I wanted to say a few words by way of a disclaimer.
We are all now bombarded with imagery that subtly or overtly idealises all manner of things and generally makes us feel like we are 'failing at life', as the kids say. I’m relatively new to Instagram, but it seems to be one of the worst conduits for this phenomenon. And I fear that it might seem, or even actually be the case, that I am also guilty of contributing in my own way.
My own early childhood was spent in a number of places; my father being moved around by the RAF. But we had long repeat postings in Gloucestershire and we lived in the suburban fringes of the agricultural countryside. And all I really remember before going to secondary school was the freedom of my bicycle, the inexplicable obsession with newts, the copying of Raymond Ching's bird paintings, the climbing of trees and collecting of conkers, oh, and blackberries, of course.
As time went by my attention focused on fishing. I have a photograph of myself with my first independent capture; a silver sparkling red-tipped roach, a creature inspiring almost unbearable wonder. When I see that photo it still brings back the emotions associated with the capture. The breathless excitement of my float disappearing into the dark depths of the eddy under the alders, the panicked dash home with the fish in a water-filled leaky bag, the pride of showing it to my Dad, the reluctance and relief of returning it safely to the stream, and the utter mortification and grief the following day when Dad reluctantly agreed to stop the car as we drove passed the stream so I could have another look, and seeing a bleached upturned fish bobbing about at the water’s edge. All of those feelings resonate through who I’ve become today, in ways it probably doesn't need a psychiatrist to pick apart.
Having the chance to raise our child in the countryside is a privilege, although it is one for which some choices and sacrifices have been made. We hear a lot of talk now about the importance of time spent in nature to the emotional development and mental health of children. I probably single-handedly disprove that theory 🙂 and I’ll bet there are lots of well-adjusted city kids who have never even been to the local park, and equally as many ill-adjusted country kids who’ve gown up in the woods and fields. Despite all the hype, I suspect that exposure to nature is not a key factor in a child’s future happiness (But, to be clear, I'm certain the existence, and diversity, of nature is).
I love to share pictures of my son enjoying a country childhood and I hope it doesn’t appear smug, self-righteous or exploitative. I know I’m not a perfect parent and I expect my son is not having a perfect childhood; I know, of course, that no such things exists. We’re all just doing our best with the tools we’ve been given and hopefully trying to enjoy it a bit along the way.