Having just come back from Disney World, money is tight. I’m talking like Yorkshire man in a shop tight – we are back to the old “sorry sweetheart but you’re going to have to wait for Xmas” shpeel, and I think after such extravagance that will be good for the boys.
Obviously now Autumn is in full swing, we’re starting to think about getting out and enjoying the countryside in a different way to all those fun things we did in Summer. I genuinely think that Autumn is one of the best (if not THE best) seasons to get out and about with children – there is such an abundance of things to learn, and I have to admit there really is no better place to visit than the Great British countryside. Having lived in the countryside all of my life, I love to visit the cities but for chilled out weekends with the kids and having lots of fun; the countryside offers plenty (and most of it’s free!).
I’ve talked frequently about the benefits of getting children outside, as some of you may know, Reuben goes to a Forest School, which I’ve also written about. One aspect of getting out and about with your children that I really haven’t discussed is how good it is for YOU. Getting out, especially when you feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you are feeling that maternal pressure to succeed, but really don’t believe you are succeeding with anything, is imperative. Not just for the kids, but for you. I can’t tell you how often I go to the corner shop in town with the kids and think “I’ll just get one carton of milk today as it will give me an excuse to walk down tomorrow”, even that small trip makes so much difference. With World Mental Health Day taking place this week, it really got me thinking about how we should be shedding the shame of depression and anxiety – something that rocks it out hand in hand with motherhood in so many women’s experiences – and encouraging people to get out with their kids, without breaking the bank, but allowing them that breathing space.
My family and I are lucky enough to live in the heart of some of Yorkshire’s most gorgeous countryside and it is a fantastic place for my kiddo’s to grow up – though they might not agree so much when they hit the terrible teens and I have to become mum’s taxi! It’s also a blessing for me, because those walks don’t have to involve a trip to the shop, they can involve heading out on a nature trail – where I feel I have achieved something as a mother because I can see that my children have really enjoyed being outdoors and finding the things around them. Of course getting out does nothing for my washing machine – for some reason young children are attracted to gigantic puddles, especially muddy puddles. Don’t ask me why, it’s like a magnet for them (maybe it’s that bastard Peppa pig), but ultimately for the sake of my mental health and their well being too, I will take the devilish laundry pile.
One thing that also rarely gets touched on is the mental wellbeing of older children – not only do children learn better when they are able to explore and indulge their imaginations outside, but they FEEL better mentally. I often worry about Reuben, he is the oldest and often I feel my attention is taken by his demanding younger sister, whilst I expect too much of him – better cooperation, less temper tantrums, understanding beyond his years. Being outside allows him to run, to jump, to splash in puddles, to be a dragon if he wants to be or a transformer. It allows him to be a child without expectations or pressures and I truly believe that allows him to learn better.
If there is anything you do this Autumn, get out of your house. Go blackberry gathering – and make blackberry vodka like I’m doing this weekend (note: this little tipple here and there also helps with the pressures of motherhood, especially if shared with girlfriends, just saying), or collect apples for a baking session that Mary Berry would be proud of. Go on a nature trail, walk to the shop and point out the cars as they go past – counting them or saying their colours. Everything in the great outdoors is a learning experience and through that you may just find the mental breath of fresh air you need.
*In collaboration with Espplay.