As I learned this week, it's the time spent with your child that counts the most when it comes to connecting with nature

It all started with an innocent comment, the humor of which was lost on my 4-year-old daughter.

“If you catch a bunny, you can keep it,” I told her earlier this week as we watched a handful of baby rabbits feeding in our lawn. 

Her eyes lit up, obviously fueled by the very thought of owning a bunny. That was followed by the surge of confidence through her tiny little body, signaling to me that physically she was ready for the task.

“Let’s go, daddy!”

Me? I was too busy smiling at the cuteness of the moment, never even considering how I had just ignited the precious optimism that comes with childhood innocence.

Of course, the first reaction was to “sneak up” on the bunny, but that tactic quickly ran its course.

And there it is, I thought. We’re done and I can get back to yardwork. But no, we were far from finished. Before long, we had a cardboard box on the lawn, tipped on its side with a handful of plucked grass and two or three carrots placed inside.

We then “hid” behind shrubs, coming out two or three times to check the “trap.” And as the sun started to set and bedtime drew nigh, she began to accept how difficult the challenge was. 

But of course, we still were not finished. The “trap” had to be checked the following morning. And as we walked away from the empty box yet again, it dawned on me that this was less about the rabbit and more about the moment.

Primarily, this was about being outside with a young mind and young heart. This was about guiding this young spirit to watch, observe and learn the nature that goes on around us every day.

She saw a wild animal eat. She saw how cautious the rabbit is, and how quick it can be in fleeing a situation in which it feels threatened. She saw how it survived.

All too often today, experiences in the natural world around us are sacrificed in the name of virtual reality. It’s not entirely the fault of kids, either. It’s easy to keep your kids quiet and occupied in front of a screen while we get “the important things” done around the house.

But seeing the excitement and determination, and even the disappointment, on the face of a 4-year-old during all of this served as a reminder of what really is important. Not only in being a daddy, but in being a human being. 

We’ve lost much of our connection to the natural world around us. Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you ask. I’m not about to rain the technology parade and say it’s time to brush it all aside. There’s a time and place for everything.

And this week was a reminder that it’s about balance. Make no mistake, I want nothing more than for my daughter to grow into a strong, positive and confident woman. She’ll get plenty of education about that in schools down the road, but she can also learn in the classroom that is nature. The more she knows about the world she’s in, the better off she’ll be and there are times when lessons don’t require a textbook.

But she won’t get any of those school lessons if she doesn’t attend classes and it’s the same with the education in nature. She’s got to show up and that’s the job of my wife and I. Get her out in the real world for real lessons.

On the surface, this escapade with the bunny is a simple moment, and where it all leads down the road is hard to say. But at the very least, I can say I was there for it and hopefully she’ll carry something from it. Because if she can do that, then it becomes a significant moment.

Whether we catch that bunny or not.

Chavez is sports editor at the Daily Messenger. Contact me at rchavez@messengerpostmedia.com or follow me @MPN_bchavez