The Secret Art of Lazy Parenting

I am a Lazy Parent. Yes, it’s true. It’s taken me some time to come to terms with this fact, but there it is. I’m a lazy parent because all I ever dream about are high-entertainment, low-cost, no-mess, boredom-free, minimal- supervision, highly-stimulating but guilt-free activities that require limited adult involvement for me to do with my daughter. And the best thing is – I’ve actually found a way to roll all of these things into one…it’s called…Nature.

That’s it! I feel like I’ve stumbled upon some great, amazing, unbelievably stupendous secret, mainly because it just seems so simple and so obvious and also because it seems to me that not too many other people around me are in the know. So here’s how it goes: I’ve got a toddler. She lives outside. OK, OK, I sometimes let her in to sleep at night, but only if she promises not to wriggle around next to me in bed. Oh, alright then, she stays inside all night (promise) but pretty much from the time we wake in the morning until the time we have to come in for dinner, we’re outside. And the main reason for this is because it’s EASY. And that’s why I’m convinced that I’ve become a lazy parent.

Outside is easy. But I mean the real outside….nature. Where I live – two and a half hours from the nearest city – there are no shopping malls, museums, fancy playgrounds or anything else at my disposal to help out in the toddler-entertainment stakes. It’s pretty much all up to me. Which is when I discovered the great outdoors. Let’s even say that I was forced to discover it. The salt lakes that fill up during winter have become our beach. The granite outcrops that become a maze of rock pools after a downpour, have become our aquatic centre. The pristine bushland with its ever-changing array of wildflowers and wildlife is both botanic garden and zoo. It’s all we have. And it’s absolutely wonderful.

The best thing about nature is that it is ALWAYS different. Nowhere is ever the same, one day later or one month later. The salt lakes gradually fill and then ebb away into their ethereal crystalline starkness. The granite rocks become home to a captivating and ever-changing array of water creatures. Adventures in the nature reserves often lead to discoveries of lizards, beetles and the occasional echidna. Today we even came across a group of emus running wildly down the road – my daughter had never seen a real emu before and she was gobsmacked! There is just always seems to be so much to see and experience and learn and understand when you’re in nature. It is the ultimate adventure for a curious toddler.

Everything in nature seems to captivate and amuse the toddler. My daughter loves puddles – which toddler doesn’t? She has stomped and splashed her way through bazillions of puddles and she never, ever gets tired of doing it over and over again. She’ll peer with excitement into every pool and puddle and look for tadpoles or nymphs or water beetles. She’ll stop to pick up rocks and feathers (oh and the occasional pellet of kangaroo poo). She’ll stare in awe at a ladybug or caterpillar. She’ll dig for worms and fish for water weeds to take home for our frog pond. She’ll search with excitement for the moon in the evening sky. She’ll chase after birds and happily, happily play in any pile of sand or mud or pool of water. Her attention is held, her senses are totally engaged; she’s in heaven. And so am I, because I don’t have to do anything – no thinking up of craft activities, no getting out playdough and paints, no jumping around to toddler music…all I really have to do is remember to bring some snacks, a change of clothes and my cup of coffee.

The thing that surprises me the most, however, is how rare it is for me to see other people with kids out and about. Many, many times on my trips, even to the local playground, we’ve been the only ones there. At one of the playgrounds I visit regularly, I’ve never seen another soul. And it’s not like we go at midnight you know. I’ve also never seen anyone take their kids to all the beautiful nature reserves that are the source of such elation and joy for both myself and my toddler. And while I’m more than happy for us to experience the beauty by ourselves, I do wonder…where are all the children?

I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that perhaps it’s technology that is keeping kids inside more these days…TV, DVDs, computer games. I only just realised, as I was writing this post, that screen entertainment seems to fulfil most of my criteria for lazy parenting (except perhaps not quite as guilt-free?) and you don’t even have the bother of leaving home. So I wonder to myself if this is what’s happening in my neighbourhood? To be quite honest with you, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve vowed to myself to try to keep my daughter screen-free at least until she’s two (maybe even three), we’d probably be indoors a lot more too. So it makes me even more motivated to keep to my intended goal – plus I get plenty of secondary benefits beside easy entertainment options: my daughter falls asleep pretty quickly after a mad day’s adventuring and I get some exercise. Ultimately I’ve found that going ‘out’ is the biggest tool in my parenting toolbox so far – it keeps both myself and my daughter happy and healthy and it’s just so simple. I think I’ll be a lazy parent for a little while longer…

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jess on August 18, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I’m jealous. I can’t even let my DD go out on the balcony of our flat at the moment due to the building works that are occuring on our block of flats….


    • I have to say that I do feel rather lucky to be honest. And I have a feeling that we perhaps wouldn’t be so adventuresome if we did live in the suburbs in a big city…something about cars and traffic lights and crowds would quite likely soon kill off my adventuring spirit!


  2. How silly is this. I’m a huge advocate for being outside, but it didn’t occur to me to go roaming. We spend most of our time in the backyard. And while it has a huge number of things we can do and plenty of fascinating insects, dirt and puddles, there are a lot of other places we could be going too.


    • It really makes my day (or month!) when we find a new place to free range in…it’s even more important for me with summer coming – the long, burning, inescapable summer (which I know that you’d be familiar with too) to have some new places up my sleeve for early-morning escapes. Happy adventuring!


  3. Haha this is my new favourite “tool” since i’ve stopped using breastfeeding! We’re lucky enough to live near a massive park complete with river, so that’s our share of “nature” in the midst of the suburbs. But even opening the door and letting her explore the backyard will keep her amused for hours!


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