I have referred here, perhaps, to the thin little woodland that runs behind our house. Between the start of the goldenrod and jewelweed to the edge of the pool parking lot, there are perhaps, at most 30' of woodland strip. It is certainly a wildlife corridor - not thick enough to be a real woods, but thick enough to be shelter for an occasional pileated woodpecker or wandering Virginia Rail (like a duck, but with a pointed beak). There is a fair amount of poison ivy in it, so I haven't treated it as a play area, but I confess I'd always hoped the girls would enjoy it and perhaps learn some poison ivy identification skills in the process.
Last week, they found their own way in. I hadn't realized, actually, how much space there is - not just in our yard but in the woodland corridor as it expands a bit going up our hill at the backs of our neighbors' yards. Along with two neighbor kids, the girls explored it, and I didn't even know they'd found it until I went looking for them and heard their voices from that direction. On Sunday, when I found them, I played the neighborhood mom, and took them a bag with homemade chocolate chip cookies and some cartons of chocolate milk. This communicated to them two things: 1) I'd found them and 2) I didn't mind them exploring there.
So far, neither girl is itchy or rashy, so either they're not allergic to poison ivy yet, or their early-spring ID skills are better than I thought. In any case, I think it is really cool that there is more wild land than I thought back there, and that they got to find it, without me leading the way.
I'd actually probably feel lonely while they're exploring, except now, I have company, and they're even babies. Twenty-two, to be exact, to be fed and cleaned and held and worried over. Plus these two bright, energetic daughters, big and brave enough to find New Territory, and claim it for their own. I am aware at times that they are roaming much more than the average child in 2008 U.S.A., and perhaps this makes me negligent. I hope, I wish that what they're learning out there is a safe and healthy level of judgement, and self-reliance, and nature smarts. And I hope when they're older they remember that I brought the cookies, rather than thinking that I loved them less while I was letting them go.