I knew my tub of Snickers ice cream was melting in the back of my car, but I really didn’t care. I had promised Maysen that she could go to the playground if she behaved herself at Target. Of course, I had to have about 8 different snacks and a lollipop to keep her quiet in the cart, but she was good, so I had to fulfill my promise.
“Only a half hour at the playground then we go home for your nap.”
“Only a half hour,” she said pensively. She was quiet for a minute, then she said, “How ’bout Maysie skip her nap today.”
Why does this kid know how to communicate so well? She speaks in full sentences. Yesterday on the way to the park she said, “Playground with the happy face on the tree, where are you? Playing peek-a-boo?” Is this normal conversational skill for a 26 month old kid?
Anyways, so we went to the playground. May played and played and then noticed that the little water spigot by the sand box was running. Usually it’s one of those things that you have to push the button really hard to get a little squirt of water out, but for some reason it was jammed today. Evidently water had been running for quite some time because there was a little river in the sand box that led to a very large puddle.
Of course, surely because she was wearing her white boots, Maysen wasn’t happy stepping over the river or carefully circumnavigating the puddle like all of the other kids. She had to test out the splashability. At first she just kindof tapped her toe on the edge of the puddle. Then she slowly let her foot go a little further until she found that she could stand in the middle of the puddle without falling. She started investigating the different ways of splashing. There was a clomp, clomp, clomp as she alternated stamping each foot. Then she realized that if she jumped, she could make really, really big splashes.
Then I don’t know what got into her. Maybe I should have stopped her. She started spinning around in the sand-mud-puddle, then bending over and spinning so that her balance was all off. Then, the inevitable happened. She fell over. Luckily she landed so that her butt was on the edge of the puddle, so she was still somewhat dry. But then she started splashing with her hands. I could see the thoughts running through her head, the different sensations she was feeling, the different textures, the curiosity, the exhiliration of making a mess doing something that you’re probably not supposed to be doing.
She looked up at me with the biggest, most beautiful grin, and all I could do was smile back. What could I do? Take her out of the puddle right in the middle of her discovering how fun it was? I decided to let her play. And play she did. She stood up, spun, jumped, danced, yelled, “it’s dancy dance time!” and then plopped down on her butt right in the middle of the puddle. Kids started staring. Parents started staring. I heard a 5-year-old in a glittery pink princess dress yell, “eeew! She’s playing in the mud! She’s getting all dirty! It’s in her boots!” Four little girls all lined up in a semi-circle around the puddle completely flabbergasted that this little kid was getting so messy. It was like they had never splashed in a puddle in their lives, because, why would you actually want to get so wet and messy?
Maysen noticed them staring at her and stopped for a second, looked up at them, giggling, and then jumped and splashed as high as she could. The girls squealed as the mud barely missed their feet. They asked me how I was going to get her in the car. “I don’t know, I guess I’ll have to take her clothes off.” I could tell that the girls’ mom/chaperone couldn’t tell if she should judge me for letting my kid get so messy and set such a bad example for the other kids or if she was secretly envious of my little mud ball. I heard her tell one of the girls that it was okay, sometimes mud can be fun.
I was so bummed, though. I ALWAYS have my camera on me, but today I had left it in the car. I figured I could go for a half hour without taking any pictures. Lesson learned. It was such a beautiful sight to see all these 4- and 5-year-old princesses’ expressions of complete awe as my little Maysie grinned and giggled as she got as dirty as possible. They looked at her as if she was doing something totally weird and wrong, like, say, shoving pebbles up her nose.
When she stuck her face in the puddle, I called it quits. Of course I had to drag her away kicking and screaming, literally, and getting mud on myself in the process. We went to a little patch of grass and I took her muddy, sopping clothes off. She giggled some more and ran around in circles, letting the warm sun dry the muddy water off of her.
It was such unfettered freedom and joy for her, and for me as a spectator. I knew she was going to be a huge mess, as would my car, but I didn’t care. This, I thought to myself, is one of those moments of pure joy to remember. It’s the kind of moment that a grown-up can only experience vicariously. Who cares if my ice cream becomes its own sticky puddle in the car? These are the moments that matter.