity sign and were lying loosely on the ground on the flat land with walkways around them. On the other side of the path were piles of logs that had been cut and stacked (and were obviously put like that for a reason) and parents were letting their children climb all over them. This might not seem like a big deal, but the children weren’t being supervised, it wasn’t particularly safe and a lot of work had gone into organising them. The same children were being allowed to go up to bits of equipment (not machinery but metal drums etc) and hit it with sticks and climb over it.
At Brockholes, there are massive signs everywhere asking people not to bring dogs as they can disturb the nesting birds that they have at the reserve, but go at any time and you will see dogs being let out of cars parked next to “No dogs allowed” signs and let off their leads, and many leaving mess everywhere (I know most dog owners are responsible when it comes to clearing up after their dogs)!
At Martin Mere there were parents helping their children up to stand on the wall at the otters in front of the large “No standing on the wall” sign and sitting watching while their children chase the birds. My children try to do all of these things, because they are children and that’s what they do (and I can’t promise we spot them doing it every time), but we certainly don’t stand there and help them or watch them do it. It is our job as parents to teach them to respect rules and animals and other peoples things. I understand not all parents are willfully ignoring what their children are doing, some parents might not think what their children is doing is wrong (and maybe they are right, this is just my opinion after all). Tom knows not to hit trees and plants with sticks (he still tries regularly) and we have tried to teach him why, and it’s one of the reasons we take the children outdoors so much to nature reserves, to try to teach them about their surroundings so that they get a better understanding of their environment.
I am a big believer in getting kids out in the wild (even if that wild is the local park) but when they are in woodlands and wetlands and any kind of natural environment, as a parent you need to be responsible and teach your child about the impact that they can have on that environment, and that there are reasons we don’t just climb over fences, that if everyone did that then someone has to mend that fence, and that it isn’t ok to remove stones from drystone walls because it’s just a wall and it doesn’t matter, because it does matter and they require a lot of skill and time to build (and usually serve a purpose).
Don’t be scared to touch…
If you see a fallen tree, feel free to allow the children to explore it and have a climb, if you are in the woods let the little ones climb trees but with minimal damage to the tree, for example choose a strong tree, not a sapling. Keep to paths and walkways and use gates and stiles to get through fences, if there isn’t any way through the fence, then you probably aren’t supposed to go through, respect that, either find an alternative way in or keep out, don’t climb over. If you want to build a den, go ahead, it’s great fun, but use sticks and things you find on the ground, don’t snap branches off trees nearby! Try to leave everything as you found it and keep damage to a minimum, so that nobody would know you had been there. This way you have lots of fun, but keep the environment in tact for other people to enjoy in the future.
If this all seems a little confusing, or perhaps you have grown up in a city and want to explore the outdoors together with your children or maybe you think I am being a tad over zealous, have a look at the Countryside Code (CC Dl_web) as set out by Natural England which lays out guidelines for enjoying the countryside responsibly. A lot of what I am saying is in there and if taught at a young age is something that stays with you, like the Green Cross Code.