There are some days where I believe that my brain is literally melting. All manner of intelligence and the ability to think logically or rationally just oozes from my ears. The culprit? Whining. Whining is my kryptonite. It does me in every time. It turns me from the calm, sensible and problem solving mother into a raging, scary mom-beast. I try so hard to disengage. To elevate myself above it and be the adult, you know…the parent.
Sure, I can handle a bit of whining but not at the levels that my dear Garrett is able to summon from his larynx. Those who have seen the worst of his whining usually comment, “Wow, he sure is cute when he’s not whining.”
During the summer, however, I began to make some observations. The first “aha” moment came during our first camping trip of the summer. There was no whining. I chalked it up to the fact that there was so much for him to “do” and “watch” and that we were finally out of our cramped apartment. The next time I saw him that happy was at a family trip to the bay while the tide was out. He was so happy and content sitting in the sand, getting dirty and wet and enjoying everything there is to enjoy about the beach. There were many more park and outdoor experiences like that throughout the summer.
I’m not sure why it didn’t really click until this weekend. It’s rather obvious and simple. My son needs the outdoors. It isn’t something he wants or should have a chance to “do” every now and then. It is something he needs. This realization brought me back to the book I began reading at the beginning of spring but had to put down because of the kids illnesses and is now loaned out to my mother-in-law. I can’t wait to begin reading it again.
It is called, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and it was written by Richard Louv. He touches upon things I have known intuitively for most of my life and that is the importance of children being outdoors. And not just in a fake, community planned, structured and supervised “outdoor space” but really being let loose in unadulterated nature. To do whatever their hearts drive them to do. Alone.
I grew up this way and I believe it benefited my in innumerable ways. We were allowed to run loose in a place called Sudden Valley in Washington State. We roamed the woods and followed creeks. We climbed trees and dug holes. We walked for miles every day. Sometimes there was no “we” and it was just “me” and I loved that too.
This weekend we took our kids to a local elementary school playground to kill time after going to the farmers market. They got bored with the playground after a few minutes and the big kids noticed Garrett and I looking for some sticks under some big oak trees. They came over to see what we were doing. I showed them the acorns and how the tops came off and how they looked like little hats or even little bowls when you took off the stems. We decided to collect them so Camden could use them as bowls for her doll house and because we thought that we could paint little people out of the acorns. We spent time dissecting the acorns and peeling back the shells to inspect the nuts. Mike even cut one of the nuts in half for the girls to feel and smell. We were able to hear and see the acorns falling from the tree. I’m not sure what else we really did but we spent over an hour playing under the oak trees having a lot of fun. Including Garrett. He ran around with his sticks, rocks and dirt and enjoyed every minute of it without letting out one whiny peep.
In the house Garrett runs around creating one destruction after another, most likely out of sheer boredom. He dislikes toys for the most part and tires of them quickly. He clings to me because really, he has nothing better to do. Realizing that what Garrett needs is unfettered access to the outdoors is a bit frustrating as we currently live in an apartment complex with no fenced in area to let him loose in. I realize I need to “plan” our outings to give him access to the outdoors and that is frustrating in its own way. So now my goal is to come up with a feasible way to get my kids outdoors on a regular basis yet still find time to get the normal household tasks accomplished.
But back to my original point. I think in our parenting world today there are so many theories and ideas and “things” that we are supposed to be doing to our kids in order to help them grow up and become the people we hope they will be. Sometimes it can seem complicated and overwhelming and just downright frustrating. My big “aha” this weekend is that doing the simple and most basic things often reap the biggest rewards.
I could have spent countless hours researching, reading and attempting to implement parenting “tools” to curb Garrett’s whining and redirect his behavior to something more desirable. In the end I would probably be left with a lot of lost hours, some lost dollars and a kid that was still whiny. Instead I have realized that Garrett is bored. He doesn’t need more open ended toys or more “one-on-one” time. He needs to be outdoors. He needs to be doing real tangible things with the freedom to roam safely.
It’s so simple yet so powerful. It’s also comforting. With the economy being the way that it is there are many families that are struggling. My own husband has been out of work since April. I have found myself occasionally lost in worry over providing my children with this or that item or experience. I have sometimes felt bad about not being able to afford ballet or pre-school or toys for Christmas. Then there are weekends such as this that provide me with the comfort that sometimes simple is really better. Even if our children had absolutely no toys or belongings besides the clothes on their backs they would go on finding away to enjoy childhood and everything that childhood is about. It doesn’t need to be manufactured.