It has been rainy for the better part of two weeks around here, and while we’re grateful the river is high and the green beans are watered, we’re just a little bit over cloudy skies and 60 degree temps.
Yesterday, during a downpour, my six-year-old approached me with a handful of fishing lures (no hooks) and asked for a bowl of water.
I almost said no. I was in my mess of a basement packing away winter coats (finally) and trying to figure out which water shoes from storage will fit my third son (and going blind doing it because all the size labels are worn off). I wasn’t sure I could navigate through my fortress of plastic totes to the stairs if I wanted to.
And honestly, I didn’t want to deal with the request. I didn’t want to stop what I was doing to go upstairs for a bucket and a towel. I didn’t want to clean up water messes or hear the post-water-play whining about wet shirt sleeves. I wanted the boys to find something quiet and orderly to do while I got stuff done. Something like Latin flash cards. Or piano chords.
I thought for a few seconds and swallowed my sigh before turning back to my son.
Yeah, Bud. Let’s get you set up.
And we did.
The night before, at my oldest son’s soccer game, my two younger boys asked if they could go play on a dirty hillside on the edge of the woods behind where we were sitting. Again, my first instinct was to say no.
Sit down and watch your brother’s game. We’re not going to get muddy. We’re not going to get wet.
We were parked a country mile away from where we were sitting, and I didn’t know if I even had any wipes or towels in the car. Plus poison ivy! Snakes! Ticks!
Again, I thought for a moment before saying to the boys, “You may play on the hill, but even if you get dirty and even if you get wet, I am staying here to watch your brother’s entire soccer game. Deal?”
“Deal, ” they replied, and giddily bolted with their cousin for the hillside, where the three romped and climbed for half an hour as little boys should.
“You are way more lenient than I was when you kids were little,” my mom said to me.
I smiled. I wasn’t sure whether she was expressing disapproval or giving me props, but I also wasn’t sure I cared.
See, the further I trek into the jungle of motherhood, the more I seem to honor my deep-down conviction that in spite of mud, in spite of ticks, in spite of skinned knees, dirty hillsides on the edges of woods are exactly where kids belong.
And like my son reminded me yesterday with his fistful of fishing lures — in spite of my schedule or productivity goals, kids need something to do on a rainy day. He played in that bucket of water on the dining room floor for an hour! If a bucket of water and some flukes keeps ’em happy for an hour, it is so worth a soggy towel and some wet shirt sleeves.
Mamas, it’s easy to say no. It really can be a hassle to deal with the water and sand and sunscreen and bug spray and tick checks and, well, this…
(The shoes that returned my children from the hillside)
But if we want our kids to see life as a great adventure and grow in confidence and entertain themselves by connecting with the natural world, we may have to quiet our grumblings and graciously accept that so many good things result from spontaneity and a little bit (k, maybe a lot) of mud on our shoes.
So armor up, mamas. Smile and say okay, knowing we’ve stocked our cutesy tote bags with bug spray, calamine, triple antibiotic, stain stick and lots and lots of towels. And more importantly, knowing our kids will remember all the fun adventures born of a mom who said yes.
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