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The Struggle to Get My Kids to Play Outside Is Driving Me Crazy

kid on couch
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There are precisely two things that happen when the weather gets nice outside:

1) I tell my kids to go outside and play and they whine and scream and act like I’m torturing them

or

2) Bedtime nears and suddenly they all have a burning desire to scatter in the darkest recesses of the woods and never come home again.

Sigh.

Unlike the “good ol” days when parents would kick kids outside all day to play, getting my kids to play outside feels akin to asking them to pull their teeth out, one by one. If I suggest it, it’s the worst idea ever. If I don’t say anything and wait for them all day to want to go out and play on their own, they will inevitably choose the only time I don’t want them to go outside, like at 9 p.m.

To be completely honest with you, it makes me ragey that I just can’t have kids who will freaking go outside and play and I am wondering if any other moms or parents have this struggle too. It shouldn’t be this hard! You’re kids! Go play outside! That’s what kids do! I’m a mom — I’m supposed to be able to sit inside and mix up a pitcher of lemonade for you now and then and throw some bologna sandwiches at you when you’re hungry. That’s what moms do! (Please don’t send me hate mail, as I’ve never even actually purchased bologna in my life, but you get my point here.)

It really doesn’t feel like this is a topic I should even have to think about. It doesn’t feel like I should have to encourage my children, forcefully, threateningly, or otherwise, to want to play outside. Yet, here I am.

In fact, this particular struggle feels like every other aspect of parenthood, when what I think should happen does not — which is when my frustration threatens to bubble and boil right over the top. I think I should be the type of mom who dreams up fun and spontaneous adventures for my kids, but I’m not. I think I should be the type of mom who serves my kids healthy food that they gobble down, no questions asked, but I’m not. I think I should be the type of mom who chats easily and freely with her kids on the ride home and doesn’t spend the whole time breaking up sibling fights, but I’m not. I think I should be the kind and loving type of mom who greets my kids with a homecooked breakfast instead of stumbling into the kitchen still in my nightgown, but I’m not.

I also think I should be the type of mother to produce children who just naturally flock outside to frolic in the fields, but apparently, I’m not that either.

As it would turn out, I am an imperfect mother raising imperfect kids, who imperfectly need to be prodded to get outside once in a while. I guess you could say one of the secrets to motherhood and parenting in general is letting go of all the expectations of what you thought raising kids would be like, and instead embrace the current reality you’re in. Maybe your current reality is blazing hot temperatures and bugs galore and no shade and cranky kids and OMG so much boob sweat and you should just throw in the towel and hop in the car for ice cream instead. I don’t know, it’s your life; I can’t tell you how to live it, although I would say ice cream is always a good idea.

While I can’t tell you how to do things, I can tell myself that there is no reason for me to make things harder than they need to be. I can either spend my summer fighting my kids to go outside and play, or I can accept that their childhood might be a little different than I once imagined.

After all, maybe they’ll turn out to be adults whose careers will be borne out of the imaginative games they are playing upstairs in the rooms instead of building forts in the woods like I thought they should. Maybe I need to relax the reins a little and let them explore what interests them, more than pushing what I think they should do. Hopefully, that will eventually include venturing into the great outdoors anyway — where admittedly, I need to get a teensy bit more involved too, if I want to show them how fun it can be.

Because honestly, what is their mother doing right this very moment but typing away very happily indoors with an iced coffee by her side?

Guilty as charged. The apple apparently doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Article Posted 5 months Ago

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