As a child, I was inherently wild. There were no computers or cell phones in the old days, and I spent my time outside immersed in nature. I was an inquisitive creature fascinated by everything that moved, and I enjoyed climbing trees, collecting rocks, and swimming in wild waters. They were good times.
Then came school. It was painful. I didn’t know how to behave. I was always saying the wrong things at the wrong times. Being wild was not cool. People picked on me, and I began to withdraw and think of myself as weird, dumb, and ugly. It was hard to make friends. I felt alone and misunderstood throughout my tween and teen years.
I left in my 20s and traveled solo to Asia, Australia, and America, seeking uncivilized places and unbroken wildernesses. I felt at home in these remote landscapes, connected to the wild earth, in the flow of life, and at peace with myself.
Now I’m much older, in the middle of my life, deep into motherhood, and while I never lost my primal connection to the natural world, I’ve always had trouble connecting with people. This cultural disconnect was amplified when I became a mother. Finding other mothers who share the same passions and parenting practices has been hard.
The world of childhood has drastically changed since I was a kid. Parenting is different. Schooling is different. Families are different. It’s all so confusing and fragmented. And now every child seems to have something wrong with them, from special needs, mental health problems, behavioral issues, to chronic health problems.
Everywhere I look I see signs of civilization collapsing. Just how am I supposed to raise a conscious, connected, healthy, and resilient child in a world full of poison and pollution, disease and destruction, and violence and intolerance? How can I prepare my child to take his place in such a world, in the face of an uncertain and volatile future?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do have some ideas and skills which I’ve been putting into practice for some years. These can be described by a single word: rewilding. Here is a definition of rewilding from my friend Peter Michael Bauer of Rewild Portland and rewild.com:
Rewilding means restoring ancestral ways of living that create greater health and well-being for humans and the ecosystems that we belong to… Rewilding learns from the examples of indigenous people past and present provided by anthropology, archaeology, and ethnobiology. It means returning to our senses, returning to ourselves, and coming home to the world we never stopped belonging to.
I believe, as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, that “in wildness is the preservation of the world”. That we will all be much happier and healthier if we can bring more wildness back into our lives. So, I’ve been working at rewilding all aspects of my life such as food, medicine, movement, clothing, shelter, education, community, and more.
As a mother, this path of rewilding has become even more important. I’ve witnessed how our culture destroys childhood, and I do not want my child pathologized, dumbed down and domesticated, nor socialized into an automaton that serves the industrial machine.
I want him to find his own way, to be his wonderful, unique, crazy, creative, nature-connected self. I want him to learn a diverse set of skills, to be flexible and adaptable, and to know how to survive – and thrive – in any situation. And I want him to be happy and to live a full and healthy life, with a tribe of loving friends and family, in a place that he belongs, doing what he loves.
For these reasons, I am committed to rewilding my child. On a practical level this means teaching him the traditional skills and lifeways of our ancestors, spending wild time in nature, and finding other people who are committed to the same rewilding path.
It can sometimes feel like I am the only parent doing this work, so if you’re out there and reading this please let me know. Because I want to work with you to create an ancestral parenting paradigm that not only rewilds childhood, but transforms our culture. We all know that children are the future. And as far as I can tell the options for our future as a species are running out. But if we can rewild childhood, and bring the knowledge of the old ways into the present, then we might have a chance for a different outcome.