The kids were playing outside today with neighborhood children here in Oxford, our most recent stop. All three of my children and a very sweet four year old neighbor boy (who, incidentally, has not yet gone off to school) began a game of making underground “houses” by digging wide holes into the ground, about 6 inches in diameter and an inch or two deep, one for each child. Their holes were in a rugged area on the edge of a large field near our apartment building where the grass is already patchy. They were imagining wonderful things, making plans for each step of the process, laughing, chasing bugs, getting dirty, all those wholesome heartwarming childhood things. I reclined in the sun and basked in their happiness.
Then, our seven-year-old neighbor Ruby, just back from public school (at 5pm), skidded up on her bike, tilted her head, and said with a pretty little English accent, “you children should stop that right now, you’re ruining a patch of nature.”
Her sass-itude ruffled my feathers, but her point, well, I considered it. After all, I’ve been fraternizing with liberal environmentalists since I left Alabama at the impressionable age of 18 to attend Princeton. Environmentalism is the religion of the godless. As long as Hollywood Hedonist respects the environment and pays big bucks to offset his carbon footprint, he is absolutely righteous and can even hold himself up as morally superior and look down on the rest of us. And also in the environmentalist camp we have Tree Hugger, who hates all things chemical and artificial including deodorant, actually probably worships leaves, yet wholeheartedly supports chemical abortions and couldn’t live without artificial and chemical contraceptives. That’s why I’m highly impatient with the environmentalist agenda. Public school is a great place to be indoctrinated by them. Poor Ruby.
However, as Christians, we are of course called to environmental stewardship—respecting and caring for God’s creation, but not worshiping it in itself. And it’s here for us to enjoy as well as to preserve for future generations. In Alabama as a child, I spent summers barefoot, dirty, breaking off tree branches and leaves to build forts, digging deep into the ground in search of water or China, plucking grass and flowers endlessly, even doing scandalous things like burning bugs by reflecting the sun through a magnifying glass. I can’t imagine my childhood apart from these encounters with nature, which were my joy and were so rich with imagination and exploration and exercise and good fun.
The times are changing since then—with both the good environmentalists and the cultish environmentalists hiding behind every tree, we’re constantly made aware that every single blade of grass and leaf is a treasure from Mother Earth. And that’s true to an extent. But political correctness aside, I desire to teach my children proper stewardship of God’s creation. So my question to you: was Ruby right? What limits do you place on your children’s freedom to enjoy and explore and dissect and experience (and even destroy) rugged nature, in order to preserve it? Do you talk much with your children about protecting the environment? How do you frame it?