I’ve got to get Minnow out of the city

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgMy 19 month old Minnow is at the stage where she likes to name the things she sees. For some weeks now she’s been particularly into telling me about all the water she notices. “Wa-we!” says she in her sweet little voice. There’s wa-we in the bath, wa-we in the dog’s bowl, wa-we in the toilet, wa-we in her cup, and wa-we in the wading pool (“poo” she says insistently). It was tremendously exciting for her when we had a few days of heavy rain and everytime she’d go outside there’d be wa-we in the air.

As we drive from home to school each morning, Minnow tells me about the lake (“wa-we”) we pass. Then she tells me about the community pool (“wa-we” “poo”). And then a few blocks she says wa-we again. But there’s no obvious water around. There’s a shopping center and a daycare and some apartments. Where is the water she keeps telling me about?

This morning as we made our drive, we passed the lake (really a reservoir), then the pool, and then a few blocks later I stopped to let a Canadian goose cross the road. Minnow got a good view from her carseat and I told her that geese honk. (She loves to imitate animal sounds.)

As my gaze shifted from goose back to road, I happened to notice a blue heron in the middle distance. I was about to point it out to Minnow, when suddenly it struck me.

The heron was sitting on the surface of a stormwater detention pond. The mysterious wa-we that Minnow is always telling me about.

I’m pleased that I’ve identified the mystery wa-we. But I’m saddened that the major outdoor waterbodies that Minnow is growing up nearby are a reservoir, a swimming pool, and a detention pond. Yes, there is a little creek that runs through our neighborhood, but I haven’t explored it yet with Minnow. (I could make excuses here, but I won’t.)

A few months ago, I ordered a copy of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. My intent was to read it and then blog it, but it has fallen to the bottom of my stack. (I’m currently reading 3 non-textbooks.) But experiences like this morning remind me that even though I spend my days contemplating the natural world, I’m going to need to take a proactive stance in introducing Minnow to the world outside the manicured lawns and antiseptic play areas of suburbia. So just as soon as I finish one of my current crop of books, Last Child in the Woods will be moving to the top of my stack.


  1. #1 Becca
    September 9, 2008

    Minnows obviously need good water. Swimming pools are a nice temporary measure, but insufficient. Good luck!

  2. #2 Carrie
    September 9, 2008

    I find it very sad that my children have only seen cows, goats, and chickens IN THE ZOO. Luckily we have lots and lots and lots of water all around us on this island, but clearly no farms in our urban area.

  3. #3 DRD
    September 9, 2008

    Last Child in the Woods is good, but I’ll bet it will be more of an affirmation of your values than a how to book for you. I feel it is more geared towards progressive type parents. For those of us who work as environmental professionals, it can seem a bit fluffy.

    I actually blogged this on my personal blog about a month ago. (I’ve linked the URL even though I normally do not so you can check it out.) Make sure you have the most recent version because the first edition is pretty short on practical ideas of how to get your child connected to nature more. From what I can gather, the most recent edition is a little better in this respect.

  4. #4 Karen
    September 9, 2008

    At least you’ve got a decent supply of wa-we. Here in California my local water district is demanding a voluntary 10% cut in water usage from everyone, insisting that such a cut is easy. Only one problem: those of us who developed our water-usage habits during the multi-year drought of the late ’70s don’t waste much water to begin with. We have low-flow showerheads, efficient toilets, a hot-water recirculation system (so you run a pump rather than open a faucet and wait for hot water), a super-efficient washer, a submersible pump in a plastic garbage can pumping washing machine outflow to the garden, and a yard with a little bit of lawn and a lot of drought-resistant plants. We never run the dishwasher unless it is full, we turn the water off while soaping in the shower or brushing teeth… and we’ve been doing these things all our adult lives.

    So I’m going to get totally screwed when rationing becomes mandatory.

    I hope Minnow gets much older before she has to deal with the dark side of wa-we.

  5. #5 Karen
    September 9, 2008

    BTW, as a toddler I pronounced “L” as “W” when I was learning to talk. My dad had me practice “Lousy Louie lost his lovely lawnmower” over and over again until I got the hang of “L”, at least in person. Over the phone, it tends to come out “W” still.

  6. #6 Addy N.
    September 11, 2008

    Very cute to hear about Minnow’s talking! It reminded me of when my daughter was about that age and she used to say “boff-eyes” and “aba-deet”. We never figured out what she was saying… The lack of nature was interesting, too- we have lived in small towns for my daughter’s whole life, so she gets really excited when we visit cities and she sees PIGEONS. She actually gets excited about it.

  7. #7 Jim Thomerson
    September 11, 2008

    I have taught a number of courses with short to longer field trips. There are a lot of urban origin college students who have no clue about nature and are fairly fearful off the pavement. However, they all seem to know the old pet shop adage, “If it has a mouth, it can bite.”

    My kids were fortunate to spend their summers at my parent’s ranch.

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