I recently read There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, by
Bringing Up Bebe meets Last Child in the Woods in this lively, insightful memoir about a mother who sets out to discover if the nature-centric parenting philosophy of her native Scandinavia holds the key to healthier, happier lives for her American children.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather explores the cultural differences between the U.S.A and Sweden when it comes to kids, nature and outdoor play. The book doesn’t include any specific information about the UK, so British readers may wonder how it’s relevant, but we definitely tend more towards the American side of things rather than our Scandinavian neighbours. We shut down when there is half an inch of snow on the ground, we play in gated parks and worry about safety and security rather excessively, and most of our schooling is indoors with curriculum based exams, rather than exploration and play.
The UK has rising problems with childhood obesity and there are frequent news stories and articles questioning how much time British children actually spend outdoors. Many of the mums I’ve talked to are concerned about screen time, TV’s and video games… but are also not that keen on heading outdoors when it’s raining. Since I live in Wales, this is actually quite a lot of the time! It’s a challenge, especially in today’s urban environment, to find a good balance. I think a big part of the problem is also clothing and dressing appropriately and knowing how to approach less friendly weather conditions.
One thing I’m sure of – we definitely do not have the outdoors attitude that the Scandinavians have and could benefit from a little bit (or a lot) of friluftsliv – open air living. Like hygge, it’s a word that we can try to define, but remains somewhat intangible if you’re not part of that culture.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is half personal story, half educational tool.
Born and raised in Sweden, in There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather author Linda McGurk walks us through her life raising young children in the USA, followed by her taking her kids back to Sweden to care for her father when he falls ill. It’s not just educational – it is a personal story and an authentic experience, written in a compelling way and peppered with humour. There is a good balance between the personal accounts of her family, quotes from healthcare and education professionals and actual studies and factual information about the culture and customs of Swedish parenting.
Some things took me aback a little, for example the section on letting babies sleep outdoors in negative degree weather! I was given a stern lecture by my midwife to ensure that the temperature didn’t fall below 16C, yet in Sweden, allowing a baby to sleep outside in freezing weather is normal! Of course, they are appropriately dressed which is something we definitely have issues with her, but I don’t see that sort of thing ever translating well to here. We’d have child support called on us if we left a baby in the pram in the garden in the winter, even with a video monitor! That’s just one example of how massively some things differ right from the start of life.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is practical with informative tips, but it’s also motivational and optimistic. It doesn’t focus on the negative, but rather looks to what we can do as parents and the choices we can make. Whilst we can’t change the school system, we do control what our children experience from a young age. We can get them outdoors interacting with nature on a regular basis. As parents, we can choose to walk to school, even in the snow and rain. We can put on our waterproofs and layer it up and play in the mud and rain rather than spending the winter indoors – something I’m quite guilty of!
It’s an encouragement not to hide by the fire with an iPad in your hand but to dress your kids appropriately and get out with them, to the park, or the wild, or even just for a walk to the shops rather than a drive. I don’t think I’ll ever embrace the true Scandinavian culture, but I am convinced that fresh air, outdoor play and an integration with the wild world are incredibly important and that I will need to actively seek to involve them in our lives as much as possible.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad weather is a funny, engaging and thought provoking read.