Over spring break, Dave and I and our four boys met up with some dear friends of ours at an amusement park. With the age split of our children, Dave decided to take the older kids on some rollercoasters, while my friend and I took the littles to the playground area. On our way to the playground, my four year-old, Chandler, spotted a walkway with a huge red sign that said “Watch Out. Splash Zone”–not exactly my idea of fun.
Chandler can’t read yet, but I could see his little mind trying to figure out why the sign was there. About a minute later, a rollercoaster car whooshed down and slid through a small body of water nearby, and the impending splash came like a tidal wave towards us.
Chandler’s eyes were wide open, and his grin slowly grew until you could see every tooth in his smile. I hadn’t packed swimsuits or towels, so I grabbed Chandler, and my friend pushed the stroller, as quickly got out of the way.
Chandler laughed as he watched a few “big” kids get soaked. I told him to come along so we could go to the playground for kids his age, but he just stood there and waited for the next splash in his best Superman stance while gradually edging closer and closer to the biggest splash zone.
Normally, his unwillingness to follow directions would erk me, but he was so excited, so brave, so cavelier and ready to withstand the big splash, so I figured, “Why not?”. I chose to stay in the “dry area” with the baby and my friend…putting myself in the position to get a good view of Chandler from afar.
I had my cell phone ready to capture the moment, but part of me was dreading the tantrum that I was certain Chandler would have after getting soaked by a sudden harsh wave of water.
But, that look–that bravery and excitement in his eyes made me want to give this and him a chance. And, so I did.
Soon, we heard the screech of the oncoming rollercoaster and the high-pitch screams of the passengers as they took a sharp turn into the water. Chandler was unscathed by it all. In fact, he positioned himself right in the middle of the biggest splash zone—feet planted, glimmer in his eyes, shoulders back, and smiling ear-to-ear.
Right before the splash, he looked back at me with his eyebrows raised and yelled, “Mom! It’s coming!”. And, before I could answer him….SPLASH! He was overtaken with water to the point that I was worried about his little body being knocked down by it all.
When the splash droplets cleared a bit, I saw a few kids running to their parents crying and a few angry parents running away with them and shaking their heads at themselves for missing the big red sign. Then, right there in the middle of it all—with no one beside him—I saw Chandler. I snapped a picture right before he started walking my way while attempting to wring our his shirt. “That was AWESOME, Mom,” he said, “I want to do it again! But, next time I want YOU to come with me.”
Then he said, “Be brave, Mommy. I will be with you.”
How could I say no to that?
I was so proud of my little man for being so brave, and I wanted to show him that mommy could be brave too. But in all honesty, I didn’t want to get wet right then and there. All I could think about was how uncomfortable I might be the rest of the day and how I didn’t have an extra pair of shoes and dry clothes with me. Yet, there he was looking up at me…all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and simply wanting me—ME—to experience the big splash with him.
I looked at my friend, and she quickly said, “Go ahead! I will stay with the baby.” I asked her if she was sure she didn’t mind, and I saw that the baby was starting to fuss a bit. But, just as I began to decline Chandler’s request, I stopped myself.
I felt God nudging me and saying, “Go ahead, Ashley! You don’t want to miss this.”
So, I took Chandler’s hand, and we walked over to the soaking area and waited. We quickly heard the rollercoaster car coming towards the water and braced ourselves to be immersed. The water hit us like a gust of wind and little droplets were all around us. Chandler clung tightly to me and squealed with delight. We were completely soaked…shoes and all. Chandler laughed histerically when he saw how drenched I was. I couldn’t help but laugh too. We were a mess—squishy shoes and sopping wet clothes, but we had a blast together.
As we continued about the amusement park, it hit me—How many “splash zone experiences” have I missed with my kids? How many times had I turned my kids down because I didn’t want to “get wet”? How many times have I been so task-oriented that I failed to immerse myself in the goodness, innocence, and sticky-sweetness of their childhood.
If I’m honest, I’d have to say I’ve missed a lot of those moments.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’ve been there. I’ve been present watching from the sidelines and cheering them on— all good things. But, there have been many times when my sweet kiddos have begged me to do more than just watch them—wanting me to experience the joy of playing with them—and I have failed to see the value in that. I’ve told myself all the reasons why I’m too busy to stop and play. I mean, I’ve got things to do, right? I’ve got to do laundry, help with homework, run children here and there, get my work done, make calls, answer emails, and find time to engage with my sweet husband too. I’ve got my list, and most days, I’m just too busy to play for long…if at all.
Can you relate, Sweet Mama? Have you been there too? I say all this not to make myself or anyone else feel bad, but to remind us all that childhood is a fleeting season that we don’t want to miss. Let’s not be afraid to get wet, dig in the dirt, and be dripping with sweat. Let’s engage in play MORE than we watch from the sidelines.
There’s only so many years when they actually think we’re cool enough to participate anyway. But, when we do, we’ll experience the real magic of childhood through their eyes. Let’s not miss out on this amazing gift. Be brave, Mommy. Be brave.
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