Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting
Entry 3: The Backyard
By : Liz Eagle
I think comedian Brian Regan says it best when he assesses his days as a child: His mom would say “Alright, kids, out in the yard.” And when asked what he did all day, he’d reply, “Uh, we just, uh, went out in the yard. We just, went out there, out in the yard.”
What other parenting guide do you need? Doctors and specialist and religious authors and anti-religious authors and know-it-all moms on mommy-forums can try all they want to help you with a problem child or an insubordinate toddler. They may suggest things like time-out or withholding sweet goodness or an early bed time. No need to look any further with restless wee-ones. Stop buying books, seeing specialists and listening to pod casts. I say quit trying. Nip it in the bud with a quickness: send those gnarly tots right on outside, just like mom and pop used to do.
We spend so much money and time on expensive toys, games, computers (my parents have purchased my oldest 4 computers. FOUR.), and anything Toys & Co. has to offer. And how long do they keep kids occupied? Right up until about the time you take the tags off. I mean, come on. I just bought myself a new pair of shoes last week and already I don’t know where they are, nor do I care. Take this and, while factoring the rate at which children receive gifts and their general attention span, apply it exponentially to anything your child owns. They don’t care about “things” near as much as we think they do or should.
And that’s why Charlotte is a great city for so many reasons. It caters to those with that mindset. It’s got the whole uptown thing goin’ on, some suburbs, lots of cool neighborhoods, and glorious, glorious yards.
They’re not glorious for the landscaping or for the innate ability to grow grass (or at least mine sure as hell isn’t). They’re great because 2 things still exist in abundance in this town: fences and screen doors.
For instance, I am currently writing a parenting article, in silence, while partaking in effective parenting. My children * gasp * are in the back yard. “What are they doing?” you may be asking yourself. They are doing exactly what they are meant to do: being kids. If I crane my neck just right, I can see them from the dining room table, where all the good momma work takes place. From here, it looks like they are playing in dirt and pushing anything that has wheels.
And my house is quiet.
There is something absolutely serene and enchanting about being outside, especially for kids. I once had a Montessori educator tell me to let my kids outside from sun-up to sun-down, that that’s how they learn to be creative and adjust to their surroundings. Though upon hearing it, I may or may not have thought she was equating my children with a couple of 4-legged pooches, I gave it some thought and decided that, yep. She’s right.
It works well for a couple of reasons. They have to find something to do, for starters. I appreciate a good day of Martha Speaks and Thomas the Train like any other sane momma. But, then the guilt piles up and I realize that a life on the couch is no life at all, unless you are aspiring for obesity for both yourself and future generations. And, considering it’s not my life dream to have the class fat-ass, I’ll opt for the outdoorsy type.
Another reason is that it gives you a moment of sanity and silence and your house can be at least somewhat clean for a few moments. I can fold laundry without it simultaneously being unfolded, I can do dishes without someone either climbing into the dishwasher or begging for food on the freshly cleaned dishes. (What is it about a kitchen that everytime you enter it, kids suddenly realize their insatiable hunger?) Or, I can have another cup of coffee (or cocktail- pick your poison) without finding tiny cars and Polly Pocket boots at the bottom.
A couple of wins, to say they least. So now, the step-by-step, on a Cheap Momma day-in:
1. Admit your powerlessness
Wait. Wrong how-to guide.
1. Open your backdoor and close your gate
2. Start the coffee/ get out the liquor
3. Send the kids outside (to avoid any hiccups in the operation, send bugspray, snacks and water bottles, just to cover any pressing need)
4. Make sure there are tractors, shovels, toys a’ plenty.
5. Pour yourself a beverage.
6. Sit where you can kinda hear your kids, kinda not hear them too much.
7. Trust your children’s ability to entertain themselves and find joy in nature.
8. Listen. Listen to the silence.
9. Look. Look at all the toys still in the basket and milk still in the carton.
10. Count your blessings because time outside is time well spent.
So there you have it. Another installment of cheap, easy fun for kids, and glorious relaxation for momma and/or daddy.