Almost since the beginning of my parenting days I have realized that parenting is easier outside. It’s easier for me as a mom, and easier for my children too, to be in big open spaces, on the water, in the woods, under the sky, or even in a tree in the yard. When we are outside we are happier, we get along better and our most creative selves show up with new ideas, new projects, new creations. Outside there is space for all of us, we can make as much noise as we want, we can get messy, move around as much as we want, all without worrying about the fact that we might be too loud, too noisy, or too wild for anyone’s tolerance level. Especially if that anyone is a sibling.

For us, as a family, life truly is easier, more creative, more relaxing, more true and just way, way better outside.

Last week I attended the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin’s (CINCA) annual award dinner and fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. The event honors those in the community whose mission is to help more children feel connected to the outdoors – with the idea being that by exposing and connecting kids to nature now, we are fostering future stewards of the land so that we can be assured that our natural spaces will stay protected and revered for generations to come. A lofty goal for sure, but one made so much easier and so obvious by the work this group is doing. 

I am always so inpsired at this event as they show the short films of the honorees and the clever and creative ways they have of luring children and families into spending more time outside. The images are always  of children climbing, learning, playing, exploring and I realized I want MORE of that in our day to day. Since school had begun, we had gotten into a pattern of coming home, coming inside, doing homework and settling in for the night. Sure, sometimes we played in the alley or in the yard, but after seeing this footage I wanted more!

I realized that in my head, a trip to nature had become a day trip. It wasn’t always like that but with the school calendar the way it was, and the varying schedules of each family member being so much more hectic than in years past, we had gotten in the habit of reserving nature for weekends only. Oh there was the yard of course, but beyond that, we needed more; more nature, more exploration, more playing and even more just laying and staring up at the sky. Everyday if we could! Or at least a few days a week.

Since this event, I’ve shifted my view to thinking of getting in nature as more of a pop-in, than an all day stay. Though technically we live in the city, Austin has lots of green and natural spaces to explore. We could stop somewhere on our way home from school and stay for just a short visit. We could walk a few blocks to the creek or a park or even go under the bridge and play in the rocks right underneath the busy-ish street we live on, looking for fossils or searching for toads.  And if I can’t think of someplace to go nearby, there’s a Nature Rocks website that serves up suggestions based on our location and the amount of time we have.

I like my nature fix. And I like what it does for our family. All of us. Even when it is just for a short stay.