Wednesday, November 15, 2023

NaBloPoMo Day 15: Outside

Many years ago, when I was a few weeks away from delivering my daughter, V and I sat in her prospective pediatrician's office for a meet and greet. We liked him right away- he told me, your daughter is not born but I am her doctor already and you can call me anytime. He said to us, "As parents, you should focus on providing four things to your child: nutritious food, good sleep habits, fresh air and outdoor play, and stimulating their brain by talking to them, and singing and reading to them". He went on to say that you would be surprised how many problems can be avoided by prioritizing these four things. When more critical things come up, he said (at this point, he waved to his office window in the direction of the big children's hospital down the street), we can and will invoke the latest and greatest medical care. But the vast majority of children will grow up healthy and happy if you focus on these basics. 

Over twelve years later, I still remember this advice vividly and have tried to abide by it. It is common sense but difficult to put into practice consistently. Good food, sleep, outdoor exercise, and mental stimulation is the basis of a wholesome and healthful life not just for babies and children, but also for adults. (Also for dogs. We make sure Duncan gets out to a dog park or a trail- somewhere other than his usual walking routes- every weekend, to get him interesting new things to see and smell.)

Parenting in this day and age feels like an uphill slog sometimes, and I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. You want your kids to eat simple wholesome food in a society where they are constantly lured by fried, sugary and processed food. You want them to play outside but putting limits on screen-time is such a battle, made only worse since the pandemic when we were forced to use screens as a crutch. 

I'm reading a book called Enchantment by Katherine May, and she says, "Childhood used to have dirt under its fingernails. Now it has hand sanitiser." She longs to take her young son to the woods, to a nature preserve, but he prefers the trampoline center and bright beeping plastic toys. Relatable! On glorious weekend afternoons, getting our kids to come out to the park is like pulling teeth. Once we are there, they play happily for hours and have a wonderful time, but pulling them away from home can take some exhausting combination of begging, cajoling, stern admonishments, the occasional bribe or threat. 

Yesterday, I was driving back with my daughter and happened to glance up, and noticed, as if for the first time, the Fall colors on the trees in the neighborhood. I slowed to a crawl (luckily there were no cars behind me) and pointed them out to her, and the two of us had a quiet moment of awe as we stared at the blazing yellows, oranges, reds, greens and browns on display. There is so much beauty in this world if only we would stop and look up from our distracted lives. 


  1. hello Nupur,
    This is the topic on our friends weekly calls. Just from personal experience and talking to several friends who're all going thro' various challenges, I'm realizing first two items are priorities during their childhood years; and latter two during pre-teens and teens. Once in high school, nutrition and sleep is a luxury, that's when the latter items take huge priority. Challenges are more complex; we as parents feel communication is the key. It cannot be established overnight as kids tend to become introverted and shy (yes, even with parents esp. boys) during their teen years.
    My boy is a senior in college and looking back, the only thing I feel really good about is keeping the communication open (This means, no topic is a taboo). We talk about anything, everything. Open, honest face-face conversations. And having one common family activity that we all enjoy together helps reconnect us when we've arguments :) (Ex- bike, hike, cook)

    Take care,

    1. Meena- thanks for this thoughtful note! It is so true that keeping the lines of communication open is the most important thing in the world. Also, I hear you on the family activity. For years I have been trying to get us to go on regular short hikes together, and have not succeeded so far- weekends are swallowed up by errands, kids bicker endlessly, etc. etc. But your wise words remind me to keep trying! :)

    2. Nothing that you’ve said or written has led to this but the picture of your family and you in my head is one of perfection . So I find it hard to imagine your kids bicker :)

    3. Oh just come visit us for an hour and watch the idyllic picture vaporize LOL. I don't know who you are but I am sending you a big hug.

    4. Haha thank you ! This is Heera again

  2. Such a lovely and thoughtful post yet again dear Nupur. I remember hearing from someone that the only parenting hack that we need to know is to be a good person and to be the person we would like our children to be. Don't want them eating junk food? Don't eat it yourself, want them to be kind and gentle? Model that behaviour for them and so on. Such a simple thought but nearly impossible for me to implement on some days.

    I also very often think of what my father told me once, long before I became a parent. "You can't expect children to follow your words while ignoring your example. It will never work". Same thing really. Sigh!

    1. Yes indeed! "Do as I say, not as I do" is not how it works. I feel like my children have been sent to make me a more patient person, and it is a struggle lol


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