I've always been a little bit of a tree-hugger (hey, I went to Cal), but it wasn't until I had kids of my own that I really came to appreciate the importance of sharing our own wildlife connections with others, especially youngsters. Although I think kids have it pretty easy now just being able to Google any critter, plant, rock, or tree, nothing beats the real thing, especially when the family is involved.
This summer, we ventured out to exotic central Pennsylvania, where my parents are working on the old farmhouse in the small town where my dad grew up. No TV, spotty Internet - Aack!? Nope. The kids had a blast running around the grass and couldn't get over the wildlife! My daughters and my nephews spent many happy hours looking for birds, snakes, butterflies, bunnies, and, of course, groundhogs.
As a parent, one of my biggest thrills has been seeing the world through my kids'
eyes. I remember seeing fireflies on my first trip back east many years ago, and I smiled at my girls when they saw the same this summer. Bugs that glow?!
The highlight, though, was my dad's morning ritual of feeding the birds and critters. He showed my nephews and the girls exactly how to set out the seeds, grain, fruit, nuts, and other treats for the locals, and the kids took the job seriously. They were rewarded with seeing blue jays, squirrels, mourning doves, starlings, chipmunks, and even an occasional cardinal, which was very exciting.
However, I was pretty impressed with my dad and how he puts this all together, and my mom, telling us all about the cardinals and other critter drama outside the kitchen window. The best thing, though, was to see the kids learning this kindness and stewardship towards our friends in nature.
My mom often took me to Lindsay, and now I volunteer and take my own kids there. Some folks may think of us as only a "children's museum," which we are, but the experiences there and out in nature have no age limit. So get out there: show the kids a bug, point out a turkey vulture, come check out our raptors, or go take a hike!