Just before a recent Forest Bathing session, an anxious mother of a teenage son messaged me to say she'd booked for both of them as 'his birthday present to me'. She worried about how things would go - would it help to bring them closer, or just continue the pattern of disconnect between them? She wrote
I am really looking forward to my first ever forest bathing experience on Saturday. I have booked two tickets, one for me and one for my 16 year old son, Fergus. Suffice to say he isn’t coming with quite the optimism / anticipation that I have! So I thought I should mention that. I have asked him to come with me as a birthday treat (for me) and I have encouraged him to come with an open mind and just see how it goes. He may decide he loves it, he likes it, he isn’t really bothered one way or the other, or he hates it! Personally I think it will be a good thing for him to try as he is lacking channels for de-stressing, and at heart he is a kid who loves nature, even though the X Box has taken over in recent years.
Anyway, just to warn you there will be a slightly reluctant (and probably quite tired) teenage boy in tow!
I mulled over her words, wondering whether her son would be a disruption on the day. I worried for her, too. For her birthday treat and her hope for some kind of bond, or reconciliation between them for the 3 hours they'd be with me together. But there was nothing for it, other than to trust the process and trust that the forest would win him over.
Then, gathering for our session a few days later were three other, equally lovely, enthusiastic, but also middle-aged ladies. Not a young woman or man in sight for this session. Hmm, I wondered how this would go, particularly as we gathered and began discussing our hopes and plans for the session, this poor mother was desperately trying to encourage her son out of the car and away from the game he was playing on his mobile. He arrived 10 minutes later to join us after the session had begun. Not a good start, I thought.
Fixing my attention on him, I wanted to make sure he knew I understood. That this may not be his dream Saturday, but that if he came with a sense of openness, curiosity and willingness to try, then he may just enjoy himself and learn something new. And he did. And at the end of the session when I asked him a little jokingly, how he'd found it, he beamed
It was alright actually! I quite enjoyed it!
I could see his mother beaming, too, beside him. A huge relief I imagine, as well as having enjoyed the experience of being with her son for a few hours in the woods, away from his screen. A day later, she wrote to me to say this
Thank you SO much for guiding my son and I through a lovely experience. It was really wonderful, and I even managed to connect with a (usually) stroppy 16 year old. To quote him tonight, it was “decent”. This is high praise indeed! He actually loves nature and I really took on board your point about retaining that connection throughout our lives. I am really trying to do that with both my kids, despite occasional resistance!
On my part, there was relief, too. For her, for the others, for me, for him. My hope is that he took a little of the forest away with him that day, and that he finds a way to reconnect with nature in less time than it took me. It's what we need right now.
And thank you to that lovely mother for letting me share this with you.