Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Here Are My Terms

During the past two weeks or so, I've had two separate conversations with two separate friends, about one touchy topic.

Playing outside.

Alright, so it's not touchy in the obvious sense, like - say - breast versus bottle, but I feel a definite walking on eggshells sense around it.

I'm a big supporter of active, outdoor play. Unstructured, creative, dirty, free, and plentiful: these are the characteristics that come to mind when I imagine a good outdoor playtime. And all of those things are wonderful, even desirable in helping to grow healthy, active children. I remember my childhood with fondness (snowballs slamming into my face, being shoved into the creek unawares, watching as my barbie floated away down a drainage ditch, peeling my sunburned skin away to reveal more sunburned skin, cleaning out dog pens, being left behind as my brother rode off with the neighborhood boys on their fast bikes...what's not to love about that?) and feel grateful that we learned how to entertain ourselves surrounded by the beauty of nature.

I want those things for my kids (minus a few of the more frightening details). I want them to appreciate shade during the heat of the summer, and the beauty of an approaching thunderstorm. I want them to prefer the fun of a mud-pie factory over the numbing glare of a TV. I want them to explore the woods, and imagine an entire kingdom of creatures that live there.

But there's a catch - this is the part my friends and I admitted to each other - I don't want to go outside, myself. Which is not OK from a childhood development standpoint. I feel the imaginary weight of judgement sitting on my shoulders already. To admit that I'd rather let the kids bounce off the walls inside during a perfectly beautiful, if slightly hot day, feels like a sacrilege.

Don't misunderstand, I love nature. It's beautiful, and miraculous, and a constant source of wonder for me.

The only downside is, I'm a sissy. I don't enjoy being in extreme temperatures, by which I mean anything outside of a range between 55 and 75 degrees. 85 degrees? Too hot. I'll be sweating through my nursing tank. 45 degrees? Too cold. My hiney will be freezing while I keep an eye on the bundled up kids. I can't sit the baby down on a muddy ground and I can't help the toddler down the burning hot slide if the baby's in my arms.

Of course, the problem is that I've become so acclimated to a temperature controlled home that my body is automatically uncomfortable in other settings. If I lived outdoors, I'd notice the difference in temperatures, and accommodate for them, but I'd get used to it. Alas, I live in a house - no need for acclimation to excessive heat or cold.

So how do I instill my children with a love of the outdoors if I don't want to go outdoors? The answer is simple: suck it up. Be a woman and venture into the sweltering heat when the kids want to play outside, even if it means gnats and ticks will be swarming around my stationary figure as I push swings for hours at a time. Joyfully admire the tiny snake my daughter has found, and discuss how cool it is even if I'm squirming inside with fear of that evil creature. Sweat through a layer of clean clothing after just stepping out of the shower, if that's the perfect time to go outside, even if it means I'll be less-than-clean for the rest of the day.

The answer is simple, yes. It's the execution that trips me up. If only I could lay out my terms for nature to comply with...

a. The sun is to be shining brightly, but be frequently shaded by fluffy white clouds.

b. Those fluffy white clouds will be moving swiftly across the sky due to a gentle cooling breeze.

c. The temperatures will remain within the range mentioned above: 55 to 75 degrees. (Excluding the months of December and January only, during which time the temperatures may drop as necessary for snowfall.)

d. Gnats, flies, bees, etc. will be too interested in the flowering gardens to buzz incessantly around our heads.

e. All grass will be soft and lush, in order for children to run barefoot without complaining about the scratchy, dry, hot ground.

f. Although air temperatures should remain within the above temperatures, water temperatures should never fall below 80 degrees.

g. Snakes, spiders, grasshoppers, and other such creepy creatures will not venture close to us until there is a man or grandmother present for supervision.

h. Rain will fall only during naptimes and bedtimes.

i. Snow will fall only during weekdays, never on weekends or holidays (excluding Christmas).

I believe I've just outlined the natural habitat in heaven.

Assuming these terms are not met, I'll do my best this summer to play outside. And I'll do my best to like it, because I want my kids to like it. I'll smile through the sweat. I'll chat with the gnats. I'll kick the snake away when my child is looking the other direction. And then I'll offer lemonade and cookies and a Curious George video when I admit defeat. We'll watch the monkey play in his cartoon version of nature.

I'm just being honest.


  1. Ha ha- I have this conversation with myself all the time. I'm a big baby about "extreme" weather too. And it's really bad because I have sons, and there's just something not right about a little boy making it a whole, sunny day without getting a leeeeetle dirty. Know what I'm saying? Do I get some free passes because I'm very pregnant? Please say yes. (P.S. The Barbie/drainage line = pure genius.)

  2. Since I think I've used more free passes than I deserve, I'll give you ALL of mine, Lenae. You may stay inside and gestate. Don't you long for the days when the kids are old enough to go outside alone? Or maybe we could do that now...

    I'd probably have a heart attack.

    By the way, I felt so guilty about admitting this out in the open...that I just played outside for THIRTY MINUTES!! My quota is up for the day.

  3. Uh...I feel the same way. I felt so guilty after reading this that I took my kids to the park for 2 hours. It's so extremely, uncomfortably hot here most of the time during the summer. Rarely is it below 120 during the day. But, luckily, today was under 100, actually probably closer to 90 so we took advantage. We shall see what tomorrow brings! My guess is lots of indoor play...

  4. Yay, 30 minutes!

    I so could have written this myself. Ever since we moved to Houston (humid ALL YEAR!!) I have dreaded going outside!!

  5. Oh my - I never thought of these things! I am expecting my first child now and have thought of how WONDERFUL it will be for him/her & future siblings to play outside - they'll have such a blast creating all the same kinds of wonderful memories I did as a child! I just never thought about how I'd be a part of that... I really like your Utopian rules for nature though (I'd like to add that humidity can only be high when it's actually raining - not just because it's summertime in Georgia). If only... :-)


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?