Taking kids outside makes up for many parenting fails
While Sam Cummins tallies up his parenting misdemeanours, he finds encouragement in the wins – simply taking his kids outside may have set them up for life!
Wait – you don’t implement Brené Brown’s 11 steps to remove shame from your interpersonal relationships with under-ones? We’re talking potential intergenerational trauma here! You’ll only have yourself to blame too. Heavy!There’s a lot of pressure on parents in the post-modern information age – most of it self-inflicted. It’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘you’d better do this, eat that, read this, listen to that – or else’ trap. Not only do you now have your mother-in-law telling you what to do, but you’ve also got a whole cast of humanities PhD candidates pumping out articles on managing 19-week testosterone surges in babies. It’s a total minefield out there.
My wife and I have four boys aged 10 months to 11 years. If I’ve done the numbers correctly (and I’m good at the numbers), then according to the ‘Parenting Internet’, the future might not be looking too rosy for the Cummins boys.
- Sugar before the age of one? Yup. Thanks Granddad.
- Turning a blind eye to Friday night fight club? Guilty.
- Whispering, “Second place is first loser” before school cross country? As charged.
- Helping write a school speech? Never.
- Punk rock before bedtime? You betcha, but only on school nights.
- Co-sleeping? Sure.
- Teeth brushed only 11 times in seven days? Maybe.
The list goes on. In fact, it’s easy to wonder if we’re getting anything right. If I weren’t so busy spending all my money on food, I’d be frantically saving for all the counselling, hearing aids, dental and other remedial work that our sons will surely require.
In my ongoing search to find something we’re doing that’s positive, I recently stumbled across a study from Aarhus University in Denmark about how being outside is good for your health. Well, duh! But the study drew some new conclusions. The researchers discovered that the more time we spend outside in nature as children – feeling the sun on our face and the wind in our hair – the happier we’ll be as adults.
Yes! Finally! Something I’m doing right. But before I got too excited, I remembered that we are living in the era of disinformation. So I recalled my ABC’s and did a bit of digging (the ABC’s being ‘assume nothing, believe no one, confirm everything’ – great advice for research and detectives but terrible advice for making and keeping friends!). It appears the study was peer-reviewed (a bonus, but not unexpected), and for further validation, it had nearly one million participants.
If you live in the north half of the North Island of New Zealand as I do, you would have just experienced a great summer, with record dry spells and weeks on end of warm sunny weather. In conditions like these it’s easy to get the kids outside. In the last two weeks of the school holidays our three older boys were surfing two to three times a day.
But as the days get shorter and the weather cools, how do you keep motivating the kids and yourselves to look outside and turn away from the warm embrace of a screen? It may seem obvious, but it’s going to be a lot easier if you can make it fun and keep it local.
If you live by the bush, why not try a night walk? This gets more manageable as the days shorten, and don’t forget to give the kids sticks for weapons (I mean trail stability) and go hunting for the local (and mythical) last-surviving moa.
Live close or semi-close to a park? Kids able to ride bikes? Great. Why not offer a prize for the kid who does the longest skid on the grass. It’ll make you feel better about paying rates.
No park or bush close? Time trials around the block then. Bikes, skateboards, scooters and even babies in prams can partake. Do it over a week and make the person with the least improvement in time wash the dishes.
Close to a beach? Wait for a stormy day and take the kids down to see what treasures have washed ashore. Then collect and deposit the flotsam and jetsam in friends’ letterboxes.
If all of the above fails, tell the kids Donald Trump cancelled the internet (they’ll believe you – he gets blamed for everything at school), lock them outside and watch them get on with it.
They’ll thank you for it when they’re older.
Sam Cummins is a funding and policy manager living in the Bay of Plenty with his wife and four sons. Most of his spare time is spent trying to figure out which of his three older boys is yelling ‘Dad!’ Often it’s all of them, and all at the same time.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 49 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW