Kat Jones: Running up that hill looks a forlorn hope with kids

Children are often more interested in the delights of  technology Picture:  Jane Barlow
Children are often more interested in the delights of technology Picture: Jane Barlow
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Sometime around now is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, we’re back to work, it’s cold, dark and spring seems very distant.

All I can do to distract myself is make plans to escape the city: snowy weekend wanders with the kids, the odd icy mountain, and, as the light returns, walks in the Campsies after work and a wilderness adventure in the diary for spring.

All really nice, but recently getting my kids outside has become a battle of wills only to be attempted by those with nerves of steel.

My pre-teen/teenage offspring must have missed all the articles about how being outside is good for your soul, great for fighting the blues, raising energy levels and all that.Their catch-all prescription is screen-time and snacks.

It’s not for lack of trying.

Every summer since the kids were born we have dragged them to a remote bothy in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wild nature, sea, mountain, moor and woodland, so they can get back to nature exploring, den-building and disappearing for hours on end into the woods.

That’s the theory. In practice, the rocky shore stands tranquil, the crags of the twisted and mossy hazel woodland behind the bothy remain largely undisturbed, and the ticks of the heather moorland don’t get to latch on to our kids very often. Somehow the muddy, mossy, wildness seems to lack the attractions of the great indoors.

Last summer, reading an angsty article about kids needing more time outside I went on the offensive: “Why don’t you go and play outside?” I demanded. “Perhaps we don’t want to,” they replied.

When I explained that children are happier when they can play in nature, creating sculptures out of cow dung and wallowing in mud up to their knees, they shrugged.“We’re happy, mum.”

Even telling them that in the old days they would have been sent out after breakfast and not allowed back until dinner – “That’s inhuman. It’s child cruelty!” – and offering sweets, didn’t get them into the sunny, clear air.

But perhaps one can over-expose one’s children to the joys of nature? In a state of denial that anything had changed on the birth of my firstborn, I proposed an ascent of Buachaille Etive Mor. She was two months old and it was early February. Breastfeeding in a blizzard and a long walk back through a bog put me off extreme mountaineering with an infant for good.

So I’m starting this year gentle. A trip to the country with the firstborn (now taller than me) and her teenage friends.

A gentle walk with a lot of snacks (and a view of Buachaille Etive Mor coincidently) and the offer of ad libitum wifi afterwards.

Perhaps we’ll work our way up to a proper hill again one day.

Kat Jones works for an environmental NGO. She lives in Glasgow and blogs at www.cuilbay.com/blog