During a recent school holiday, I decided to take the day off and only look at my phone/email every once in a while. Instead of sending the kid somewhere and heading in to the office, I took the day off and we played in the woods. I texted my #nodramamama friend, asking if they wanted to come over for a simple picnic, mud-stomping and sun-soaking. Invitation accepted! We made sandwiches, shoved fruit snacks, chips and oranges in a bag, grabbed the long-handled loppers and emergency whistles and walked out in the woods. Everything was brown, crunchy and SUNNY! We established home base, hung the hammocks for the kids and told them to go have fun.
There we were, playing in a little spring-fed stream with acres of rough-tumble fun all around and the kids wouldn’t get more than 30 yards from us. We kept saying, “Go! Play! Run around.” They just kept coming back or needing our attention or assistance. And then I remembered.
That darn tether. No matter how much we encouraged them to run around, explore, get dirty, etc., they just kept snapping back to us.
I shouldn’t be surprised. We are great moms. We love our children and want to keep them safe. We try to keep them from running into traffic, ingesting toxic substances and watching smutty television. But we were in the middle of the woods, in January, in sixty-degree weather. There weren’t that many dangers. They should have been running around, pushing the boundaries and causing the moms to ask, “Have you heard the kids lately?”
It got better. Eventually the tether started to relax and maybe even fray a bit. The kids became more comfortable in their environment and started to actually play. I showed the kids how to build a dam in the stream (favorite pastime of mine as a kid) and before we knew it, the kids were covered in mud and they no longer “needed” us.
I don’t have any huge mom-epiphany or the ever-popular list of the top things moms can learn from their kids or vice verse. I do know this…for me and my kid: she needs to play more. She needs more unstructured play. She needs more opportunities to create things that aren’t immediately graded or judged against her peers. She needs more skinned knees and splinters. She needs more mud.
Thankfully, I can do this. We chose to live in the country, at the end of the road. We have a lot woods and mud and space to run. We have great friends that will come over and eat bologna, mustard sandwiches and play with us. The tether will get longer. I’m not sure if it ever severs completely (I get a little teary-eyed thinking about that possibility), but I will try and encourage healthy exploration and independence.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll duct-tape the kid to my leg and make it through life that way.
Check out my good, #nodramamama friend, Sarah at Musings of Motherhood for her take on the playdate and a lot of other great stories.