Summer is here. The days are long and hot. The sun is blazing and the kids are begging for the wading pool. I drag it out of the shed, give it a good rinse, and set the hose inside to fill it up. Before I can go back inside to locate swimsuits and sunscreen, two blonde haired and blue eyed neighborhood children are here and squealing, excitedly asking if they can play in the pool. I say yes, and they run back home to change. Inside the house, grabbing beach towels, I hear a knock on the door. I open the door to two freckled red haired children this time – these ones are already in swimsuits, asking if they can play too. I say yes to them too.
I wonder a moment how did they know? Can children hear a hose splashing over 2 backyards away? Do they have an extra ‘pool party’ sense? Do they raise all their little heads at once, like prairie dogs, and in doing so alert every child in the neighborhood? I can just picture them all still for a moment, staring off into the distance, pinpointing the direction of the pool. (BTW men can do this for barbecues, beer, or bacon – I’ve seen it)
I line them all up, spray on the sunscreen, check the hose, and get out of the way while they splash and giggle. Once evrryone is thoroughly wet, I bring out a bag of water squirting pistols and super soaker guns. I say nothing, but empty the bag next to the pool and enjoy the shocked gasps and ooohs and aahhhhs as they all scramble for a weapon. After they run around a while, blasting each other in complicated games of water tag, I walk outside with an armful of popsicles. Again, I don’t need to say anything, they all come running instantly, swarming to me instinctively, and choose their favorite color. If the youngest cries, some trading may occur.I direct them to the sprinkler to rinse off the sticky popsicle drips. I gather abandoned wrappers and go back in for the next surprise. Yup. The only thing missing – Water balloons. Hundreds of tiny bombs waiting to be filled! Oldest son attaches the balloon filler nozzle to the hose, and they line up to fill balloons. Another figures out she can fill hers on the sprinkler. Another line forms there. More running, screaming, giggling, on and on. Pure nonstop joy all day until the dinner bell (ok, usually an older sibling or mom) calls them each home.
All day. Every day. Repeat.
I love watching the kids be kids – no worries, no concerns, no fears, or at least none bigger than which color of popsicle to have today, or the typical I hate my best friend for 5 minutes squabble. I mostly stay quiet, careful not to interrupt the magic of kid play unless I need to. The kids are all mostly cooperative, and at all different ages, from 4-11, they seem better off without me imposing structure. They create new games and it is fascinating to see them take turns as leaders and followers. If I lead the game, they will listen politely, back in teacher-student mode, and block their imaginations as they try to please me and do it ‘right’. So I only step in to provide new ideas when the play gets too rough, someone suggests something dangerous, or someone tries to exclude someone else. Oh, and of course I need to apply the occasional bandaid or mop up the wet sidewalk chalk footprints they track through the house.
Otherwise, I am Mom. I am Old. I am not invited to live inside their wonderful magical world, but I feel mighty privileged to be the Ambassador.