The rain let up and the sun peeked through the clouds in the early afternoon on Day 2 of Social Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Already a little stir crazy in the house, I directed my 4-year-old, Jackie and 2-year-old, Maddie to put their socks and rain boots on. We headed outside to our driveway, where a couple of fresh puddles lay, just waiting for eager feet to jump in them.
Jackie looked back at me with an inquisitive look in her eyes. “Is this ok?” She silently sought permission. I smiled and nodded with an emphatic, “Go for it!”
She timidly stepped in the puddle. Maddie watched, waiting for her big sister’s verdict. A little jump. A smile. A bigger jump. A laugh. Soon, both of my girls were jumping and splashing and kicking up muddy water all over their clothes. I stood back, watching them bask in the joy of a carefree childhood activity.
We needed this. I needed this. With the stress of a global pandemic, trying to work from home while parenting two kids under 5 as my husband delivered essentials to businesses and hospitals as a FedEx driver, I needed a distraction. Some sort of stress relief. And this was it. A little break from the juggling act I was attempting to do between projects and snack times, diaper changes and refereeing sibling quarrels. The excitement and simple pleasure of getting dirty outside were exactly what we all needed.
The significance of jumping in muddy puddles dawned on me as I really stopped to savor the moment. I had NEVER let my girls jump in puddles before. I rarely even let them get dirty. It’s not that I’m a clean freak, there’s just never enough time. There’s always something to do or somewhere to go. There’s always a nap to be had, a meal to prepare and eat, a bedtime routine to stick to.
In the hustle and bustle of life, I’d unknowingly robbed my kids of an essential childhood need: to play outside, explore, get dirty, discover and learn.
As the stress and anxiety of our new (temporary) social-distancing norm was threatening to hit hard, getting outside to play provided much-needed benefits for both myself and my kids. Not only did my kids get exercise from all that jumping and running, but they were also soaking up that vitamin D that strengthens their bones and keeps them healthy! Being outside improved all of our moods. It also gave us a much-needed break from the stuffy indoor tension that was building.
And just like that, my perspective on our situation shifted. I could view quarantine as an inconvenient nightmare. Or, I could see it as an opportunity by slowing down, appreciating the little things in life, letting my kids be kids, and minimizing the stress of social-distancing by taking the time to enjoy the moments of uninterrupted play.