I read somewhere that boys need 6 hours of outdoor time a day. I don’t remember where I read that, in fact, I’m not even sure what age that was referring to, but it’s stuck in my mind. My boys don’t get quite that much time outside a day outside, but they do get outdoor time everyday. After all, they’re boys…that’s what boys need. They need wide open places to get all of their energy out.
Now we live in the south. The deep, deep south. And it’s hot. So very hot and humid. And so I don’t always jump with joy when it’s time to take my boys outside. Sometimes I actually dread it. But still I put on their little tennis shoes, grab some water, and follow along behind two very excited, very energetic little boys. I grab a chair or lay a quilt out on the ground for myself and I watch as they bounce along, eager to resume their play from the day before…sometimes it’s sidewalk art, sometimes it’s sand and water play, sometimes it’s sports, sometimes it’s playing on the swingset, sometimes it’s good old fashioned imagination fueled fun. I can physically see the effect playing outside has on my boys. I see it in their eyes, in their flushed little cheeks, in their exuberance. It’s their opportunity to escape. To be free. To be hindered by nothing but their imagination. It’s not to say that they don’t use their imaginations inside, but being outside is just different. It just sets the imagination on fire. I can see their little minds working differently when we’re outside. Maybe it’s because there are so few toys outside that they’re forced to rely on their imaginations…and they do it beautifully.
But here’s the funny thing. It might not be as physical, but playing outside has a huge effect on me. Yep, I said me. See, I used to always take something productive outside with me. I’d take a nonfiction book or the phone or some other little task that needed to be accomplished. I’d use the outdoor time productively…because, well, because that’s what adults do…we use our time productively.
Then one day I didn’t take anything. I’m not sure what came over me. I just wandered outside empty handed. And I didn’t find a task to busy myself with. Instead, I just sat on the quilt and watched the boys play. Then when I realized they were happily playing, I laid down and watched the clouds for awhile. Soon Joseph joined me and asked what I was doing. He, too, stayed to watch the clouds for awhile. Then William toddled over and joined us. And in that moment I realized that being outdoors is my chance for escape, too. When we’re outdoors I am free…free from ringing phones and incoming emails. Free from all the millions of distractions that I find inside my home…free from the neverending list of things to do. We live in a very fast paced environment, rushing all the time. It feels good to have a moment to breathe. To just be.
So I know it’s hot…it’s the middle of the summer. But the best advice I can offer (and the reason you might not be seeing many blogs this summer!) is to take your kids and go outside. Pull out the baby pool, turn on the sprinkler, do whatever you have to do to make it bearable, but then just sit back and enjoy it. If you’ve forgotten how, just watch your kids and follow their lead. There’s a reason kids need lots of outdoor time…I think maybe we never outgrow that…we just sometimes need to be reminded of how relaxing it is to just be.