When I was a child I was known to often (okay, always) ask “Can we have class outside?”
I get it teachers. You were annoyed by me. But I can’t help it. Everything is better outside. I learn better outside. I think clearer. I relax. Of course you aren’t going to throw away your lesson plan and be like, “okay guys, give back those work sheets. Brit feels like sitting under a tree.” Fair enough.
You guys know I have to move! I’m always moving. Sitting can be hard for me. I’m a work in progress. Yoga has helped. But I still really just want to go outside.
Good news for me though, now I’m an adult and I choose where I spend my time.
When I was a child I didn’t know all the health benefits of being outside. I just knew outside was awesome. People are happier outside. Now I’m a Mom and I’m raising my children in the age of the screen. IPhone, iPad, kindle, video games, GPS, Smart EVERYTHING. A world where people are worried about being deficient in vitamin D! Get your family and go outside.
I learned at an inservice at work that new studies are showing that kids are loosing leadership skills. They are less able to organize their peers into a game without adult intervention. They don’t get enough imaginative play. I mean I know red rover is out because it gets rough sometimes. But I saw a kid playing on a cell phone at the playground the other day. I mean com’on the playground? Is no place sacred anymore?
“Oh but they are playing an education game on the iPAD” you say! “He can count to 50 and knows all his colors!” you say! That’s wonderful. Just make sure your remember it is equally important for your kid to run around with his peers in an open field. Wait, not equally, more! It is more important. “Well all he wants to do is play games on the iPad or video games! He doesn’t want to go outside.” Okay here’s a trick I used to do to the kids at work when they were not adhering to their agreed upon responsibilties for the day. I would find the WiFi box. Then I would unplug it. Then I would lift it up and walk past all of them carrying it. Remember, YOU are in charge.
The neighborhood gang is dying. When I was young we had a whole motley crew of neighborhood kids. We all lived on the lake, but if you walked down our road there was also a beach with a swing set that people who were part of the lake association could use if their property didn’t actually touch the water. On any given Summer day you could find 10-15 kids down on that beach. No parents. Ages 8-15? The younger ones were always with older siblings. My older sister and I always had the twins tagging along with us. We didn’t mind. Every one looked out for each other. Now looking back, we were very well trained. We all took swimming lessons and boating courses. Our parents gave us a lot of independence but they also put a lot of time into prepare us not to be idiots and save ourselves if we need to.
The days were filled with capture the flag, pickle, butts up, red rover, and wiffle ball. Always competitions of who could jump off the swing the farthest. Because you were jumping into sand and if you could jump an insane amount, you would actually be hitting the water. Feel free to cringe Mom’s out there. Have you ever watched 13 year old boys jump off of swings when there is no adult present? Because I watched one of the boys break their arm one today when he launched himself off the swing. That’s not a pretty scene.
There was no parent there to tell someone to stop chanting “you suck” to the other team in capture the flag to distract them all. To have Court sneak around the other side and grab that flag. 10 year old Court may have had a mullet, but she was as fast as they come.
She was always a high draft pick. I on the other hand had not gotten my period yet. Which means I was still of a much stockier breed. I still had value in neighborhood games. But it was more for emotional terrorism, conjuring up elaborate plans, and bossing people around. Hey! We all have different fortes.
At night the whole neighborhood turned into a large 10 house wide game of flashlight tag. Did kids live in all 10 houses? Nope. Did their yard still belong in the course map. Of course! When you are running with the flag. All laws go out the window. It’s a 2 minute run that is similar to the movie the purge. Ha ha. I can still picture so clearly one of my neighbors climbing up some one’s dog house and he did not see the run that they hook up the dog to. SLAM. Right onto his back mid jump. He basically got clothesline by an actual clothesline. The consequences of playing games in the dark. After we knew he was alive. We laughed for a very long time. Ha ha. What a tough kid. He just walked it off.
So yes, our childhood at times had a certain “Lord of the Flies” Esq theme. Growing up on a dead end road on a lake in a small farm town is obviously very different than the majority of peoples childhood. But you can have fun any where. Fun is something you bring with you. Our feet were always dirty. Yet, there was very little time I can remember that we weren’t having fun. We literally stayed outside from sun up to sun down, every day.
