Tempers evaporate in the great outdoors
Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 10:55PM

Is it my imagination, or are people less cranky at the beach?

There they are, thousands of random people packed into a limited space, and is anyone arguing, or yelling or throwing a tanty? Not as often as you’d expect.

I think the reasons are threefold.

First, there are more adults around, and they are under less pressure. In two parent families, both parents are on call; right on hand to admire that sand-castle, provide a bottle of cool water, venture into the waves with their kid atop their shoulders. Often, a bunch of families holiday together or meet on the shore and the adults can take it in turns to hang out with the littles. There’s a lot more attention to go around, away from laptops and domestic chores and the tyranny of getting out the door in time for creche, school, work.

Secondly, a surprising absence of devices. Sure, there are besotted parents videoing their little darlings every move on their iPhone, but mostly what you see is grown ups gazing philosophically out to sea, counting little heads in the surf, chatting to their mate over a cup of take away coffee while corralling kids, digging trenches or applauding a small person’s first attempts on a boogie board. In the city I’m often grieved by the number of parents ferrying children to school or the shops or the park with their head buried in their damn device. There’s a cute little person just waiting to talk to you here I want to say.

Thirdly, no kid I’ve ever had much to do with, and that includes a goodly number – my own four, numerous friends and cousins, a bunch of foster children - has failed to be charmed by the great outdoors. Take a fractious child away from the TV in a darkened room and show them some space, some grass, some trees, some natural water, and they change; becoming calm and agreeable in less time than you can say ‘fresh air’.

Ross Gittins, in these pages on Wed 2 Jan, quotes Hugh Mackay as saying that being connected to nature is a traditional source of relief from anxiety and adds that ‘grass time’ is vital for the health and well-being not only of children but adults too.

Not all families are lucky enough to spend time at the beach or camping. But there is grass time to be had most places. Leave your device at home and take your kids into the big outdoors. And watch the bad tempers evaporate.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 6 January

Article originally appeared on Clare's Blog (http://www.clareboyd-macrae.com/).
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