parents

Let's stop sweating the small stuff, shall we?

Banana Boat
Thanks to our brand partner, Banana Boat

“Mum look I got a worm!” My nearly three-year old is standing at the back door covered in questionable brown stains, beaming with pride as he presents his new wriggly friend to me.

His fingernails are black from digging in our yet-to-be-turfed swamp of a backyard and his blonde hair is sporting a half-head of soil lowlights accentuated by some twigs, leaves and mulch.

My 16-month-old who has tipped the dog’s water bowl over his head and consumed several handfuls of dirt closely follows him.

As a former perfectionist with OCD-like hygiene standards, I’ve struggled to embrace the never-ending grubbiness of bringing up two ferociously inquisitive boys. Before I had kids I would recoil at the sight of a grubby child, imagining my future offspring as perfectly coifed catalogue kids sporting white polo shirts, pastel chinos and lump-free foreheads.

free range parenting
“I’m now happy to let my kids eat slugs (hello paleo diet), roll in dirt and fall off the not-too-high park apparatus. Because not only is it fun, it also develops their social skills and builds their character and resilience.” Image: Supplied.

Now, as a mum to two adventurous and injury-prone boys, I understand the joy and wonder of a childhood spent outside covered in dirt, bugs and grazes. I’m now happy to let my kids eat slugs (hello paleo diet), roll in dirt and fall off the not-too-high park apparatus. Because not only is it fun, it also develops their social skills and builds their character and resilience.

My boys manage to stay clean for between three and eight minutes in the morning before they fling open the front or back door and launch themselves into the nearest puddle or garden bed. Then Mr Three grabs his helmet and we’re off for a “scoot scoot” with his baby bro and Wilbur the Westie in tow. While there is often a pile of washing and a crumb-covered floor to attend to, I’ve learned to prioritise adventure time over day-to-day chores because when we are out and about my kids are at their happiest and fun-loving best.

ADVERTISEMENT
free range parenting
“I’ve learned to prioritise adventure time over day-to-day chores because when we are out and about my kids are at their happiest and fun-loving best.” Image: Supplied.

Outside the tantrums stop and the smiles beam, the whingeing is replaced by laughter and the sibling rivalry transforms into cuddles and teamwork. Outside is where a pointy-shaped tree becomes a rocket ship, a tent becomes a castle and a flower becomes a present for their adored Nanna. It’s where an aeroplane passing overhead inspires them to jump up and try and catch it. Where running through the sheets on the washing line becomes a giggle-inducing game. Where taking turns down the slide develops patience and promotes friendship. Outside is where my gorgeous grubs learn, laugh and thrive.

That’s not to say it hasn’t come with a few mummy freak-outs. There have been lumps, bumps, fat lips, bleeding knees and elbows and a catapult into a concrete pot that saw us rushing to the emergency department. But you can’t bubble wrap them, you have to grit your teeth and roll with the bruises, scrapes and Band-Aids.

free range parenting
“I want them to know the importance of spending time under a blue sky, their only goal laughing until their tummies hurt.” Image: Supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

In a world where there is increasing pressure on kids to excel through structured activities, I want my children to prioritise fun – unbridled, silly, outlandish fun. Whether it be jumping on a trampoline till they want to vomit, chasing apprehensive ducks or running in circles until they fall over, I want them to know the importance of spending time under a blue sky, their only goal laughing until their tummies hurt.

My favourite childhood memories all involve the outdoors – boogie-boarding at the beach with my Dad, creating a secret hiding place in a hedge at my best friend’s house, riding horses at my aunt’s farm. Spending time outside helped me develop an affinity for nature and a deep love and respect for animals.

free range parenting
“Spending time outside helped me develop an affinity for nature and a deep love and respect for animals.” Image: Supplied.

When I was six I found a dead bird in our garden and insisted the entire family attend its funeral where I delivered a moving eulogy. Every day I see this love of nature and animals developing in my children and every part of me wants time to stand still so they never lose their ability to find joy in simple things.

What are your favourite childhood memories?

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. You click, we help. Shooting star illustration.

Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

Thanks for helping!

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. Girl with pigtails sitting at desk writing in notebook. Row of four books.
Three hands holding books
00:00 / ???