When you keep your kids are that active it isn’t a huge shock that ALL four of them became captains of at least two varsity sports in high school. Insert shameless family brag! O’Doyle Rules!
All of us neighborhood kids went to high school and joined our age appropriate groups of friends. Went off to many colleges. My parents got divorced and sold our house. People moved. People grew up. The neighborhood changed.
From what I still know about the majority of those neighborhood kids is that we all grew up into very social adults. Although we all live completely different lifestyles and have different careers, every one has a pretty outgoing personality. All of us have lots of friends and they are a good friend to have. It’s funny that your kids learn more social skills away from you. I know you hate to hear that, but its true. They are more likely to learn natural consequences that way. You won’t be able to shield them from every mistake. In turn, they will hopefully learn things.
For example: When I was 13 years old it was a day like any other. My siblings and I were trying to punt soccer balls over the house from the back yard. One of mine made it and rolled into the street up above. (We lived on a dead end street. Remember.) I spotted the ball under my Dad’s work dump truck. I was wearing only a bathing suit and bare feet so I decided I wasn’t really in the mood to lay on the dirt driveway. So without assessing the scene AT ALL. Just good old impulsive Brit at her best. I swung my leg under the truck, like squatting ninja style. To try and kick the ball out from under it. I fail to notice my proximity to the broken rusty tail pipe on the truck and slice my ankle right open. Blood every where.
I did get the ball though, just saying.
Way to go Brit! You made a lazy decision. Now let’s see what the natural consequences have to offer:
Brit, you have won 5 stitches an a tetanus shot! Congratulations. Next time, use your head.
That was almost as smooth as the time I sat on my Dad’s motorcycle and it fell over on me.
I’m a Mom. I get it. I had a baby and the world went from being my playground to being a horrifying place. It breaks my heart to know that one day my kids need to get their face shoved in the sand and deal with it, without my intervening in the situation. They have to learn to stand up for themselves.
Mom: “Hey hey hey… Boys! Boys!… Hey! You stop that!”
Doesn’t matter which boy says what, but it goes something like this:
He started it.
He was being a jerk
You’re the jerk, jerk!
I didn’t even do anything.
He kept staring at me.
Then you do the whole Mom song and dance. Saying Sorry. Talking about them needing to not act a fool or your going to have to leave the playground. Friendship. No hitting. Whatever else needs to be said. Give every one water. Diffuse the situation in whatever way you find suitable.
Sometimes the Mom police is necessary, but it shouldn’t be all the time. How do you find that balance? Does any one know for sure?
You aren’t doing your kid any favors by codling them. I know that. Because they are going to meet some mean people some day. They are going to get misunderstood. They will make mistakes. They will have a boss who is a jerk. They will be confused and alone. You won’t be there to fix everything for them.
The only way to make them safe out in the world is to take them out in it with you first. Utilize these years that your children are young. “They go by so very fast” says every Mom I see in the grocery store who has a child 18+. But it really is your one opportunity to show your kids the world before you let them loose in it. I suppose that is the whole idea of parenting. Am I right?
Bucket list the shit out of these years! Venture out into the world. Watch a lot of sunsets while eating sandwiches. Talk. Talk. Talk. Communicate. Share. Have dinner together. Eat dinner outside. Be an active listener. Ask questions about topics they are interested in. Offer advice. A should to cry on. A hand to hold. Make a lot of blanket forts. Play hide and go seek in the dark throughout your whole house. Annoy each other. Love each other.
You will be SURE they are not listening to you. And you are sort of right. They actually are listening. They are just choosing to not take your advice. They aren’t ready.
When I was 18 years old I felt like listening to no one. I got plenty of great advice. I just rarely took it. But now that I have grown, I can hear those people in my head. My Dad. Nana. Maybe an old basketball coach. Perhaps even a science teacher. SO why back then did I not listen to any of these educated, wise, and honest advisors? Well cause I was a teenager silly! I already knew EVERYTHING!
