The essence of childhood


Earlier this month, the Northeast enjoyed some warmer January weather, with temps reaching well into the 60s.

While I appreciated the much needed break from winter’s icy bite, it was the resulting flash of motherly perspective that left me truly grateful.

It was a lazy Sunday morning. With no friends around to play with, my children were getting bored and restless, which meant mama was getting irritated and ornery. So I instructed them to get dressed, brush their teeth and head outside toss the football around. Surprisingly, the agreed.

As they grabbed their jackets and sneaks and bolted out the door, I grabbed my laptop and bills and planted myself at my dining room table for an afternoon of grunt work. The window open beside me, I listened to the cheerful sound of children at play as I plugged away at the dreary task at hand.

It was a touch of Spring, smack dab in the middle of what has already proven to be a depressing winter.

After about a half hour, it started to drizzle. I expected at any moment to hear the sound of my front door as the children ran for cover. But they played on.

I’d better call them in, I thought as the rain increased in intensity. Just as I started to rise from my chair, I stopped for a minute, staring out the window, and just observed. My boys were splashing and running and jumping. They were laughing and shouting and bantering. They were kicking up mud and muck behind them as they ran, getting absolutely filthy—but loving every moment of it.

It suddenly occurred to me: This is the stuff of childhood.

So I let them play—and I watched.

I watched as they engaged in a rainy day snowball fight with what was left of the melting snow.

Rain1I watched as they planned out their attacks and constructed makeshift shields. I watched as they formed a united front against their mother when they realized I’d begun snapping pics. I watched as they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, without arguing or bickering or tattling. It was just good, old-fashioned outdoor play.


I was reveling in the magic of their youth. Sure, they were soaked through. Sure, I’d have to do an immediate load of laundry on the double rinse cycle with an extra shot of OxiClean. Sure, they’d be headed straight to a hot shower and instructed to clean every crevice imaginable.

But wasn’t it worth it?

Wasn’t it worth watching the boys be boys? Wasn’t it worth watching the brothers be brothers? Wasn’t it worth the profound reminder that kids should be able to truly enjoy their youth?

For me, every second was worth it.

So much in life is structured and tied to rules. Why not let them cut loose and go against the grain once in a while? Why not let them enjoy an unseasonably warm rain shower in the middle of winter? I mean, what is childhood if not a colorful tapestry of abundant laughter, carefree play and a little mud?

But for the educators committed to the well being of each and every student, engaging in such discourse can set the stage for supporting a diverse school community, including students, staff, teachers, and administrators


  1. Dirty children are my favorite. Truly. I love that you captured that day and shared it with us!

  2. It is summer here in Little Old South Africa and we have had one of our warmest summers ever. And we have what we call Red Tide, which is plankton that covers the ocean and turns red in the sun. However, at night, this plankton starts to glow, but it has to be really dark and really late in order to see the phosphorescence. So, what did we do? We took Baby Girl to the beach – rather late – with some friends and looked for the phosphorescence. She loved it. The kids just played and rolled down the sandunes, and played in the water. It was about 30 degrees celcius last night – very, very hot. And although it was a school night, I am so glad we did that, because all four the children (all Singletons) absolutely loved it. They had so much fun.

  3. Just an update: we went again last night and it the phosphorescence was so strong that our feet glowed on the sand as we walked. It was stunning… 🙂

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