Guest Post by Temiko Jäger
When I think of my childhood, I can almost taste the ocean. I can feel the familiar tangles in my salt-encrusted hair. The friction of sand against my skin. And I can hear the crashing waves as I fell asleep to nature’s rhythmic lullaby.
Childhood reminds me of anticipating cherry tomatoes ripening in the conservatory, of snow peas filling their shells in the garden and craving the comforting smell of fresh bread in the kitchen.
But, perhaps what I remember most of all is feeling at peace with the world outside my door; whether I was reading bathed in sunlight or leaping fearlessly into a freezing river in the middle of winter. Nature felt like a second skin; to be outside was to feel alive.
I was an only child, raised by a solo father. Nature was my family.
Yet, there are some things I don’t remember; cell phone alerts, squinty eyes from hours spent staring at a screen and feelings of distress after reading headlines of world leaders building walls and inciting division and fear. I don’t remember adults being constantly fixated by their devices. These distractions didn’t permeate my childhood, because they simply didn’t exist.
Were we more present with our children just two decades ago?
Today, I’m a mother living in Sweden. Originally from New Zealand, I can count the number of genuine friends I have in my new home on one hand. While I’ve learnt the nuts and bolts of the language, observed the customs, and embraced the cold winters, my devices are what keep me in touch with my loved ones on the other side of the world. Nonetheless, my technology dependence agitates me. Far removed from my childhood, it feels like another life now.
How do we balance technology so our children still have a childhood that teaches them how to live?
I was fortunate enough spend time last year with Sarah Powers, an internationally recognized yoga teacher, as she spoke of the essential need to guide the current and forthcoming generations into this world with focussed vision;
“Parenting is helping our children grow with more awareness than we had. We are carrying the through line for the future generations, and teaching them to balance their growth alongside helping the planet”.
Her words resonated with me as parenting is a demanding vocation, no matter where we are in the world.
Raising a child to have a natural appreciative awareness who is enlivened by ordinary life is a monumental task in our modern lives. Teaching our children to strive for personal fulfilment over financial success, to extend empathy rather than persecution and to become respectful stewards of our planet should be easier than it is.
As Randy White points out in his teachings, “society today has become so estranged from its natural origins, that we as a species fail to recognize our basic dependence on nature as a condition for our growth and development”.
In today’s world, we face problems unlike those of previous generations. Our rivers are polluted, wetlands and forests give way to highways and industry, while indigenous cultures face oppression that is threatening their intrinsic links with nature.
Climatic changes and unrestrained devastation on all continents, including our oceans, has hurt Mother Earth – she urgently needs healing. It saddens me to think that from a Freudian perspective, our planet is populated by a species that is systematically destroying its own habitat.
Yet, as a mother I feel so much hope.
We can teach the next generation to love, respect and care for our planet. To appreciate, experience and understand the natural world as we remind ourselves to let them develop their sense of wonder, being and belonging, before asking them to grow up. To simply let them be kids; to play, dream, imagine and question.
An ordinary walk in the forest can be the most enlivening and engaging lesson in understanding the natural order of things; of creation, of evolution and destiny. And we can challenge ourselves to become better people as we model making positive changes in our families, neighbourhoods and communities as our children follow in our footsteps. These changes ripple, like the pebble tossed into the lake.
“Whatever happens now, this can be a moment of unparalleled awakening, individuals waking up worldwide – this can be a most extraordinary and beautiful moment”
As parents and the village at large, connected on a global level like never before, we can seize this moment to establish our vision, our dream for humanity and our shared future.
Our culture tempts us to buy into the notion that there is a sense of urgency about childhood. But, there is a better way. The antidote is to slow down, simplify, retreat and immerse ourselves in our young children’s teachings, lest they be missed.
As difficult as it may seem, we’re doing our kids a great kindness when we minimise their mountains of things, remove plastic toys that crush creativity and switch off the screens that captivate them. In doing so we ignite their souls and nourish their growing minds.
Leading by example is our greatest source of influence with our children. Although the digital world is compelling and absorbing, having a conversation without a phone in our hand, a headphone in our ear or a screen in the background is the real art of being human.
There is a wonderful poem in the Parents Tao Te Ching that encapsulates these sentiments perfectly.
of your children’s senses
They see so much they become blind.
They hear so much they become deaf.
They taste so much they become nauseated.
They desire so much they become forever unsatisfied.
We can start anew with every dawn, consciously filtering out the pearls, the beauty, the inspiring lessons of our day and go home to make our children feel loved and appreciated. We can walk together on the beach and appreciate the way the waves here touch the beating heart of the land on the other side of the world. We are all connected.
We can fall asleep at night feeling we have prioritised positivity over negativity. Chosen to feed inspiration rather than fuelling despair by helping our planet in some small way.
Natural parenting is our most optimistic path forward. Our children have always decided the future. Let them choose one that aligns with our earth. They are the common thread that connects this planet, the wind that touches the mountains and kisses the ocean and the unifying bond that binds us all.
Let us plant seeds of hope in our children and in our lives that blossom and bloom and bring colour to the world, while saving us from our past errors. Everything that happens on this planet, no matter how seemingly isolated, connects to the whole. Every decision we make and every conversation we have is an opportunity. The tides of change are upon us, and ride we must.
1. ‘Young Children’s Relationship with Nature: Its Importance to Children’s Development & the Earth’s Future, R White. 2004.
2. Psychoanalysis and Ecology on the Edge of Chaos.