The weather on the first day of April was beautiful. Sunshine. Clear skies. Seventy degrees. It was the perfect time to spend 15 Minutes Outside as author Rebecca P. Cohen suggests. I drove home from work eager to bond with my children, except my kids didn’t share my enthusiasm. They had concocted this grand plan to convert our family room into a “fun park.” When I suggested they simply set it up outside, they refused, spouting off numerous reasons why it wouldn’t be the same. Determined to start this Earth-friendly month off right, I insisted. My ten-year-old muttered to her younger sister, “We only have to stay out there 15 minutes. Let’s just get it over with.” Not exactly the memory I was hoping for.
Despite their misgivings, our fifteen minutes turned into an hour that particular day because they decided to create an obstacle course for their stick horses and named me a judge at their dressage competition. I’m not going to lie. We have not been outside every one of the last eighteen days, but we certainly felt the grass between our toes more often than normal. Furthermore, as Cohen had warned, the complaints continue, even though we end up enjoying themselves once we’re out there. It’s easier on the weekends; however, after a long day at school, they just want to relax on the couch and watch TV. While I can’t say I blame them, I’ve yet to find a parenting book that says I should let them do so. 15 Minutes Outside makes it easy to lure them out.
I realize in my last post I pledged to clean out the garage, making it easier for them to access their toys, and purchase some appropriate footwear for outdoor play. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit I’ve done neither. The wagon is still piled high with broken sports equipment and my seven-year-old is still wearing cowgirl boots everywhere, despite 90-degree days in Richmond, since her sandals from last summer are too small and she hates her sneakers. (Clearly, I’m not a contender for Mother of the Year.) Mind you, I could have organized things while they were playing, but Cohen insisted we experience nature together. If only I could round up few little woodland creatures to do the cleaning for me, as Cinderella did.
But you know what, when I told my kids they could splash in the puddles a rain storm left behind, they didn’t mind that they didn’t have rain boots that fit. Being barefoot suited them just fine. The old seed packages I uncovered in the garage actually sprouted, thanks to a little TLC and humble beginnings in an egg carton. And the little nubs of chalk we scrounged up for hopscotch did the trick as well. It’s a good thing too, because when my mother’s recent visit, she was shocked and appalled that her grandchildren didn’t know how to really play it.
I think that’s the problem with parenting today. I’ve spent a fortune sending my kids to expensive camps at the Science Museum of Virginia, hoping to cultivate an interest in those coveted STEM fields. Meanwhile, I drag my kids into our backyard for a measly 15 minutes the other day, and we stumble upon an owl pellet, which kept us busy until supper for free.
The long and the short of it, just get out there. Granted, it might be summer before you get to your spring cleaning, but that’s okay. Twenty years from now, it’s better that your kids remember a smiling parent, hopping on the sidewalk, than a frowning one, cleaning the garage.
More ideas of Cohen’s to try in May:
- Invite birds into your garden with feeders. Set up a bird bath if you’re feeling daring.
- Break out the hula-hoops and jump ropes. Both are great exercise for kids (and parents).
- Plan a backyard campout. Visit the National Wildlife Federation’s website www.backyardcampout.org
- Have a picnic, tea party, or barbeque. Eating outdoors isn’t reserved for cafés downtown.
- Finds and watch worms. My younger daughter is partial to inch worms and can watch them for hours.
- Build a log cabin. We’ve been listening to Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingles Wilder so my kids were eager to try chinking it with mud. It was messy but fun.
- Look into the water. Make it a science experiment by testing water quality. Learn more at www.FriendsoftheCreeks.org
- Visit Cohen’s website and get a free list of 50 outdoor ideas to hang on your door. www.rebeccaplants.com
Read my other blog Befriending Forty.