Early yesterday morning while the kids still slept and the WorkHorse and I were engaging in our daily revival ritual (coffee for him, tea for me) I spotted something dark and moving in the back field. Closer scrutiny revealed a deer or two off in the distance. The WorkHorse got out the binoculars to confirm two grown deer and a fawn snacking on last year’s corn. In the nearly two years since we’ve owned Northbrook this was the first time we’ve seen an animal of any size on the property although there are tracks and scat galore.
We called the kids down to see, naturally. And naturally they were delighted. But I’ve been thinking about how often I am asking them to notice the world around them. On Friday night we arrived to a breathtaking night sky full of stars. Living in the city we never see stars, so a sight like this was not to be taken for granted. At least not for me. “Guys, look up”, I said. “Look at the stars. It’s beautiful. It’s spectacular”. I feel like this is my common refrain. “Look at the sunrise, it’s perfect”, “Can you smell a tiny bit of spring in the air”, “Notice the buds on the trees, the birds in the nest, the clouds in the sky, the flowers in the garden”, and so on I prattle at my children.
I, sadly, am a terrible overtalker where my kids are concerned. Intellectually I know that my kids would learn more if I just shut my trap and led by example. I want to believe that if I just went about enjoying nature myself that they’d notice it and begin to appreciate the beauty of the world. But you know what? I’m not sure they would. At least not now.
For my children’s generation, there is no need to wait for the big dipper to appear in the night sky to experience it, they can experience anything they want instantaneously – thank you very much internet. The deer they can see on their computer screens are much closer and clearer than the ones spied through our binoculars. There are no questions that can’t be answered, immediately, via Google. If one of my kids has a question of the ilk, “When was the world created?” or “How did language evolve?” there is no need for discussion and thought, or even to read a book. There is Wikipedia. And then we know, and the need for discovery is gone.
I am certainly not suggesting that technology is anything short of fantastic, but I struggle with how much of the world seems to be happening on screens rather than in real life. And I’m as addicted to my screens as anyone, but I worry that they just may have stolen the magic of the stars and the sunrises from my children.