The Outdoor Hours and the Blessings of the Seasons

I just picked up Gretchen Rubin's new book about habits, Better Than Before, from the library and so far, its good. I really just think she and I would get along so well, we are definitely cut from the same cloth in many ways.

Not surprisingly, reading it has got me pondering my habits, especially the ones I've most recently had success in adding. The biggest this year was my challenge to get  the kids outside a lot, 500 or more hours to be precise. We had some setbacks but we made it and depending on this next week, we should be ending up with a total of about 510-515 hrs. I consider that a success. While I think it will be much easier to reach 500 hours next year (and I'm actually thinking about aiming for 600, or at least 550), one of the hard parts of this habit is always going to be keeping it up,  because unlike a lot of habits, this one can't really remain constant all year - unless you live in Guam, I guess. I can tell we are already starting to revert to hermiting more and more and losing the expectancy of going outside.

I could get really frustrated by this because it does feel like I'm losing ground on a hard earned habit. And I am fighting it a bit. Since it has been such a mild winter, I try to make sure and get us outside at least a little bit every day.  But I've also decided not to stress about it too much because one of the biggest benefits I've seen from us being outside is that we are living more seasonally. If you had asked me a year or two ago, I would have said living seasonally was something I wanted to embrace and I did try to accomplish but, going back to the idea of habits, it was hard for me even though I really wanted it. Now, part of the change might be that my oldest is getting older and I think age of the oldest seems to do a lot in setting the tone. I can't deny though, that another big factor was the outdoor challenge. The more time we spent outside when it was nice weather and long days, the more I notice the difference when that changes. And its not just me.

When we had the big "fall back" daylight savings switch, I was quite surprised to find that Jonah kept wanting to put pajamas on and read bedtime stories at 6pm. I don't remember Lucy every doing that but that is probably because at the same age, she was spending most of her days inside in artificial light and heating/air conditioning. She just didn't feel the change the same way he did. We have now successfully convinced him that 5:30 is a bit early for a bath but their sleep has changed. I mentioned his dropping his nap in an earlier post. And while I won't lie and say I don't miss it, I've realized there are some benefits as well. I think part of that is that they are sleeping in a bit (a bit being relative to the small child schedule, of course, we're talking 7ish here). Jonah tries to wake up around 6:00 but Lucy will tell him to go back to sleep becayse "it's still dark; it must be the middle of the night" and then, they do! And no afternoon nap leaves us with all day of sunshine to use for playing and other productive pursuits.

I'm embracing this for myself by using blue light blockers on our computer and phones (f.lux for our computer, twilight for our android phones). I also try and dim our overhead lights gradually as the evening progresses and eventually I'd like to get Himalayan salt lamps to use once the sun sets. I've read about experiments in removing all artificial light in the evening hours and I think that'd be a fun temporary experiment but I doubt I'd be willing to live that way long term. But the changes we've made are simple enough.

Our daily routine has always changed a bit for the seasons but the change is more profound now. That will probably be even more true once Lucy starts first grade because we won't have quite as much flex time and I'll want to optimize what we do have. Being indoors more also gives us more time for things like handicrafts and afternoons of free art time whereas before we may have been self-limiting ourselves to the short period of time between dinner and bedtime.

Which I think is the best blessing of living seasonally - the differences I'm allowed to embrace. I'm a big believer in rhythms (not hard and fast schedules but a natural flow to life and habits and organization (and books about routines and habits and organization). It's just my nature and I think small children thrive in that type of environment. But even I need to change things up a bit every once in a while. I can tell its getting to be that time when I feel the urge to rearrange the furniture. Alas, our small house leaves us with few options but I keep trying. It seems like God knew what he was doing because a season seems to be about the length it takes for me to go from being comfortable in a routine to being slightly bored by it and needed, not a complete overhaul, but a slight adjustment. I feel like every season I find myself saying its my favorite season. But I always believe it at the moment!  I just love the mix-up.  If I can't move the couch to the other side of the room, maybe I can just move tea time from afternoon nap to after school in the morning and go from enjoying spending the morning outside and the hot afternoon in a siesta to curling up on the couch watching the kids play in the morning and getting outside from a hike in the brisk afternoon air.

Childhood needs to be a feast of many non-rushed experiences and it can feel overwhelming trying to fit in all the good stuff. But I don't really have to choose. I can let the kids have all day to run around outside and all day to play with blocks and build a city and all day to do handicrafts and all day to swim at the creek - just at different times of the year!

No comments :

Post a Comment