BAM BAM BAM.
Rowan slams his hands on the sliding glass door that leads to the back yard, then turns to smile at me, all bare-toothed and amped. Both dogs are poised on either side of him, ready to join in the fun.
“Okay, bubs. I’m coming.”
I step past the stove and pantry on the cold stone floor and haul our heavy glass door open. My two and a half year-old blows past me in a blur of blonde hair and bare feet. The dogs bound up the hill.
He’s got at least four Matchbox cars on him, one in each hand and two in one of his pockets. I smile after him and lean on the door frame as he makes his way up the small concrete steps to the grass.
This is a regular event in our house – blowing open the back door to get the kid to play outside. No TV, no movies, no over-stimulating toys… just the boy and a couple of cars in the sunshine and dirt.
I can’t lie to you, sometimes, it’s a battle to peel him away from yet another screening of Wall-E in the living room. But, on other days, like today, he’s eager to get up and out.
I leave the door open and go back to the bread dough I left on the kitchen counter. I can see everything from where I stand, so I’m able to keep a watchful eye and ear on any shenanigans or cries for assistance. (Keep in mind that uninterrupted outside time for my child does not mean it’s unsupervised! Safety first and all.)
It has taken so much work for me to be hands-off with Rowan when he plays outside. I’ve wanted to monitor every move, plan every activity, and structure his time.
But what I’m learning more and more is that he needs his time to go be a little boy just as much as I need my time to be myself. And what better way to let my wild boy run free than with the wild air outside?
I watch him sit in the dirt and mulch and move his car along a tree trunk. This is something that all of our creative parenting ideas could never replicate – just basic, uninterrupted, imaginative time in the outdoors. Scrubby faces, dirt in between their toes and all.
As parents, I think we put undue pressure on ourselves to always be actively involved with our kids’ activities. We feel guilty if we’re not playing blocks with them on the floor in the living room. We feel guilty if our kids don’t do a craft activity every day. We feel guilty if our parenting styles look absolutely nothing like Pinterest tells us it should.
But the reality is, sometimes one of the best things we can do for our kids is to just let them go be kids. On their own. Without us hovering over them, orchestrating their every move.
It took a lot of work and bravery for me to admit it, and even more work to encourage it in my home.
The payoff is absolutely worth it. I have a highly independent and self-entertained little boy. He’s able to play outside for large chunks of time on his own, and I’m able to have a bit of quiet to myself… something that all moms can admit to needing every now and then. Not to mention, we both get a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
It’s a beautiful thing, just opening the door and letting your kid run wild.
What about you? Do your kids get uninterrupted outside time?