BRAZIL: Cultural Criticism for Outdoor Play

BRAZIL: Cultural Criticism for Outdoor Play

Girl in Rain

If you happen to walk by my house around 6 a.m., you will most probably encounter me in my pajamas, a jacket and my hair on end, being pulled towards the street with surprising strength by my 15 month old son (who – unlike myself – will be looking quite adorable with his hair on end!). My three year old girl will be fast asleep for another half hour or so and, if it is a weekday, my nine year old and my husband will have already left for school/work .

If permitted, my toddler (and all three of my children, for that matter) would probably live outside 24/7. However, we are currently entering winter – a.k.a. the rainy season and also my least favorite time of the year.

Don’t take me wrong. If I could spend the day curled up in my warm bed reading, it might even be my favorite season! In practice, this is what happens:

First of all, no matter how many times the repairmen come to straighten up the roof, the cats will manage to part the tiles again, especially over our bed (think cold water dripping on your leg suddenly at 2 a.m.!). Also, fleeing the rain, huge ants make nests and leave their very succulent eggs in anything left untouched for more than three days, lest we wrap it in plastic. Plus, the floor is always humid, and everything sticks to it. Last but not least: it is so hard to get out of bed at 5 a.m. and so chilly!

Outside of the home, traffic becomes ten times worse than it already is, everyone is late for everything (and even if they aren’t, the rain will be an excuse for it). The streets fill up with water, cars stop functioning and trash floats.  The city is astonishingly unprepared for rain considering the fact that it has had to deal with the sort of weather for over four centuries.

And the kids still want to be outside all the time. Of course, that it great.  Kids should be outside, preferably in more natural environments, as much as possible.

Among other benefits, being outside fosters a healthy connection with nature and promotes environmentally responsible behavior in adulthood.

The other day the rain had stopped, and I took advantage of some moments of sun to go out front. I got the kids all prepared in jackets, pants and tennis shoes and thought we could take a relatively “unmessy”, dry walk on our unpaved dirt road (LOL!). Of course in a few minutes they were playing in a puddle. There was mud not only on their clothes, but in their hair, their face and most everywhere. I relaxed and surrendered to their joy.

Witnessing such joy is what gives me the strength – as a current frazzled mother of three – to endure the sometimes overwhelming amount of soaked shoes, mud-soiled clothes and dirt covered floors!

I also find it somewhat amusing how bothered people here in the tropics get when they see kids out in such weather. Especially nwhen I recall the period we lived in Quebec – during what was reportedly one of the toughest winters ever – and how, regardless, parents and children had fun outside in the snowy, below zero weather.

On that same mud-covered day, one woman turned her neck 180° as she drove by and gave me a stern look that said “They’re going to catch cold you irresponsible mother!”

A person working in a construction nearby advised me never ever to let them play in street puddles again because “animals die in the streets”. To top it, a neighbor (who at most has said “good morning” to us in the ten years we have lived here) stopped, announced formally that he is a Veterinary Doctor, and gave me a complete list of all maladies they could catch from that malignant puddle, including leptospirosis , bubonic plague, toxoplasmosis and several others. Of course it didn’t help when I tried to tell him that, despite being a biologist and knowing the risks, I also believed playing in puddles helped them boost their immune systems!

I know, deep down, everyone means well in their advice. Yet, I still prefer to follow the guidance of Mother Nature and allow my kids to be outdoors as much as possible, in any weather!

Do you encourage your kids to go out in all weather? What season are you in now?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.


Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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NEW YORK, USA: Guilty As Charged

We live in New York City, in one of the busiest areas, mid-town Manhattan and there are many benefits to living in the city.  The kids go, regularly, to museums.  I walk 10 minutes to get to and from work.  When the kids were babies, I was able to walk home and nurse them at lunch time, or we would meet in the park across the street if the weather was nice.  I have a doorman who can accept any deliveries when I am not home.  I can shop for my groceries on-line and schedule a delivery whenever I need to.  On days where I am working late, I have hundreds of restaurants literally at my finger tips and can order any cuisine to be delivered.

There are also many cons to living in the city.  We, the 4 of us, live in a 2 bedroom apartment, approximately 1100 square feet (102.2 square meters).  I know in other countries this may seem like a rather large apartment, in fact, my cousin in France lives in smaller apartment than us with 2 boys. But in the US, where everything is bigger, such as the furniture, serving portions and cars, it feels small. Especially when I look at the house that I could buy, for the same price, in the suburbs.  We don’t have much space for storage, which is probably not such a bad thing, since it gets me to purge lots of unused items.

The biggest downfall though, in regards to my children, is the lack of outdoor space.  Sure, there are quite a few parks and playgrounds within walking distance, as well as the beautiful Central Park, which is either a short cab/bus ride away (or a long walk on a nice day). However, there is no backyard where the kids can play and run while I prepare dinner, or while I clean.  So instead, I pop in a movie or turn on some favorite cartoons for the kids to watch while I do those things.

I have some ground rules set regarding TV watching:  basically, no TV before 6 pm, and it is off when we start dinner.  In the morning, they can watch something while I prepare breakfast, and on school days it’s off at 8am (on weekends, I allow it a little longer while we clean).  The only exception to these rules are when there is a sporting event that my husband wants to watch during the weekend day, or if they are really too sick to do much else. (more…)

Maman Aya (USA)

Maman Aya is a full-time working mother of 2 beautiful children, a son who is 6 and a daughter who is two. She is raising her children in the high-pressure city of New York within a bilingual and multi-religious home. Aya was born in Canada to a French mother who then swiftly whisked her away to NYC, where she grew up and spent most of her life. She was raised following Jewish traditions and married an Irish Catholic American who doesn’t speak any other language (which did not go over too well with her mother), but who is learning French through his children. Aya enjoys her job but feels “mommy guilt” while at work. She is lucky to have the flexibility to work from home on Thursdays and recently decided to change her schedule to have “mommy Fridays”, but still feels torn about her time away from her babies. Maman Aya is not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, but has been drawn in by the mothers who write for World Moms Blog. She looks forward to joining the team and trying her hand at writing!

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