Last week, it rained. It wasn’t a big storm and it didn’t last long, but it was just enough to feed the flowers and the trees.
Enough to fill holes in the streets and the many divots and cracks along the sidewalk.
Enough to wet my sneakers and soak my socks.
As soon as I felt the cool water between my toes, I became wet and was instantly annoyed (I hate soggy shoes). I was tired and frustrated and had a million things to do. There were dishes to wash and clothes to fold. I had an article due before bed, and I wanted to go inside. I just wanted to get home.
My daughter had other plans.
You see, where I saw an obstacle, my 2-year-old saw potential. Where I saw puddles, my daughter saw possibilities. So, she jumped right in.
She kicked and jumped, splashed and laughed.
Initially, I told her to stop. I mean, she wasn’t wearing her rain boots or a waterproof jacket. There were cigarette butts on the ground, along with bottlecaps and a few plastic wrappers, and she was going to get dirty. She was going to get messy and muddy — and so wet.
But, less than a second before I grabbed her arm and opened my mouth, I heard it: I heard her high-pitched giggle. She was shrieking with delight. So, I stopped.
Dead in my tracks, I stopped and watched her.
I watched her curly blonde hair bounce up and down — the small ringlets swallowed her face as the water swallowed her toes, but she kept laughing.
A big, toothy grin stretched across her face.
I don’t ever recall loving the rain. Being a Floridian, I loved the water — I loved swimming in pools and the Gulf and the southernmost part of the Atlantic — but puddles? I don’t think I ever loved getting my hair messy or my clothes wet.
My grandmother used to say “Kimberly, you’re not going to melt,” and of course, she was right. I wasn’t water soluble or made of sugar.
As I looked at my daughter, her words echoed in my mind.
So what was I doing? Why was I stopping my daughter from dancing in the rain? From playing in a few puddles?
Sure, there were the aforementioned chores, but the truth is I didn’t know. I couldn’t come up with one good reason why I shouldn’t let her splash and play, so I sat down on the curb beside her and pulled out my cell phone. I snapped pictures while she slapped the water with her hands and with those thin rubber soles.
The truth is my little girl is going to grow up quickly — she is already growing up too quickly — and before long, that puddle will become an annoyance. Before long, the rain will become bothersome. And before long, she will loathe wet socks.
She, too, will loathe wet shoes.
But today wasn’t that day.
So instead of stopping her, I let her play. Instead of stopping her, I stopped myself. I suspended “adulthood” for a few minutes and I splashed alongside her.
We ran and laughed and tracked our muddy footprints all across the concrete. Because life is fleeting.
Because innocence is fleeting.
Make no mistake: parenting isn’t easy and sometimes life happens. There isn’t always time to stop and play in puddles because life can — and will — get in the way. But on this day, and in this moment, I had a choice: I could clean my kitchen or step back and take it all in.
I could sit on the sidelines or get my feet wet.
I chose to get my feet wet.
So to you, my sweet baby girl, I say this: May you always enjoy the promise of an empty laundry basket or cardboard box. Seriously. I want you to fly to the moon or sail across the kitchen floor, protecting your father and I from a band of unruly pirates or the Loch Ness Monster.
May you always see animals in the sky and imaginary friends on the ceiling.
May you always enjoy the simplicity that comes from snuggling on a sick day, or sharing ice cream after you get a shot, and may you always see potential in puddles.
Don’t worry about the mess; it’s OK. We can clean it up later. I promise, we can clean it up later.
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