If you have children, I think you’ll agree with me: going outside is the worst.
I actually really like the outdoors. I’m not afraid of (most) bugs, I don’t mind getting my hands dirty or sweating a little bit and want my daughter to experience more of nature than she gets smack dab in the middle of suburban Dallas, Texas. Most of our vacations are planned around outdoor activities like hiking, camping, snow skiing or sight seeing, all revolving around beautiful scenery. Plus, I make a point of getting both of us (Evy and me) outside everyday, unless it’s raining cats and dogs or it’s August in Texas. I hope you can believe me when I say I actually do enjoy nature because what I’m about to say contradicts that.
The only reason I even thought to write this blog post is because of what ensured after Evy and I tried to go outside a few afternoons ago. After an hour and a half of not-napping (ugh! why!), I gave up and tried to think of something we could do to pass the hours until dad got home from work, something that would capture her attention and wasn’t TV. Oh ok, we’ll go outside.
First of all, it took us all of about ten minutes to get prepared to venture out two feet from our back door to our not-so-distant patio furniture. We had to go potty, fill up our water bottle, pick out a snack, and grab all of our gear, which consisted of a towel, a swimsuit, sunscreen, bug spray, two water bottles, a little potty, a roll of toilet paper, our hats, and my phone. I should’ve just surrendered early on and gotten a bag.
And goodness gracious, that was only the backyard. If we’d have gone to the “big pool” (the community pool) then add another towel, change of clothes, swim diapers, snacks, at least three toys, bandaids, a puddle jumper, and a portable potty seat (and let me just say that one piece swimsuits for potty-training toddler girls are simply a cruel joke played on parents everywhere). And I would spend the entire two hours chasing my child around, trying to keep her from committing pool suicide as she follows the big kids into deep waters or tries to run along a slippery ledge with her fat, toddler feet. That friend I invited? Yeah, we haven’t said a word to each other. She’s over there on the other side of the pool, trying to think of an excuse to leave too.
Back in my own backyard, it took another ten minutes of cajoling and threatening of consequences to get my two year-old daughter to be still long enough for me to apply sunscreen and bug spray. She fussed, a lot, and I honestly don’t blame her because I was literally man-handling her trying to get every crevice, every crease, every susceptible area of skin covered with sunscreen and bug spray. There will be no West Nile here today, no long-term sun damage, no dirty looks from another mom when I show up at Target with a sunburned child. (But wait, did I let her get enough sun to develop some vitamin D, the exact fifteen minutes like the pediatrician said? No, wait, she has Vitamin D added to her milk. But is it enough? Should I wipe her off for another five minutes of sunscreen-less sun exposure? Oh good Lord, who knows.) After it was all over, she looked like a very unhappy snowman, blanketed like a ghost in toddler-friendly sunscreen that cost me something like $16 at Whole Foods, and we were not on the best of terms.
So I finally settle into my patio chair and she gets to work on painting the side of our house in sidewalk chalk (…whatever) while I’m trying to convince her to get in the little, inflatable pool. Honey, it’s too hot to be outside without getting in the water. Look! The water feels so nice! You should really get in! Please, just get in for two seconds. One, two. Let’s count together! And she simply stares at me, completely unphased and unconvinced. I would never get a conviction.
Then I start getting really hot myself as I sit in the apex of Texas summer, watching her Jackson Pollock a work of art on our backdoor, wondering to myself if it’s completely inappropriate to have a glass of rose at 4:15 in my backyard alone with my child, when she informs me that it’s too hot and she wants to go inside.
Sure, honey. Why not.
In her defense, it really was unbearably hot outside and I was just as ready to go in, despite the fact that we spent a disproportionate amount of time getting ready to go out to the backyard compared to the actual time spent “enjoying” the great outdoors. But aren’t children made to go outside? Wasn’t it like only less than twenty years ago that kids lived outside, journeying across the neighborhood without parental supervision, completely oblivious of things like West Nile Virus or melanoma or kidnapping? You didn’t hear kids saying things like “but everyone else I know goes to toddler gymnastics or organized three-year-old indoor soccer camp instead of playing in the backyard!” They just got hot and sweaty and their mom got a break. Tough times, for all of us it seems.
Maybe I’m discouraged by the fact that we’re only starting to feel the weight of the 100 degree weather here in Texas, or maybe I’m just realizing that we’re going to have to pack all of our stuff up everyday and go the big pool if we want to be outside but either way I’m trying to make a joke out of my annoyance. To get a laugh from all the other moms who are thinking, oh my gosh, YES. Because, honestly, when did going outside get so complicated?
Despite my complaining, I don’t think there’s any way around it. Knowledge is power, and also mom guilt. I’m completely willing to blame social media and our overbearing, child-obsessed culture but I think it’s simply part of being a mom: indulging some of their whims and trying to meet all of their needs. We will never again live in a world without mosquito-borne diseases or melanoma but we’re doing our best. Fighting with a bottle of sunscreen in hand, taking on the world’s problems with organic, DEET-free bug spray.
I will admit, I’ve been the one to text some friends saying, “Meet up at the pool at 10? So much fun!” with several dolphin emojis like it was an impulsive, carefree decision rather than a calculated type-delete-type again type of scenario as I debated whether or not we actually wanted to go. Oh, the effort. Oh, the packing. Oh, what the heck let’s stay home in the AC. But I guess I’m here now to encourage all you mom that have found yourself in that moment that it is, in fact, very difficult to go outside, or do any number of other things with your kids. You’re not crazy or lazy or suffering from a debilitating disease that causes you to have sudden bouts of extreme fatigue. Disappointingly enough, most of those things are now intricately more complicated than they were twenty years ago but maybe it’s just a different world entirely. And all of us parents are trying to learn how to cope in it, in spite of it, in agreement with it.
Keep your head up, supernatural mom who decided to take all three kids to the pool on the hottest day of the year. Good job dad with twins who had no idea what he was getting into when he agreed to take on the toddler swim lessons. Let me give you that extra swim diaper when your child just closed down the pool. Hear me say that your child will only remember the fun times, and you’ll eventually start to believe that maybe it was worth it. At least, that’s the best we can hope.
I love my daughter and I like going outside. Blood-sucking bugs and eyeball-hemorrhaging diseases and cancer and 100 degree weather and all. So we’ll keep going even though, on some days, it’s the absolute worst.