My kids are too young to really explain to me why they are happiest outside, but I know that they are. Outside, they aren’t bored. They aren’t fussy or needy. They aren’t tantrum-throwing tyrants who have led our parenting motto to the international policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Outside they are the leaders, and they thrive in their own time.
A Hurried Life
During our normal day-to-day, I feel like I’m always rushing. And I feel like everyone around me is always rushing too. It is a rushed world. For me, one of the hardest parts of parenting is slowing down for my kids.
Sometimes I’m not patient with them when it happens. I mean, I’m trying to get two toddlers into shoes and jackets, out the door, and into the car before we’re late for school which leads to being late for swimming which leads to being late for grocery shopping which leads to forgetting milk, bread, and toilet paper, and/or being late for school pick up. And either way, that leads to a tired, hangry kid who wants to flail on the floor by the door instead of taking off his shoes.
Nope, that’s not a typo. He’s hungry-angry. It’s the worst kind of toddler that there is.
But I know that if I push more now, that if I get loud and put on my teacher-voice and demand that he take off his shoes IMMEDIATELY (which is exactly what I want to do more than anything), he will crumble. See, beyond his hangry gnashing teeth and rigid arched back, I can still see those scared eyes, begging me to please slow down. He just doesn’t know how to tell me yet.
He needs me to pause. To talk quietly with him. To touch him gently. He needs me to wait until he is ready to take off his shoes because it’s the only thing he can control right now. AND IT IS NOT EASY. Honestly, I want to pry them off his little feet. But instead, we are sitting on the cold tiles in the entryway, him sniffling quietly and me just sitting there with a hand on his back. This is motherhood.
Playing outside daily has helped me to reconnect. Playing outside is slow time. It is kid time. The minutes may fly by, but in my role as facilitator and then spectator, I am slow. Even when the boys are running past in a blur of raincoats and muddy boots, I am watching them carefully, slowly, trying to memorize these moments.
“I Live You.”
The Captain was offshore last week and I sent him a picture of the boys. He wrote back, “I love them,” and I wrote to him, “I love them too.” Only, when I was typing it, in my rush, I wrote, “I live them too.” I quickly corrected it and sent my response, but I thought about it for a long time after. It was even more true than what I had meant to say.
I do love them. I love them so deeply and so intensely that my core aches when I pause to feel it. But even more so, I live them. From the moment I wake up, they are my world.
I live to hear their little feet padding down the stairs in the morning. I live to snuggle them while they cozy up with their morning cup of milk. I live to press my nose into the spot on their heads where the hair spirals and I breathe them in. I live to check on them before I go to sleep at night, gently tucking the corners of the sheets back in, putting away books left in their beds, kissing their sticky sweet foreheads. And in other ways too, I live them. I live to feed them, to bathe them, to teach them, and to raise them. I live every moment of them, even when they are writhing around on the floor with dog hair stuck to their teary faces.
So when we are outside, I live that time with them. I try to notice what they are noticing. I try to let them lead our adventures. They become the trailblazers, the chiefs, the innovators. Sometimes I offer activities or ideas, which they sometimes accept and sometimes choose otherwise. Our time outdoors is just as much about letting my kids be kids at their own speed as it is about reconnecting with nature.