There are many good reasons to have children. Kids give you an excuse to play with all the childhood toys you supposedly outgrew, as well as a legitimate reason to spend the whole day at the playground or riding around on your bicycle. Show up alone at Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater, and people will think you are a creepy stalker. Show up with a little kid in tow, and they might invite you to a play-date. Kids give you access to Santa and the Easter Bunny, as well as leprechauns and the Tooth Fairy. Best of all, they don’t mind being dressed in cute outfits, unlike our dog who moped around all night on Halloween just because we made her wear a turtle costume.
For these and many other reasons, my husband and I finally decided to make the leap into parenthood this year. We welcomed baby Charlie to the world on November 26, grateful that he was healthy and that he had the decency to let us enjoy our Thanksgiving turkey and pie before heading to the hospital.
Before he was even born, I was already plotting a future of outdoor adventures. While other new mothers I spoke with worried that it was too cold to take their babies outside, I bundled Charlie in a sleeping bag or his bear suit almost every day this winter and walked all over town with him and the dog. Twice, I even joined in for Sierra Club hikes at Lake Elmo Park, bringing baby, dog and all along. (All meaning snow pants, boots, YakTrax, mittens and a hat for myself, bear suit, mittens and hat for the baby, a front facing carrier, along with a sweatshirt big enough to fit over both of us, a waist-water bottle holder to attach the dog’s leash to, snacks and water for myself, snacks and water for the dog and of course a cell phone in case I fell down and was pinned under the snow by the sheer weight of all I was carrying.)
Now, I’m looking forward to exploring more of the great outdoors with Charlie as summer approaches and he continues to grow. We’ll flip over logs to look for worms and slugs, float a canoe down the St. Croix River, and hike the trails at local parks. Reluctantly, I’ll pack away the bear suit, exchanging that instead for short-sleeved onesies and floppy-brimmed sun hats.
Having a child has strengthened my resolve to protect our natural resources both locally and in faraway places so that Charlie can enjoy them now and in the future. I want lakes clean enough to swim in and intact woodlands and prairies to hike through. I want to be able to catch a fish and eat it without worrying about mercury contamination and to visit the Gulf of Mexico without having to explain to my son that dolphins and sea turtles once swam there before excess nitrogen from the Mississippi River created a giant dead zone.
I’m ready to enjoy another childhood, this time as a parent. We’ve got the red flyer wagon waiting in the garage, a closet full of board games and a brand new family sized tent. We’ll climb trees, swing on swings, and roll down grassy hills. We’ll also plant gardens (raingardens, of course), volunteer at community clean-ups and support conservation farming. Charlie the Bear is ready to see the world, and I just know that it will be the greatest of adventures!