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March 08, 2011

Outside is Always Better

A while ago, I was whining on another group blog about what an ass-pain it is to take kids on out-of-town trips.  I still maintain that the benefits of exposing toddlers to a new environment that requires sleeping under a different roof barely outweigh the onus of hauling all of their equipment to that location.  Unless you're going to see Grandma, you might as well just go to the vacant lot down the street as take your kid across the county line.  I honestly believe that a two-year-old can't tell the difference between Chuck E. Cheese and Disneyland.  So they certainly wouldn't be any more impressed by Yosemite National Park than by the abandoned rock quarry just outside of town.

Despite the hassles of traveling with youngsters, I was reminded just yesterday of a very valuable and probably completely obvious lesson: it's almost always better to get the kids out of the house than to coop them up for long stretches of time.  I always assumed this was the case, and have hardly ever kept our twins at home all day since they were born 20 months ago.  But yesterday they seemed pretty tired, having been out late at a dinner party/playdate the night before.  In fact, they had done so much fun stuff the previous week that they were pretty run down.  Or maybe I was projecting my own condition onto them.

On Monday of last week, my wife had the day off and we piled the kids and the dog into the van and drove an hour out of town to reap the rewards of a freak snow storm that had blanketed the mountains of Southern California.  



Our Swissy dog, Stella, felt right at home in the snow.  It's hard to believe that she has crippling anxiety:


We were back home in time for the kids' afternoon naps.


The rest of the week we hardly even drove anywhere.  We went to the zoo, to some museums, and to a new playground where all the moms push Bob baby joggers and wear yoga pants.  I pulled the kids almost everywhere we went in the bike trailer.

Some days we didn't even leave the neighborhood.  I hooked Stella up to the Radio Flyer and she hauled the girls around the park near our house:



Then the girls rode their trikes in the alley behind our house.  I know, I know--they're not wearing helmets.  It was an impromptu ride and their helmets were in the van, which was parked out front.



My point is that, even though we didn't travel much (except for the hour drive to the snow), and we hardly spent any money (free museums and year-passes to the zoo), we got out of the house every day and did something cool.  (It's not like that's very unusual for us--but the girls have been passing viruses back and forth for the last month, so we had stayed home a lot more than usual during the past month.)  And although getting the kids diapered, dressed, shod, and out the door could be a struggle that called into question the wisdom of the entire enterprise, the excursions always paid off.  The kids were engaged, entertained, and were probably even learning stuff.  Even our dog, who I was talking about putting up for adoption a couple weeks ago, seemed better adjusted than she had been.  And of course Dad was much less cranky than he is when he's in hermit mode.

So yesterday, in trying to allow the girls to take it easy, and maybe stave off the onslaught of the next round of viruses, (okay--and to avoid the sub-sixty degree weather--there, I said it) I set us all up for a day of getting on each other's nerves, whining, and ransacking the house.

Today I don't care how much snot is gushing, or how tired any of us are, or even if--heaven forfend--drops of moisture should fall from the very sky, we will be spending most of the awake part of the day outside.



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