Recently my family and I held a birthday party for my youngest son who turned 6. It was a pretty significant party because in the last couple of years we didn’t get to throw him any parties due to COVID. He had a couple of drive by things and that’s about it. Prior to that we never even threw him a party because he was 3 so we just stuck with family affairs. There’s zero chance he had a clue what was going on at those anyway. So this year it was pretty special. Technically it was his first birthday party. So we decided to invite all his friends from class. It was a great turnout. Including all the parents there were around 50 people there.
We had it at this awesome arcade place. It was a pretty big venue that also included an miniature golf course. It was all indoors and it was special. Just watching my son run around, socialize with his friends, and frankly just smile the entire time was worth the cost of the party. When it was all over and we were in the car ride home I remember him saying, “the party wasn’t good, it was awesome!” As a parent it really doesn’t get much better than that.
But if I’m being honest? Holy shit was that a hell of a day. It’s almost like going to Disney World. My wife’s up early shitting her pants because she wants to make sure it’s a perfect day. I’m feeling the pressure of it all. She’s going crazy making sure the balloons are perfect, that we pick up the cake. You name it. The entire week leading up to this day was stressful as all hell.
And it clearly didn’t end there
Those of you that have children know that the party is really only “part 1” of the day. After you’re done paying the bill, loading up the car with presents, and whatever else is left at the party venue, you’re obligated to invite family members back to the house to watch the opening of the presents. Or is that just a New York thing? Is it a Jewish thing? I don’t know what kind of thing it is, I just know that it’s a thing and it’s an inevitable thing.
So on top of the 50 people who attended my son’s birthday party, 15 of those people come straight to my house. And it’s not as if they are there to simply watch my son open presents and leave. It’s an ordeal that lasts for at least another few hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice. I like having family over but when the day starts at 6am, party ends at 12pm, and then you know you’re in for another 3-5 hours? At a certain point I’d rather be doing my job at the office where I have some peace and quiet.
But I digress. It was a beautiful day outside. We were all in the backyard. It was nice to have a real baseball catch with my brother. It was nice to watch my sons and their cousins having a blast. It was nice to have small talk with the in-laws and my parents. All in all, it’s certainly better than not spending time with family.
Best part of the day was sitting outside
When all was said and done I was exhausted. This was around 5pm. I remember going upstairs, lying on my bed and just being completely zonked. Of course my kids weren’t tired at all but whatever. The wife was sitting downstairs relaxing as well. But it was one of those good feelings of tired. The kind of feeling where you know you put everything into your day. The house was a mess. There was wrapping paper everywhere. Toys were strewn across every floor imaginable. Outside wasn’t any better. Our yard had silly string on it. It pretty much looked like a lawn that had been vandalized after Halloween.
Was it worth it? Of course it was but honestly I’m not so sure I’d have felt that way if I didn’t have that little hour off. From 5pm-6pm I just lied down and relaxed. And as sure as the sun rises each morning, the kids got hungry. My wife called out (like you’d hear in a commercial) “who wants hot dogs?” The temperature outside was cooling off but still felt warm enough to sit outside. And that’s exactly what we did.
It just felt like “home.” All of us sitting out there eating hot dogs. It’s that awesome feeling you get when you know it’s the first outside dinner of the spring/summer season. It makes you think back to how you missed eating outside. And it was just an awesome time to reflect on how great a day we’d had.
The power of refocusing
While there are numerous benefits to sitting outside there’s one in particular that I think we all take for granted: refocusing. Often times when we make the effort to go outside and take a walk or merely sit for a few months, we’re actually changing a particular activity. Sometimes we’re in stressful situations so we take a break. Other times we feel like we need to “get up and take a walk.” While those benefits can affect our health (which is great) they also provide the mind with a much needed “reboot.”
Refocusing is the act of switching up an activity so that the brain can stop whatever it was doing, shut down, and restart. I’ve mentioned this numerous time as a very strong weapon against anxiety. The simple act of changing activities can draw our minds away from whatever stressful situations we were in.
There’s no better way of doing this than getting up, heading outside, and either walking or just sitting for a little while. In my case, the stressful day of my son’s birthday almost disappeared as soon as I went outside. It was like an automatic switch went off. Give it a try.