A few weeks ago we were spending time on our back porch as a family when my wife, Lindsay, began to water the flowers. As she did this, water soaked the dirt next to the concrete turning it to mud. As we continued talking and moving some plants around we turned our backs on Juniper for a few seconds. When we turned back around we found her happily splashing in the newly formed mud puddle.
Anyone that knows me understands that I am not one for messes. I like to hike and be outside and I don’t mind sweating, but mud and gooey messes make me squirm. Lindsay, however, is very much a free-spirit and these things don’t bother her. So while she was laughing I was mortified inside. She noticed my disdain and quickly said, “Juniper is having a blast and needs a bath anyway.”
So going against every fiber in my body I helped take off her clothes and let her play. I realized this was what summer was for, being outside and playing in the mud. Now I wasn’t about to join her but I ran inside and grabbed the camera to capture her delight. We let her play and splash and sprayed her with the hose as she tried to grab the water.
That Saturday afternoon is one I will remember for a long time. One I hope to never forget. The mess was temporary but the things I learned that day will stick with me. I learned about freedom, about joy and about simplicity.
Lindsay and Juniper showed me that messes are fun. While it isn’t something I personally would enjoy I needed to allow Juniper to fully embrace her childhood. She wasn’t in harm and we weren’t in a rush to be anywhere, so there was no reason to stop her from enjoying the mud. I learned that sometimes being a good dad means allowing space for freedom and adventure. I can tend to get caught up in going places and accomplishing tasks that I forget the importance of a good mud pie.
I figured out that having fun can happen in any situation. What I thought was a chore (watering the plants) turned into watching my daughter squeal with joy as she squished mud in her hands. Seeing the joy of an innocent child is something that we could all use more of. Rather than listening to the negativity that surrounds us it’s important to sit back and watch our kids just be.
Lastly, I realized yet again that we do not need toys or lots of things to have a good time. That afternoon the entertainment came from water run-off and a small spot of dirt. There was no need for plastic shovels because there was a sensory experience of mud squirting through her fingers.
We have gone on a bunch of awesome trips this summer and played on some pretty cool playgrounds, but I think the impromptu mud puddle day tops the list of my favorite summer events.