The Threshold Phenomenon


There are some naturally occurring wonders that cannot be explained, only defined by their universally effective nature. Children being happier outside is one of them. I call it the Threshold Phenomenon, so named after the marked change between a restless rugrat’s immediately cheerful change to happy-go-lucky youngster when alfresco. Most “rough” days with the kiddos happen when, because of weather- the heat most often, and the cold sometimes (in Austin there’s not much of an in-between)-they are unable to go outside.

From infants to “big kids”, I have found that being indoors for too long leads to emotional outbursts akin to cabin fever. (Y’all may recall Mr. Man’s indoor caused crankiness…)  I get it, I absolutely understand. One of the reasons I love nannying so much is because I get to be outside for much of the day. I’m all for being out in the great outdoors, and will be sure to shuffle my charges outside, barring any threats to health/comfort: too cold temps, roaring rains, too hot highs, mosquito monsoons, all valid concerns. When these don’t pose a threat, out we go!


While spending my first mornings with El Fuego, there were times when despite a clean diaper, being freshly fed, and having just rested, he was just beside himself. Following El Fuego’s folks’ and “G Mom’s” lead, I took him outside for a walkabout, despite the heat and humidity. As soon as we stepped through the doorway to the outside, his crying subsided, his eyes opened wide, his little body relaxed. (Even his fiery red hair seemed to take on a less raging red and a more relaxed ruby.) In babies, the positive change in attitude once outside is instantaneous and  pronounced.


The Threshold Phenomenon goes double for Sassafras who will go from a “Shrieky Shelly” to a “No Worries Nellie” when we venture out of the house and go for a walk. She pipes down, and usually passes out as soon as we start to Bob along. And she does look so fetching with the sun filtering through her blonde hair, illuminating her big blue eyes. Outside, babies are in their element!


Just the other day I was outside with Doc and Rebel for no less than two hours, enjoying the cold front that blew through Austin, resulting in lower than sweltering temps, crisp air. Rebels’s nap hangover and Doc’s post rest-time rebellion (which had reared their- never ugly but certainly unpleasant- heads in recent days) receded and the kiddos could not have been happier. They went down the slide, they threw the ball, they played in their rockbox, and, of course, took turns spinning on Miss Cheryl. It was only when their mama called to tell me she was on the way home that I realized we had been outside for so long. Time flies when you’re having fun! And kiddos’ cries subside when we’re outside!

Brother and Sister Running

2 Comments on “The Threshold Phenomenon”

  1. […] being active. The great outdoors does wonders for the spirit, and skiing is a great way to get ants out of your pants whilst having a great time with friends. I […]

  2. […] in windows, finding the sun-warmed part of patios and pavement; as do children! Whether it’s venturing outside, opening blinds, or adding a semicircle sun with shining rays to complete a drawing, kiddos and […]

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