Monday, March 12, 2018

Raising Outside Children: Guest Post

I recently asked a long-time friend of mine to share a few words about raising kids who play outside. It seems simple, but it is so different than when we were kids. I have known Whitney basically my whole life. I have shared a locker room with her. I have eaten at her (parents') table. I have seen her world turned upside down, and I have seen her somehow come out better for it. I love her people and where they come from, and I know every word of the following to be real and true.
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When thinking about my childhood, I can remember watching only one movie specifically. We had bought a giant big-screen and had our closest family and friends over to watch Bruce Willis in Armageddon. I mean, sure there were shows that we watched as a family, Seinfeld in particular when we were older. I remember my dad having the O.J. Simpson Trial on tv during the height of that drama. I remember my mom cleaning house and having CMT's Top 20 Countdown on every Saturday. I am positive there were cartoons that I loved to watch just as much as my children love theirs'. I cannot remember them. For the life of me, I cannot remember watching any of them. I know I did, because the Rugrats theme song is still in my head. The Wild Thornberrys were family goals. But the actual sitting down and watching of a cartoon continues to escape me.

Things that I do remember vividly are all outside. Sleeping on our trampoline and being awestruck by the endless stars. Wading in the bayou catching tadpoles and crawdads. Knowing all the best swimming holes. Every time I rake a pile of leaves and set them on fire, I am right back at my childhood home making mud pies in our homemade club house with the Ninja Turtle mural my mom painted. I am positive I did not wear a shirt through the summer until I was 8 or 9. (Our family pictures prove this true). We were outside children. Our days were free and full of good things. We would spend a lot of our summer days with our closest neighbors, a family of four boys. They were neighbors in that they lived about a mile closer to the pavement than we did. My big brother and his friends would go fishing or take their hatchets to the woods and make forts. This is what boring looks like. Not a thing scheduled. Not a themed play date in sight. Just youth and good things.

My challenge as a mom is this: balance. It should not surprise me or make me angry that kids are so impressed with all the available gadgets and technologies. I could really disservice them by resenting tablets and Ipads in such a way that they are almost shameful-even though some days I want to. They are used as early as preschool in the school system. These technologies, are as much a part of the future as our children are. Finding that balance is an ongoing challenge for me. As I am sure the idea of cartoons on channels all day everyday through our DirecTV were a challenge to my mom and dad. Every generation has struggled to navigate through their children's best interests and modern advances. I am still struggling with these same ideas in the current setting. I love Facebook. I love seeing updates on mostly all of my friend's children. I love sharing my kids' lives with friends and family that would not get those insights otherwise. But it also sucks time in such huge chunks. For the most part, its just like those cartoons I watched as a child, lost. I could not make myself remember what I had looked at on Facebook last week if my life depended on it.

In life, there are countless good options. The ability to recognize and discern those good options compared to the best option is a life skill. Children need to be encouraged in the right direction in all things. Time management and priorities are no exception. My kids have a loose set of chores. But, more than schedule of to-dos, teaching them to be helpful and engaged in all things is the most important thing I can teach them. I'm seriously convicted in even writing this down, because there is so much more I could do with them. Teaching them to be happy doing nothing in particular and enjoying all God-made things is of the most importance. If they are not able to go outside on a beautiful day and be happy, I need to re-evaluate our set up.

I am sure the easiest option for my parents would have been to plant gardens without our help. To not take us camping in tents and also invite our friends. To just let us watch TV all day during the summer instead of pushing through our whines to not go outside. They would not have been bad parents had they done any of those things. They recognized the best option and did that. They chose to enjoy and engage us in everything. These are my most cherished childhood memories. They cost nothing except time and parental patience. I pray one day, my children can look back at their childhoods' and have the same amount of happiness in their hearts. For them to feel as cared about in all the most important ways as I still do from my memories alone, would be the ultimate feeling of a job well done.

-Whitney


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