Another Outing for “Guilt Trip Into the Woods”

spring2010_nicholsMy 2010 cover story in Brain, Child magazine, “Guilt Trip Into the Woods,” has just been reprinted on Brain, Child’s online site. Check it out—it’s a provocative read. I intentionally meant to upend the conventional wisdom about nature being good for kids in some timeless and Platonic sense.

When this piece first published, it sparked hundreds of outraged comments, as if I’d somehow dissed the equivalent of Momhood by noting that my son loves anime far more than hikes and precious nature activities like pressing flowers.

My guy is twelve now and has moved on to an obsession with Magic: The Gathering, but he remains a skinny bundle of energy with a big imagination and great passion for his own ideas. He’s doing fine, and my argument remains the same:

I’d always assumed that nature was better for my child than anything else. Oceans: beautiful, good. Giant M&M’s leaping on flat-panel displays: ugly, evil. But after witnessing Nick’s delight in Times Square, I began to feel not so much wrong as barraged by a dire message at every turn: Your child is being damaged by a lack of contact with nature. If you don’t fix it now, he will turn fat and fearful; he’ll be rudderless, adrift in a sea of enervating boredom.

My son is not a glassy-eyed blob tethered to a screen. He’s an enthusiastic dynamo, and his love of manga and anime and digital cameras and computer games and PowerPoint to create his own stories has made me question if nature has become his generation’s version of castor oil. Is it really true that Nick and all other children are in a state of natural crisis? Or is this just another round of Oldsters versus Youngsters, with boomer oldsters re-claiming a familiar refrain? These kids today are going to hell in a hand basket.

To read the complete article at Brain, Child, click here.

2 thoughts on “Another Outing for “Guilt Trip Into the Woods”

  1. Don’t remember whether or what I commented on the article when it was new, but in rereading it I can’t help thinking that what Louv and his like are really concerned with is not the immediate developmental needs of children as individuals but the state of the environment in fifty years if those who are children now grow up into the kind of adults who don’t care how much the ecosystem is damaged as long as the power stays on. Your description of these writers as conservatives is spot on; conservatism is defined by fear of losing some valuable and endangered thing, to the point of being willing to throw away a certain amount of social fairness, individual freedoms and even their own integrity in order to save it. So the eco-conservatives attribute every juvenile problem in the newspapers to lack of contact with nature just as social conservatives attribute them to lack of traditional family values, not because they have any proof, but because they are willing to say anything that might get more people involved in taking care of this precious thing they’re afraid of losing. It’s not about children at all, or parents, or technology. It’s about recruitment.

  2. You’re preaching to the converted, Joan. I do believe in conserving the earth as much as we can, but not at the expense of imagination or the younger generation’s ideas about what they want the world to be.

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