Birthday Wishes

The long awaited birthday has come and gone and my little boy is now 4.  It seems he’s changing so much almost by the day and leaving his baby days far behind.  As I see his personality emerging and find more to wonder at and admire, I’d like to make a few belated birthday wishes. If I could be like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty and confer some gifts on him for the future, I’d pick some of the personality traits that are already developing and that I think will serve him best throughout his life.

Love of the Outdoors

Sometimes the lure of the Lego and other indoor toys can be strong and getting him outside can occasionally be a chore but generally he’s happy to play outdoors.  He loves walking along the River Barrow as described in a previous post, playing games in the woods and exploring new places, especially if he can have a few cousins to share it with.  The Delta Sensory Gardens in Carlow is a favourite spot.  We’ve seen the Christmas lights, investigated bug hotels, watched frogs spawning and studied tadpoles.  When he was 2, we bought a family tent and he loves the freedom of camping, eating his meals in the outdoors, exploring new places and sleeping and bouncing on an inflatable mattress.

For his Birthday Party, we went to another favourite place.  Duckett’s Grove is a perfect spot for a picnic, a treasure hunt and fun kids games in the walled gardens and our own private party with hot chocolate and cakes in The Tea Rooms at Duckett’s Grove rounded off the day perfectly.

I believe that nothing is better for a child than to grow up with regular access to nature and the outdoors and that Nature Deficit Disorder, a phrase first coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in The Woods is a big threat to the health and well-being of our children.  I hope that he will always enjoy the outdoors as much as he does now.

Exploring Together

An independent nature

It makes me so proud to see him take on new challenges and to do things for himself.  Sometimes it’s difficult to overcome the instinct to reach out and help but I love showing him new things and encouraging him to stretch himself.  One day a few months back, we learned how to negotiate brambles on the forest floor, practicing the art of stepping in the right place that would allow him to pass safely over them and allow them to spring back unharmed in his wake.  He chose our path and scrambled over fallen logs always wanting to do it himself. Even after a disagreement over the need to wear his wellies, I loved to see him walk away from me for a short while.  There was something about the sight of that small sulky figure striding alone down a forest path, checking every few minutes that I was still watching that gave me hope.  As I followed at a discrete distance, I hoped that he would always be able to seek solace in nature and to let it soothe and comfort him in times of stress as it has always done for me.

Although his love of independence can lead to the occasional clash of wills, I hope that it will let him grow up with the ability to look after himself, to make his own decisions in life and to create his own path rather than following the herd.

Independence

A taste for adventure

I love to see him take on new challenges, even though it can be scary sometimes.  One evening last week, he was out in the garden as I washed up in the kitchen.  He was in and out through the open door every few minutes to tell me something about his game, on the last occasion announcing that the two sticks he was carrying were going to help him get through the hedge to visit the little girl next door.  I said “remember the hedge is thorny” not thinking for a minute that he would actually try to get through a thick hawthorn hedge with a fence on the other side.  A few minutes later, I stuck my head outside to check what he was up to and found an empty garden.  Luckily my neighbour arrived before the panic had really set in to tell me he had arrived at her back door using the same route the cats use to get from one garden to the other.

Escape from the Garden

He was actually right when he said he had told me he was going but we had to have a little talk about not leaving the garden on his own.  I was actually secretly impressed that he had taken on the challenge and managed to get himself safely through and also that he walked straight to the neighbours’ back door and told them how he got there.

He loves exploring the woods and “the wild” and I love to see the joy on his face when he manages to complete a new challenge like crossing a scary bridge or climbing up on a rock.  His taste for adventure seems to have increased dramatically since he turned 4 so it will be a challenge to teach him to explore safely without restricting his freedom too much.

I hope he will always be able to face and overcome life’s challenges with the same sense of enthusiasm.

Exploring the River

Imagination

Like many little boys he lives in a world of super heroes, knights, dragons, dinosaurs, hobbits, talking animals and other assorted characters all influenced by books and TV.  He can rarely tell me what he did in pre-school but he can tell me in detail what toys each of his friends brought in that day and the life stories of various super heroes as told to him by the same friends.  Most of all, I love to watch him invent and play his own little games outdoors.

Imagination is the key to empathy, creativity and problem solving and I hope he always holds on to his.

Imagination

It’s always been my ambition to get children and adults out exploring the outdoors and I’m glad that so far my own child seems to share my enthusiasm.  Please get in touch with me if youthink I could help organise an outdoor group activity for a celebration such as a birthday party or first communion or other family gathering or simply if you’d like to get a group of friends or family together with their children for a nature trail in the woods or a themed treasure hunt.