Rain makes mud and puddles. In the parkways, in our sandbox, down the gutters, in our raised-planter beds, on our breakfast patio, in the Lee-dug ditches in our backyard. The heavy rain sends us indoors until it stops and I put on the children's boots and rain jackets. It is a commitment to ten minutes of preparation and then maybe an hour of clean-up. I'll have to peel the children's pants off, get them clean pants, convince them to put on their clean pants, chase after them and force them into their clean pants. I'll have to hose off their rain jackets and remember to bang their muddy boots together after they're dry. I might need to hose off the front patio or give them baths. Then I can see to my own frizzy hair and muddy clothes. Maybe. But I'll still have towels and clothes draped over my arms when they come tromping into the house pulling out the crayons or asking to play with the play dough or opening up the kitchen cabinets and asking for a snack.
I don't think they'll think much of this preparation and clean-up. I don't know that they'll remember it all that much. They'll remember where the puddles were the most deep. And how the streams in the gutters were strong enough to carry Podocarpus berries along in their current.
It is a necessary part of the adventures: preparation and clean-up. Without it the adventures don't happen. It is the dirty work. It's the preparing of the soil for seeds. It's a setting of the stage for the actors. It's the processing of influent at the water treatment plant. Or the clean-up crew after the party. It's not a pretty job. It's not a job for verbal affirmation. But if I don't do it. No one will.
If I don't find the oomph to make puddle stomping happen, it won't happen. And will it matter? Will their little hearts be damaged because I preferred to stay inside and not mess with mud? We make enough messes without going outside. Why invite more? Do I really think something phenomenal happens when they slosh through the puddles? I don't think they'll even remember it twenty years from now. Dare I cut them off from all things wild?
Outside they find a wildness that I cannot create. Outside they see elements that no man can control. Outside their voices don't echo off the ceiling. Outside their tumblings break no glass and wear down no furniture. There, the laws of nature are their own teachers and I become a student as well. I too, if I put away my phone and journal and book, and stop to study as I wish my children to do: the movement of the insects, the subtle changes of the seasons, the darting of birds, and the position of the moon at sunset.
In the wilderness of the suburbs, Lee is master of the dirt, and Rose converses with other women besides my weary self. Unless I think myself a greater teacher than the skies, or able to protect my children from much worse dangers than spider bites and pokes in the eye with a stick, then let the learning begin from this. The messes made outdoors.
And now I must go wash the dirt out of my daughter's mouth.