It started with sprinklers.
When I picked Nathan up from preschool today, the sprinklers were on just outside the entrance. I didn’t think much of it; I assumed the timer had gotten messed up somehow, and I dodged the spray as I darted through the door, shielding Ellie from the mist.
Of course, as soon as he saw them, Nathan was mesmerized. “Mom, look!” he said excitedly. “Sprinklers!! There’s water everywhere mom, this is so cool.” I continued to the car without comment until Nathan pulled me to a stop. “Can I go play in them, Mom?”
“No, baby,” was my immediate response. He would get soaked, I had no way to dry him off, the car would get all wet … I had a laundry list of reasons. Nathan didn’t argue, surprisingly, and I buckled the kids into their carseats. When I climbed into the driver’s seat, the sprinklers were directly across from me and what I saw made me pause. Parents and children continued to spill out of the door, and without fail every single child was drawn to the sprinklers. I couldn’t hear the words, but over and over I watched each child ask some variation of the question, “Can I play?” Some moms and dads gave the same response I did – a quick no, and a tug of the hand toward the waiting car. I saw the children cast a wistful glance toward the water before falling in step. But some parents said yes. And I watched the yes children smile, and take off with a shriek and a giggle through the water. I watched them dance and twirl and dart in and out of the spray. I watched their moms and dads, and I saw the smiles on their faces and the humor in their eyes.
As I shifted the car into drive and pulled out of the parking lot, I felt disappointed with myself … and a little silly about my disappointment, to be honest. It was a little, nothing moment really; Nathan wasn’t even upset about missing out and had already moved on to chattering about his day. But I dwelt on my quick no, and why, in this situation and others like it, I see the mess and hassle rather than the fun. I suppose it’s just my personality – I’ve never been the life of the party; I’m always the one engaged in semi-serious conversation with someone off to the side. Fun – especially impromptu, messy, unplanned fun – is not my element.
But it is my kids’ element. Heck, it’s every kid’s element. And their childhood is so brief – I have them for what feels like the duration of a breath before I will release them into this great big world. And I don’t get to choose the moments that become memories; their minds will do that for them. All I can do is be more deliberate in my efforts to build more fun, more joy, more love into our days. Today, I had a chance to make my son smile with delight, and I missed it. But tomorrow, I’ll be ready. Bring on the fun.