As soon as my children get home from school they want to be outside. Despite the challenge this presents to getting homework done in a focused, timely matter, I'm all for it. The weather has been sunny and warm the last few days, with temperatures in the upper 60's to low 70's. The grass is emerald green and gardens throughout the neighborhood are speckled with nodding daffodils. Buds are swelling on the trees with the occasional early bloomer already unfolding tiny leaves. There has begun to be a warm meaty scent carried on the air at dinnertime as at least one family each evening determines it's perfect cookout weather. I can finally hear birds again as they flit around gathering worms from the dark, fertile soil. Our little neighborhood is alive with the sound of children laughing and shrieking with joy. Midwestern folks are not big on fences, so most of the yards converge into a big open area not unlike a park.
Yesterday Kennedy came to the house to ask if it was ok for them to go play kickball in her friend Katie's yard. Having been a kickball star in my youth I was all for this. (Seriously, I was awesome. I ruled the playground. I know it was a result of playing kickball in the back yard with my older brothers. We used a dead basketball which weighed a ton. Kicking those playground balls at recess was nothing compared to that brick!) Kennedy changed her shoes and raced off to join Katie. I can't begin to describe the overwhelming feeling of contentment I felt as I watched the two of them run from yard to yard gathering a crew for a game of kickball. I knew from her flushed cheeks and bright eyes that she was at that moment creating her own warm, nostalgic childhood memories. I've recently come to the realization that I've been desperately trying to find a way to recreate MY childhood for my children. Just the other day when I lost my post, I had been writing about the fact that it's not WHERE my children spend their childhood that will make the difference. It's HOW. They will have the same feelings about it as I had about my own if they are provided security and love. If they have opportunities to be kids, to be carefree. Which leads me to the other parenting point I've been thinking about of late. I like for them to be involved in activities, but I really want to avoid getting them involved in EVERYTHING. I want them to just be kids- no deadlines, no stress inducing events, no confinement in the house on lovely days while they spend what feels like countless hours practicing instruments. I don't want them to spend a rainy day inside practicing dance when they could be stomping in puddles and floating boats. I think there are valuable lessons to be learned from organizing a pickup kickball game. There was no adult present to gather kids, pick teams, lay out the rules, officiate, or coach. They had to work that all out on their own. There is infinite worth to developing those skills. It's something not easily taught, something better figured out in the back yard. I stood on the deck yesterday and watched them from a distance. I watched Renie and Devon playing on the swingset with the neighbor kids. I felt the sun on my face and I felt the happiness of being in a good place, both emotionally and physically. And so, my recent realization about my children and the memories they will have has been confirmed by a simple kickball game. And once again my heart is full.