Posted by Rob, Tom’s of Maine Brand Manager, Citizen Engagement
For this blog post to make any sense, there are two important things you need to know about my childhood. First, I grew up in a rural area of Maine. And second, my parents believed the best cure for a bored child was either chores, or finding something to do outside. Needless to say I spent a lot of time, with my brother or on my own, wandering in the fields and woods that surrounded my home.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change these experiences for anything. Because while so much of this time was quiet and uneventful, it’s amazing to me how many images of natural beauty remain indelibly imprinted in my brain. Like the time I found a yellow spotted salamander under an old moss-covered log. Or stood transfixed, watching swallows dart around like jet fighters, snatching mosquitoes in mid-air. Maybe these examples of natural beauty aren’t as big or flashy as a rainforest waterfall or a tropical coral reef. But they were nothing short of awe-inspiring to me.
I often find myself thinking about the difference between my childhood, and that of my son. My family is lucky to live in an area with lots of natural beauty. Right across from our house is access to a tidal river that is perfect for kayaking; within minutes are beautiful sandy beaches and tidal pools, and wooded trails for hiking. But my son is surrounded by electronic entertainment I never had as a kid – hand held video games, video on demand on his laptop, and dozens of channels on cable TV. I won’t pretend I don’t understand the appeal. The games are fun and there’s a sort of easy instant gratification that can come by plugging in. But the older my son gets, the more he seems to want to spend his time connecting to the world through a video screen. My wife and I have talked to other parents about this, and like us, they set limits on the amount of screen time, and encourage their kids to spend time outdoors. But I wonder – if I grew up in a time when I was surrounded by so much electronic entertainment, would I have formed the same connection I now have to nature? Would I want to care for it and protect it as much as I do?
But I also know that any effort we make to get our kids outside matters. One time I took my son camping in a state park where I used to go when I was young. As we stood in the registration line, I noticed a Luna Moth resting on the bulletin board. I pointed it out to my son, who crinkled his nose in disbelief. “That’s not real” he said. Suddenly, the breeze picked up, sending the moth fluttering into the forest, and his eyes opened wide in disbelief. One awe-inspiring scene of natural beauty indelibly imprinted on his brain.
Take THAT video games.