So it was finally 66 degrees today. After sleet/snow for the past TWO weeks. I needed to be outside! So we took a bike ride. After a few rounds around the neighborhood, we stopped by the local playground.
It's a sad little place. I don't even know why my kids like being there. There are four little swings and a little monkey bar with a open field. That's it. No slides, no climbing walls, no tire swings.
I hate going there. But I have no idea why, my kids just love it. I guess because of the simplicity of just having dirt, grass and a few swings, it's like their favorite place to go. They hunt for ants, they find worms, they dig up clovers. It's like paradise for them.
Today was a little different than most days. It had just stopped raining and the sun was out and there were puddles.
We are not talking about little pathetic puddles. We are talking about a handful of ten-inch puddles in the grass. So it was love at first sight for them.
My daughter was wearing rain boots, but my poor little son was just wearing his Ninja Turtle tennis shoes. Then the splashing begun.
At first, it was hestitate little pats of water, it soon turned into a full sprints through the puddles, the water was spraying everywhere. They were soaked after two minutes. But their faces, their little faces-laughing and smiling like it was Christmas morning.
Where was I? I was watching and enjoying the whole thing.
Was it a hassle to clean up all the dirt and do an entire load of laundry afterwards? Sure. But was it worth seeing the smiles on my kid's faces? No question.
I love seeing my kids play with others outside. There is an unspoken connection that everyone shares with being in nature. Hitting a ball, jumping through mud, sliding down a slide, swinging on a swing, riding a bike etc. These are all skills and experiences that every child needs to have to pass through childhood.
It breaks my heart to hear about kids that are 8 or 9 years old that have never been swimming, never learned how to ride a bike or never learned how to throw a ball. It really happens. Especially in America, where busyness and technology overun the need for simple outdoor fun.
The most interesting stories of my childhood are usually the ones where I was getting messy, having an experience, playing as a team, sharing a "tea party" underwater at the pool, building a snow fort, climbing a tree swing, cutting my forehead after falling. Well, the falling part wasn't really a fond memory, but at least I had an experience.
Some parents are too afraid of their kids getting hurt and living life to make them experience things.
I was talking to one mom when I told her that we love to camp and go to parks. She says that she hates it. "Too much mud, and I don't want to get my kid's dirty."
At one bounce house birthday party. One mom was constantly freaking out about her son touching the "germ-filled" inflatables. The poor kid couldn't even have fun without his mom wiping his hands with anti-bacterial.
I used to work at an outdoor day camp for kids. We had archery, swimming, crafts, hiking, campfire time, fort building- you know, typical summer time kid stuff. The number one concern that we always got from parents was, "Why does my child look so dirty when he/she comes home?"
I would always laugh and think, "If your child doesn't come home dirty, then there is a problem."
I remember one conversation that I had with a parent. We were having a superhero theme day with a sleep-over that night. The parent was very concerned that the superhero theme was too "Juvenile" for her 7 year old son. She suggested instead that we do a "Model United Nations," Or "Future Business Owners Of America" theme where the kids wear suits.
No, I'm not kidding. She was for real.
I love it when we do something hands-on and my daughter tells me many weeks later that she still remembers it.
We made a model of the Solar System in our house a few months ago. We worked on it for days. We painted all of the planets. There was styrofoam everywhere. We ruined three table cloth with the paint. My chairs still have splatters on them from that project. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Because now, I see it hanging from my ceiling everyday and I am reminded that we spent time on it. My daughter can still tell me all the planet names. Even my two year old son points to the big yellow ball and says, "Sun."
Even though I am constantly cleaning up after my children and I have worn through three vaccuum cleaners already since 2010, the mess and the clutter are worth the time that I have taken to make their experience memorable.
How do your kids get "messy?"
I would love to hear from you!
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