By Felicia Lau
“Wow! You’re so hardcore!” a mum exclaimed at me as she observed my kids busily creating mud pies.
I merely smiled at her. Inside, I was laughing.
How could anyone possibly call me hardcore in a muddy, bush play setting?
How did I even get here?
You know those wet wipe mums? Yup, hands up – that was me. Or in many ways, it still is me, but managed well. When my son was born 7 years ago, I became well acquainted with wet wipes. I frequently used them not just at nappy changes, but to wipe his hands, wipe his mouth, wipe the bibs, wipe the crumbs off his top etc.
You see, mess is something that every mum (or primary caregiver) will need to adjust to when you have a baby, toddler or kid. Somehow, mess can bring with it the utter frustration of yet another clean up or worse, a perceived lack of control that lends toward anxiety.
Fast forward 5 years and now, I have 3 kids which spells lots and lots of mess for a very mess averse mother.
As strange as it may sound, it was during Melbourne’s hard pandemic lockdowns in 2020 that I first started becoming acquainted with the idea of bush play.
My middle child who has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome seemed to learn much better when we were out and about on our daily bush walks and explorations (all playgrounds were closed at the time under the government restrictions). I had previously spent a lot of time reading books to her without really knowing if she understood what was being read to her. However, when we were out and about, she said “tree” and “mud” for the very first time. It was a parenting light bulb moment.
As I read more and more about bush play (and there’s plenty on the internet about it), I began to realise that the benefits were far reaching even for typical children.
What I didn’t realise was that through bush play, I would learn to let go of my own mum anxieties. I have found stillness and joy instead. Most importantly, I have stopped modelling and projecting anxiety, the need for control and fear on my children. Now that’s a dirty, muddy, “hard core” win that’s worth you trying out. Good luck, and bring some wet wipes.
Felicia is a mum of three, community and health advocate and GP. She has known Megan as a friend for many years as their families journey life together.