When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, we made a parenting plan like many new parents do. We thought about what we wanted to do and what we didn’t want to do. Mostly though, our parenting plan boiled down to, “No plan survives first contact with the child.”

No Plan Survives

It’s a good thing we had that attitude because our first child certainly had a wild spirit all of his own. Things seldom went the way we imagined, and if we’d been too invested in our preconceived notions, it might have been even more challenging. My favourite strategy was to try to set our little one up for success, and most of the time that meant getting outside, rain or shine. When I took that busy little boy out into the woods, near or far, there was nothing to break, it was OK to sing and shout, and most of all, I didn’t have to say “NO” all the time.

Parenting in the Present

In the woods, the constant redirections, the endless monitoring of safety concerns and the long list of things my child wasn’t allowed to do were gone, replaced with a safer, more pleasant sort of boundary pushing. The sticks, pinecones and rocks didn’t need to be put away when we were done. There was glorious mud to play in and interesting cavities in trees to explore, not to mention so many puddles! There were questions to ask and wonderings to ponder. My busy little boy could run down that trail, or dawdle or zigzag. And for myself, I was away from the endless, thankless tasks of the home. I got to be present with my little boy, or I could be deep in my thoughts as I watched him play.

When we got to the bottom of the trail near our home (or he lost a boot in the mud or he got tired out), I could tuck that solid, muddy little boy up on my back for the walk home. Some days, he fell asleep, his warm cheek resting on the back of my neck. Other days, we made up stories together, with funny characters and unlikely events, as we made the walk back to our house.

Parenting Evolves.

Now my son is bigger. He’s safer indoors, but he still needs to run and play, to be loud, to throw sticks and rocks, to discover and explore and imagine and wonder. He can’t wait for his baby sister to get to discover our forest trail too. I am excited to see how she becomes her own person and makes us re-evaluate our ideas and expectations for parenting yet again. When I was pregnant, I laughingly told my friends that the second baby’s job was to teach me that everything I thought I knew was wrong. So far, she is showing signs of being a wonderfully unique little individual, just like her brother.

Enjoying Each Stage.

It will be so much fun for my big kid to rediscover the stages of outdoor exploration with his baby sister too as she grows through the “every leaf is amazing” stage to the “run as fast as you can” stage to the “Why? Why? Why?” stage and probably some stages of her very own too.

I love parenting in nature, the ability to say “Yes!”, and the joy of being outdoors with my kids. It may not have been my parenting plan, but it’s been absolutely wonderful.

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