Through the Jungle Carrying Sticks

forest

by Chris Read

“C’mon, dad! Let’s go exploring,” she yelled as she ran into the small, forested area we would soon call “the jungle.” She didn’t need me to follow along but invited me anyway, which was nice. Though you wouldn’t know from the fearless way she bounded into the woods, part of me wanted to believe my presence made her feel safer.

We dashed through the jungle carrying sticks, just in case we encountered trouble, and popped out at an old wooden bridge covering a small stream. I tried to explain to her that this was the same bridge I used to hide under with my friends when I was her age, but she was way ahead of me in making her way underneath. She’s adventurous, this one. Just like her dad was at that age. We played under the bridge for a few minutes—she insisted on being the troll, even though I was perfect for the part—before moving on to the next adventure at a nearby park.

As we headed down the pathway to the park, I felt like I was walking through my past. We passed the creek where I used to catch frogs, the baseball diamond where I found out I’d been chosen for my first competitive team, the high school where I broke out of my shell, and the park where I spent countless hours pushing my limits. You’d think 20-plus years would have had their way with these places, but they all looked exactly the same as I had left them.

I thought about the world we live in now compared to how it was 25 years ago, and while everything looked the same on our escapade, it was and is completely different.

The proof was in my hand: I had taken my phone out, even if it was to snap a few pictures. Quickly I shoved it back in my pocket to enjoy the moments with my daughter. We rely on these devices more and more these days, often at the expense of the connections and relationships we value most.

We certainly don’t ban screen time in our house; in fact, I believe it is important for children to learn how to navigate different types of electronics. Adapting to technological change will be part of their future. That said, we have definitely made it an important mission to ensure our kids spend as much time outdoors as possible. It doesn’t matter to us what they’re doing as long as they are out exploring and creating their own adventures and memories.

On this day we lifted rocks on our hunt for treasures, wandered aimlessly through the trees, and laughed together as we made up silly games. Exploring is tough work, so while I didn’t get the chance to stop and take in all those memories of the past, I did relish the opportunity to create a new memory with her in a place that meant so much to me in my youth.

We left the park, walked through the baseball diamond across from the high school, crawled under the bridge and ran through the jungle back to our original starting point. “Did you have fun exploring with me, daddy?”

More than she’ll ever know.

jungle

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