Take me outside!
This week, I was called to the school twice to pick up my son. Scrreeeech. Back down the rabbit hole I go; There have been a lot of transitions lately. He’s going through a growth spurt. Is everyone getting enough sleep? I think there’s too much sugar in our diets. We should probably cut back on screentime. Physical play is always good. I should give him practice navigating the politics of the playground. Maybe more jobs around the house. Create independence. Create confidence. Create relationships. Create happiness. Should. Create. More.
Let’s go outside.
When life throws curveballs and the walls feel like they're closing in, sometimes we need to get outside. I learned that for our family, as painful as it might feel in that moment to coordinate children and their gear, go outside! Get to a park! Pile in the wagon and sit on a bench at the closest construction site. Sometimes it is just the change of scene that everyone needs, but there is certainly something special about getting out in nature that we all crave.
We are seeking fresh air and fresh perspective.
Researchers, such as the biologist E.O. Wilson (1984), theorize that humans are innately drawn to the natural world and living things. I see it in my children’s bodies and the way in which they embrace the open space and interact with one another. I feel it in myself and the perspective and clarity it often brings.Engaging with the natural world stimulates our senses and gives us all a unique opportunity to slow down and reflect. One son may closely follow the trail of an ant he’s found. Another is very interested in the best way to climb a tree. Another notices every detail about a dog that is desperately trying to eat our food. I’m reflecting on the joy I feel in this moment with my family. I feel calm.
And we feel calm together. Mostly.
Moods are still unpredictable. Stress still creeps in. There are still tantrums and negotiations, but I feel more emotionally regulated and I see my boys are more regulated, too. In other words, we are all a bit better prepared to deal with the tantrums; to recover from stress and to move forward together.The boys problem-solve with each other about how best to roll down a hill without running over one another. They want to share the joy in treasures they’ve found (even if they don’t want to share the actual treasure!). They feel the grass on their feet, they watch the water, and they lead us through the path to find the ‘right’ rock to eat our sandwiches.Being in nature gives us the time and space we need as individuals living together as a family. For one of my sons, this means that he can engage in a conversation about a topic he’s been curious about but found it difficult to discuss. For another, it means that he can recover from a fall with some comforting from Mom.And for me, feeling more emotionally regulated means that I can have more empathy for my son when he throws himself on the ground. Reconnecting with my son, we stand back up together. I can slow down and begin to process a new challenge.
It feels like there's always something. But what do you do with it?
When we are faced with new challenges, we seek answers through information and support. But, as I often need to remind myself, sometimes you need to press pause first. When you find yourself having ‘one of those days’, if you are able to let go for any amount of time, try going outside. But keep it simple. Whether you are driving to a river, heading to the forest, walking down your driveway, or exploring the cracks in an empty parking lot, nature is everywhere. Plan what you need to plan to make the outing a success, but give yourself a break and don’t over-schedule it.
Keep wandering and keep wondering.
Notice things together. Walk slowly. Experience what is coming in through all of your senses. Wonder aloud with your kids to help them notice, too. Notice what they are bringing to you.I hope you find joy in these moments with your children and with yourself, and I hope they provide an opportunity to reflect on what you need to move forward as a family. Going outside together isn't going to solve all of your problems, but when you're feeling depleted, it might charge your battery enough to continue gathering information and advocating for your child.