Is it really the end of the world if my girls end up soaked from jumping in muddy muddles?
It happens at least once a week. I’ll be walking somewhere with Eloise, my five year-old, and I’ll see a puddle ahead. Immediately I know I have a decision to make: Can she jump in it? Sadly, my instinct is to nearly always find a reason to say No. ‘You’re in your school uniform.’ ‘We need to keep those clothes clean.’ ‘You haven’t got your wellies on.’ The list goes on.
I know why this is. If she ends up wet and dirty, it’ll mean more work for me having to clean her up later. But other than when we’re on our way to school, there aren’t really many occasions when ending up soaked from a muddy puddle would be the end of the world.
So I’ve tried to lighten up on this front. On Sunday I took Eloise and Imogen—who’s nearly two—for a walk along a river with a friend before heading to a playground. Naively, I hadn’t anticipated the ground being as wet as it was and so neither of my girls had their wellies on.
When I saw all the mud and puddles, I tried at first to get them to avoid them, badgering them both to walk around them all. I quickly realized this was stupid, not to mention pointless. They were going to have so much more fun if I let them get on with it.
And so the puddle jumping commenced.
There’s something wonderful and freeing about not caring how dirty we get. I could see it in their faces. There wasn’t a single thought about everything needing to be washed later or getting cold from wearing damp clothes. They were simply reveling in the moment.
As adults, we rarely get to experience this. We’re always thinking about the consequences. This is mostly a good thing. But I’m wondering whether sometimes we need to learn from our kids, embrace the moment, and not care about what has to get cleaned or tidied later.
It’s very tempting to try to tame this non-caring in our kids. But I’m convinced it’s worth, sometimes at least, resisting that temptation. The sheer joy I see on my girls’ faces when they get to jump up and down, unrestrained, in muddy puddles is beyond precious. Why would I want to constantly deprive them of these moments?
Pretty much every time she see’s a puddle, Eloise gives me this delightful look that, without any words needing to be said, simply asks with such hope and anticipation: ‘Can I?’ And hard as it is sometimes, I’m trying to say Yes more and more. It’s good for her soul. And, who knows, maybe in becoming more relaxed about this, it’s good for mine too.
Maybe I still need to go further though. It’s one thing to give the OK to my girls getting dirty in muddy puddles, but what if I need to let go too? I know I’m meant to be respectable and grown up, but wouldn’t my girls love it if I joined in with them sometimes?
And that’s my new goal. Having decided to be more relaxed about my girls getting wet and dirty, I’m going to try and join in with them sometimes.
So, bring on the muddy puddles!
Originally published at The Good Men Project.