If you've read either of my previous two posts you'll understand why a five-year old's birthday party was not top of my agenda for things to do this afternoon. And indeed we'd initially planned that my wife would take the children, and I'd try and get some stuff done on our allotment.
But after an early start prompted by our youngest (6.30am on a Sunday and you want to get up?, yeah thanks son) followed by a morning of 'challenging' behaviour from our eldest (sickness driven I'm sure, he always acts up when he's not well) the plan changed, and we decided we probably needed a one:one adult/child ratio to head off the risk of mutually assured destruction at the party.
As it turned out, our fears were unfounded. The party was held in Leigh Woods, a lovely patch of woods about ten minutes drive away, and the calming effects of putting children in woods is a sight to behold. At this age most kid's parties degenerate into sticky red-faces and ear-splitting shouting within about a quarter of an hour (which, to be fair, if you can be zen about it is part of their charm) but there was nothing like that today - sure there was a fair bit of stickiness on faces, but something about having the shouting framed by tree canopies and bird-song seems to change the nature of it for the better.
Professionally the best interview I've ever had the pleasure of was with Margaret Atwood (a truly gracious, and fascinating interviewee), and one of the things she was big on was nature deficit disorder - the idea that our kids are missing out on interaction with the natural world, and suffering behavioural problems as a result. One of the things she said was that studies have shown that simply walking in the woods for an hour lowers blood pressure and heart-rate. I never looked up the studies, but I know for sure that my children were calmer at the end of the party than the beginning, and that as a result my blood pressure seemed much lower. So next time you're feeling rubbish or sick, try a walk (or a birthday party) in the woods - truly a natural tonic if ever there was one.