Embracing the Outdoors

Find joy in the simplicity of a summer spent outdoors.

How do we spend our time outdoors? What are the rules? When do we enjoy the outdoors the most?

Our family is not what you’d call classically “outdoorsy” people. Nor are we couch potatoes. I’d like to think we are adaptable. When the weather commands it, we are content to eat through a bag of pretzels on the sofa with a marathon of 80’s flicks. But when the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather shows up in the summer we are clawing at the screen to get outside.

This is the joy of a four-season climate. We can play all ways and will always have something to look forward to. In the summer, our schedules clear and we anticipate the lazy days of summer’s past. While not scaling cliffs or riding rapid rivers, we are on bikes, in gardens, walking dogs, camping, joining team sports and reconnecting with our neighbors. Simple as that.

In an attempt at what I think is raising my kids right, I veer towards the throw-back mentality of ringing a dinner bell and waiting for the kids to come running. While our society may not be the idyll of Hollywood’s Pleasantville, I still prefer the old-school approach in the safety of my very fenced backyard. So much can be learned and gained by days thrust outside with only boredom for inspiration. It’s the days my kids kick and scream about playing outside that I end up having the most challenge in dragging them back inside. Not only am I fostering a healthy balance of my kids’ fitness and curious minds but, according to the American Psychological Association, I could also be instilling a love of nature that will take them into their adult years and beyond which further benefits Mother Earth and generations to come. As if we needed further convincing to get our kids outside, this pretty much seals the deal.

At least one study has indicated that children only spend an average of 4-7 minutes of uninstructed play outdoors each day. Each day! This staggering statistic of America’s children needs a serious consideration as many kids suffer from health and weight issues that could be linked to a sedentary lifestyle of video games and tv shows, but I digress.

In the big backyard of a youthful imagination, the sky is the limit and I spy with delight in seeing my kids create rock sculptures and adopt pet caterpillars. I listen, alert, at their games of make-believe and attempts to engage two loyal, yet utterly confused, dogs. I am amused at their many creative uses for a butterfly net. I watch them point out birds and bugs. I cringe at their use of the hose water. But I don’t interfere. I take in these parts of their childhood from a distance and watch them learn naturally. I hope they are able to look back on these easy summer days as fondly as I did of my youth.

Some consider this detachment as a step in the wrong direction of parenting but I am anything but a helicopter parent. I see my children learning and exploring in ways they may not do so otherwise under a watchful adult eye. I hear them bicker and fight and resolve without my help. I watch them grow. I wash their filthy clothes without a second thought of how they got that way and without a word of reprimand.

What better time of year than summer, when the days are long and the weather is warm, to allow for this deserved freedom? I can’t think of any.

So are we outdoorsy? Nah, probably not. Not in the cliche sense. But we couldn’t live without the outdoors either. It is the vast outdoors — an extension to our living space — that breathes knowledge and appreciation into our days. Long live Summer.

Comments

The Beginning
About Brienna McWade

Brienna lives in the great Pacific Northwest where she writes and grows a family. She travels, watches baseball and loves live music. She has previously written parenting articles for Patch.com and music reviews for Seattle Wave Radio.

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Comments

  1. Brad the Dad says:

    “It is the vast outdoors — an extension to our living space — that breathes knowledge and appreciation into our days.”

    Pretty sweet line right there, Brick. Very well written article and probably my fave of yours on DadsRT. Well done and thanks for the great perspective on parenting via the outdoors.

  2. happiestdaddy says:

    Beautifully crafted piece. I could hear the bees buzzing and the children laughing as I read it.

    This line emerged for me: “I see my children learning and exploring in ways they may not do so otherwise under a watchful adult eye. I hear them bicker and fight and resolve without my help. I watch them grow. I wash their filthy clothes without a second thought of how they got that way and without a word of reprimand.”

    We try to put so many rules and demands on our kids and the outdoors allows them to be free, explore and conquer their space. Well done.

  3. Your writing is outstanding. The scenario you refer to with the dinner bell is how I grew up. My little town was very safe and other than environmental dangers, my parents really had nothing to worry about. Now I’m a dad in a city so we spend our summers in a little lake town where our kids can go “off leash” and explore and as parents we can let it happen without worry.

  4. Love the writing style. It is very entertaining, personable and refreshing. You remind me of my son and his daughter. My granddaughter loves the outdoors so there are many family outdoor get-togethers.

  5. Brienna McWade says:

    Thank you all for the kind and supportive words. I’m glad to be able to share my perspectives with you.

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