Written by Emily
I’m standing on the inside looking out. My children are framed by the window: a picture of childhood perfection. They’re laughing and playing together without my guidance or assistance. It’s a thing of beauty, really. I’m inside. They’re out. And suddenly I can breathe.
I am not an avid outdoorswoman (how is this not a word when outdoorsman is a word?!). The idea of camping appeals to me more than actual camping. I like camp fires and strolls outside, but I don’t care for mosquitoes or things without legs that live in the dirt. But I want my kids to play outside. I want them to be explorers or ninjas or princesses or any number of things…outside. I want them to get sweaty and stinky and dirty and tired. Outside. Without me.
I like them, sure, but let’s be honest: summer days are long, and I would be lying if I said there aren’t moments or ten when I feel my heart racing because I’m out of ideas.
And then I remember that my parents didn’t entertain me. I remember the pile on the green shag carpet in our childhood living room but only because we sat on it on Saturday mornings when we were allowed to hunker down to watch He-Man battle Skeletor and the Smurfs outsmart Gargamel. The rest of the day, the rest of my life was spent outside having picnics with imaginary friends beneath our mimosa tree. It was spent digging for crayfish at a creek blocks from our house. It was spent scaring myself in the woods while I crafted elaborate tales about the old man who walked his dog in front of our house but never said a word. It was snow cones made of actual snow. It was squash the lemon on the slide and hide and seek. It was bike rides and bug bites, tag and the feet-flailing, hand-burning victory of getting across the monkey bars.
My little ones are too small to play blocks away, but they can adventure in the fenced-in backyard, where there are plenty of opportunities for mud and trouble.
But I’ve had to force them. I’ve had to push them out the door and plant seeds of secret missions waiting for them. I’ve had to create the narrative for their imaginations.
And then American Ninja Warrior swooped in like a caped crusader and saved summer. We watch together and cheer from the couch. We choose our favorite athletes and gasp when they fall to their watery demise after training for so long. I see my kids light up when someone makes it to the end of the course–possibilities, hope, ideas percolating behind their eyes.
“Let’s play American Ninja Warrior!”
And just like that they’re out.
From the window, I watch my two bigs create elaborate obstacle courses and cheer each other on with unbridled enthusiasm. They jump from high places and over push toys and toddler basketball hoops. They swing faster than I’ve ever seen them swing. I bite my tongue. They set records in their minds and interview one another at the end of each course:
“I’ve been training on the jumps, but swinging is all grip strength.”
I’m ignoring the fact that Chloe dedicated one of her runs to her deceased mother. Hey, I’m on the inside looking out, and I’m happy there.
When they come in for dinner, they’re hot and sweaty and laughing and “Mom, you have got to see this!”
I did see it. From the window. Looking out. Exactly as it should be.
Suddenly, I love summer.