A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and… the kids? While it may not ever show up in “10 ways to woo your spouse,” weeknight picnics with the entire family can be a way of squeezing in a little more outside time. School nights can be packed with homework and feel stuffed to the gills with pressures, but I would argue for attempting to get a weeknight picnic whenever you can. Clearly it’s easier when Daylight Savings Time starts, but we hustled out for our first weeknight picnic of the season last week, with the run of warm weather that hit the Bay Area.
We started this a couple of years ago—we just picked up some food and then went to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park for dinner. Sometimes we go to the Alvarado Park section so that everyone can run around on the playground after dinner, and sometimes we go ¼ mile up the trail to a mini-meadow that affords a little more of a view. Look around your neighborhood for possibilities—you don’t need to find a trail or incorporate a hike, you just need a place outside.
Keep it simple. Pick up burritos, dash in for cold cuts and bread with a deli salad or order a pizza someone grabs on the way home. You can even grab a loaf of bread, jars of peanut butter and jelly, making sandwiches once you get there– this extremely pedestrian fare seems decidedly more glamorous at a picnic. The important thing here is getting outside for even 45 minutes.
Weeknight picnics are a little bit of specialness, even if just in the park next to your house. They offer a chance to unwind and enjoy the outside in a different way from weekend hikes or other epic adventures. Generally, families are the most stressed during the week; being outside for a brief hour can remind us to pay attention to each other in the midst of the hustle.
It offers us a chance to experience light and sound changes with the close of day. A weeknight picnic lets us notice the spectacular sunsets that often blaze before dropping into “dark time,” as my three year old calls it. Weeknight picnics let us whistle for bats and look up for their crazy, curious flight patterns. Right now, frogs are extremely active and the minute the dark fell last week, the reptilian chorus was ON. Raccoons sometimes start wandering out at twilight—skunks do too, but fortunately we haven’t seen one of those yet.
Weeknight picnics demystify the dark. While I don’t want to encourage the kids to leave the house and take off for solo wanderings in the evening, I don’t want them to grow up believing the dark is a scary place. (Camping helps with this, too.) Sitting at a picnic table and experiencing the deepening shadows feels calming. Night comes gently when you’re finishing a piece of pizza.
Most of the time, we don’t notice the turning of the world in our day-to-day existence. Weeknight picnics remind us that in the midst of all our busy-ness, the world continues this miraculous turning toward and away from the sun. We think the world turns slowly but a weeknight picnic reminds us, in the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”