Please Save Me From Your Children
One of the things about visiting our National Parks is that you really get a good look at the general American public. We’ve seen some pretty interesting families in the parks, and we’ve also seen how they interact as a family. Sometimes you see families at their best, young kids proudly showing their parents the “wonderful picture I just took.” We’ve also seen families at their worst. As a future parent (and I mean way down in the future), this gets scary. I can’t help but wonder what my family vacations will be like.
The sight to start this essay was observing one family at a drive-up lookout. I noticed this family when the mother and three daughters were running (while twirling a point-and-shoot digital camera like a lifeguard’s whistle) and screaming to the car complaining of the bugs. The siblings were screaming at each other to close the door as that would let more bugs in. The mother wasn’t much better, though she did a bit less screaming. Many minutes later I saw the father come back to the car, all by himself with camera in hand.
I immediately felt bad for him…. I envisioned him planning the bulk of this trip, traveling from far away, bringing his family to Moab country as a family summer vacation. Then, in the moment, at the Grand View of Canyonlands (and a grand view it is) his family is too occupied with complaining about bugs to appreciate the view, understand where they are and what they were looking at. I felt a huge amount of compassion for him, regardless if he was affected by the situation or not. It must be one of the worst feelings to see your family not enjoy their vacation.
This got me on a long tangent about raising kids to be tolerant and appreciative of nature. I envision it being tough. Today’s life is full of creature comforts: showers, no bugs, air conditioning, heating, soft beds, flushing toilets, etc. How in the world does one raise a child to enjoy (or at least tolerate) being out in nature, away for all the modern worlds’ creature comforts? I’m troubled with a solution. I see people around me, people who have grown up in homes not too different to mine, struggle without some of these creature comforts. I’ve seen the discomfort of the outdoors overtake peoples desire to be outdoors plenty of times, whether on a simple day hike or on an extended backpacking trip.
If people who desire to experience nature struggle without life’s creature comforts, how does one teach a child to not mind the bugs, deal with the heat, and sleep on the ground? I wish that the answer was simple, but I’m not going to even pretend to know the answer now. Hell, even right now just across the way is a child screaming and crying – constantly, I’m sure they’re having a swell vacation as well.