Good news for me, I did become an adult eventually. I found out I knew NOTHING. Therefore, I am now smart enough to realize you can learn all kinds of stuff from other people if you pay close attention. They don’t even have to realize they are teaching you. That’s why I always hang out with people who make me better.
Now a days, I still hear those voices echo in my mind, but now I’m smart enough to listen. So there time was not wasted all those years back. They were right to not give up on me. Even when I pushed people away. And because of that, I hear those voices all the time.
Dad: You’re grounded.
8th grade Brit: This is sooooooooo unfair. Aren’t you going to call Mary and Carter’s parents?
Dad: Is this your house?
Brit: ugh, ya.
Dad: Then you are in charge. You tell them when something is against the rules here. If they are your friend, they will listen. If they don’t listen to you, then they aren’t your friend. I love you. You’re still grounded. Goodnight.
Never stop taking your kids places to expand their mind. You can’t afford a trip to Europe with your whole family? Who cares. Neither can I. You don’t have to travel across the globe or spend lots of money to teach your kids about the world. I mean hello! Practically every local library these days has free passes and discounted passes for all kids of fun adventures.
So stop talking about it. Just do it. Go places. Do things. Take your kids along for the adventure.
Teach them about how to respect the Ocean. Because no one wants to think about the day their teenage son has earned the right to take the boat on on his own. How do you keep him safe then?
OR whatever you like to do. Maybe fishing isn’t your thing. That’s okay! But try everything once before your write things off. Then be certain you hate it. Then find a new thing to try. Just do it out in the sunshine. Read on blankets. Have picnics. Throw frisbees. Walk your dog. Push a stroller. Swim. Swim. and then swim some more. Listen to a man play a guitar in a park.
Vitamin D shouldn’t be a supplement, it should be a lifestyle.
Are they going to get hurt?
Oh God yes.
Is it going to break your heart?
But this is your chance to teach them. To show them. To watch them. To guide them.
Am I going to let my kid use an iPad? Of course. Technology will always be a part of their lives because that is just the way of the world now. I don’t want to set them back from learning about computers or anything they are interested in. They will need to know how to use these skills to operate in modern society. You bet the iPad is coming on the first plane ride we go on!
How do we find moderation?? How do we teach moderation??
No, seriously I’m asking. How do we teach moderation?!
It is definitely a life skill that should be pondered by everyone once in a while. It’s basically every one’s biggest problem. Workaholics can’t balance career and life. Portion control and over eating. Binge drinking. Credit card debt. See, you get the idea. The list goes on forever.
Enjoy the benefits of technology! I Do! Be happy that every one’s phone has a GPS! It makes exploring so simple. I use it regularly. I can’t remember directions to save my life.
I guess it is just what growing up is all about. Every generation thinks the youth is taking our world to shit. My Dad would say, “It’s not like when I was a kid!” I now say “It’s not like when we were kids!” Oh man, I’m officially not young.
The moral of this positive rant is, Go outside! Fine, if you don’t believe me. I’ll give you a couple other reasons to get away from the TV. Put down your iPhone. Step away from the iPad. Well, of course after you read my blog and click on the ads so we can afford to send Bandit to college. Then DIRECTLY after that, put down that phone and roll in some grass with your kid.
The outdoors makes us happy, stress reduction, depression.
The University of Michigan did a study on group nature walks and how they are linked to enhancing your mental health and positive outlook on life. The study showed significantly lower levels of depression and feelings of stress. Are you a Mom? Get a friend. Get a stroller. Talk your brains out. Walk your butt off. Appreciate some trees. Make it a regular activity. Come home with a huge mood booster.
Restore your focus.
Nature gives you a break from everyday over stimulation. Your brain like your body, runs out of energy if it is in constant use. Hence why a good nights sleep is so beneficial to us.
Vitamin D, Oh how I need you.
If you are interested in preventing cancer, hormonal problems, obesity and inflammation, and having a strong immune system. Then you should make sure you are getting adequate vitamin D. Because sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, it only seems logical that spending more time in outside would increase your vitamin D intake. Sometimes getting all the vitamin D from food alone can be tough. A little sunshine is practically a no brainer.