Kids these days! All they want to do is play video games, watch YouTube videos on their tablets, and run with friends. And I don’t mean the physical activity, I mean the game. They call it running to make you feel better for being a lazy bum who lays around in your bedroom with the blinds drawn tight all day, every day.
I’m not describing the hippie down the hall from you freshman year in college, I’m describing my 13 year old son.
I used to play video games, but dude, I still left my house, I did things with my family, and I was one with nature. Often. I know, growing up in Southeast Alaska really lends itself to being outside all the time. There’s not a whole lot more to do there than to go hiking or skiing on your days off. Or you go fishing in your 19′ C*Dory and attempt to catch salmon and halibut all day. Or if you’re me, you sulk in the cabin and color all day long while your parents catch double-uglies all day long.
Having a teenager in the house who thinks he’s a better parent than I am has been extremely challenging. When he’s not yelling at the littles for something dumb, he’s tattling on them, and when he’s not doing any of that, he’s generally sulking in his room with his face stuck in a screen, and I’m lost. He’s a really great kid, but the last year has been painfully difficult for both of us and I don’t know how to deal.
The other day I was thinking back to my magical childhood. We were just let loose on the wilderness in Alaska and it was amazing. My parents sometimes had to force us out, but once we got out, we were blissfully happy. I realized that I needed to stop just letting Styles do whatever the heck he wanted to do, and force him to come out with us as a family to do something other than go shopping. I mean, let’s just be honest. Thirteen, testosterone, shopping. They aren’t really a recipe for a successful outing.
When we lived in Orlando, it felt like we were so isolated from anything green, but there were lots of green spaces there. North Carolina had tons of beautiful green spaces too, and we never went out and explored them. What a complete waste! So this week, I did what all good Alaskan parents do. I took my kids to a state park and we actually had a great time.
This magical thing happened when we got out of the car. We stepped right into a field of sand spurs.
Wait, wrong magical thing.
When we picked all of the burrs from our clothes, Madilyn and Styles ran off into the dunes and Grady timidly held my hand while tiptoeing his way through the sand, until all of a sudden he saw something that caught his eye and he ran off in an uninhibited wind. I was in my own little bubble for a good hour without the kids tugging on me, begging me for this or that trivial thing that they could get for themselves. I didn’t have to hear about a video game that I could not care less about. Instead, I heard delightful giggles from my kids and watched the three of them playing in ways I’ve never seen them interact with one another.
It was amazing.
The Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, FL is home to coastal dune lakes, hiking trails, and gorgeous Emerald Coast beach access. Hiking dunes – don’t worry, I stayed on the trail – is similar to hiking up and down the bunny hill at a ski resort after a foot of powder.
It was a great workout and the sugary white sand was beautiful. It reminded me of hiking back home and the serenity that comes with being outdoors.
I realized something that I don’t want to admit out loud, but will because I’m all about transparency. I can’t call myself an outdoorsy girl anymore. I’ve turned into a lazy city mom who doesn’t even think of visiting the abundant green spaces that our country has to offer. I don’t know how I became this girl, or when I became this girl, but I don’t like her and I want her to go take a hike. Literally.
The kids didn’t want to leave, but the park was closing, and they made me promise to take them back.
And I promise to keep that promise. For the first time in months, my kids had a really great time and it was next to free. They were exhausted and they spent significantly less time bickering and whining afterward than they normally do.
So this Alaskan girl vows to spend more time in the great outdoors. Being in Florida won’t keep me from doing that, the panhandle has SO many green spaces and I feel renewed and excited to think about raising burly little outdoors-men and -women.
Do you spend enough time outdoors? Stop making excuses. Run outside TODAY and snap a few pictures. Then head over to share your photo and the reason why nature matters to you. For me it matters because childhood should be lived outdoors. Don’t sit by and watch our green spaces become concrete pads. Visit the trust and get passionate about our land.