Nurtured by Nature

Story by Abdullah Khadijah Ibrahim

Close-up of Carpenter Bee at Rumah Tinggi Eco Park, Singapore (Photo credit: Abdullah Khadijah Ibrahim)

Children love nature and are curious about their environment. If children’s natural curiosity and ability to love are allowed to flourish, they will grow in a positive direction. Diversity is important and so is the focus. We can show them the outside world and bring specific things into focus so that our children can think for themselves and develop understanding. It is good to establish consistent communication between us and our environment. It can be conversations that are open and abstract or internal dialogues that hold secrets and mysteries. Regardless of form, when a mutual connection is established, it’ll be hard for us to forget the needs of our natural environment and in turn, the nature that surrounds us will never cease to nurture and inspire us.

Our connection to the natural world can be strengthened through our relationship with our children. Why is this so? It is because when we become parents, we tend to learn new ways of connecting to another living being. As we make our way through life, we may have lost genuine ways of understanding relationships. We may have neglected them for a very long time and not been able to make a real connection with any living thing. By looking into the eyes of our children, we strive to reconnect and recover the common sense that we have forgotten which in turn allows us to prioritize our special bond with nature. We live alongside many other creatures that depend on nature for its bounty and this interconnection pushes us to fill up the gaps in our understanding of universal truths.

When we play games outdoors, take a stroll through a nature trail, read about wild animals or share favourite activities that involve nature, we tap into the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of ourselves that only become apparent through our interaction with children. Reaching out to feel the veins at the back of a leaf together or watching butterflies go about their daily lives are all simple experiences that can inspire us positively. When we give ourselves time to stop and ponder, it is so easy to be captivated by the beauty of the natural world and see ourselves as being a part of nature itself.

Physical contact is essential in building strong connections. It is true of our bond with children, just as it is in our relationship with nature. As parents, we limit our children’s contact with nature. We filter out and decide which activities are beneficial to them. If we include nature as a consistent theme in our children’s activities, it may lead us to discover new insights into personal growth. By redesigning our lives to flow with the rhythm of the natural world, we can greatly improve the quality of life and produce an effortless result that has positive effects on our health and the children’s well-being.

Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) on my study desk (Photo credit: Abdullah Khadijah Ibrahim)

Broadening our concept of nature, we can explore electronic gadgets around us, such as our smartphones. Most of the components in our smartphones are made from metals that can be found and mined from the Earth. When we ask questions and become aware of the things around us, we teach our children to explore their environment in a spirit of curiosity. We can pave the way for them to become creative consumers who are resourceful and able to find multiple pathways to obtain what is essential for survival. We can teach them to perceive the world with honesty and to use the Earth’s resources cleverly and responsibly.

If we recall our days as infants, we may realize that our earliest connections do not require the use of digital devices or the internet. We react intuitively to our parent’s voices and engage with our five senses to connect with our direct environment. In truth, the only condition for connection is for us to be present in the moment. We can capture nature through the lens of a camera but be disconnected from it. These are the limitations of technology and tools. When we introduce such barriers to children’s learning, we may restrict their talent to create and limit their imagination.

Communicating with children takes time and conscious effort, especially when they have yet to learn to speak our language. Through touch and intimacy, we learn something about each other, that cannot be described with words. This kind of experience is similar to our connection with the natural world. We need to be physically close to the natural environment in order to feel its pulse and rhythm. At first, we may find it strange to communicate especially if we have been apart from nature for a long time. But with practice and patience, we may find that this relationship is quite easy to maintain since nature is like a parent who generously nurtures and often provides us with more than what we expect. When we learn parenting from observing nature and its ways, we can uncover new strategies for communication and learn to establish trust with our children.

Our perception of the world broadens when we start to imagine ourselves as part of nature and discover life as a plurality. Nature encompasses us and provides us with abundance and everlasting gifts. Through being with nature, children can learn how to heal and express their inner selves without judgement or prejudice. If we place our children in the care of nature and help to foster relationships between them, our children will discover a life that is enriching and full of possibilities. This is the little that we can offer them to make up for our limited abilities as parents.

Diversity is so important for our collective survival (Photo credit: Abdullah Khadijah Ibrahim)

Which part of the natural environment beckons to be explored? Guide the children along and be surprised at how these little humans can spot the most insignificant details and bring them to life. Children are drawn intuitively to their natural surroundings. What we perceive as dull may be wildly exciting to children, as they look at nature with a pure sense of wonder. Allow children to taste homegrown vegetables straight from the window garden and they can describe tastes that are unimaginable to the mind. With the colour, the smell and the flavours combined, these stimulants fire up the neurons in the human brain and create an unexpected effect.

Where we decide to tread, children are bound to follow. Therefore, we can choose to be brave and explore beyond the boundaries of the norm. Children will give us new impetus to pursue where we fail to conquer. We are their leaders while they are our motivation. As the saying goes, ‘the best teachers are often the best students’. As we switch roles with our children and learn to humble ourselves, we can gain insights through deep connections and lasting experiences which will enliven the knowledge acquired through reading. It extends the memory of lessons learnt and creates feelings of love and gratitude, both for our children and for nature itself.

This story was first published on the writer’s Medium platform (link).

About the Writer

Abdullah Khadijah Ibrahim (Medium)

Khadijah is a window gardener, trained designer and full-time mum. She enjoys the great outdoors and is an avid cyclist and explorer. She has experience in solo backpacking and travels extensively to many countries to learn about history, geography and culture. Khadijah is a Chinese Muslim who reverted to Islam in 2017 and is currently based in sunny Singapore.

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Regenerative Spiral is a writing project with contributions by people in Singapore and beyond. We celebrate perspectives, experiences and knowledge of people who explore what it means to live a good life when we choose to regenerate Nature and people.

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