Good, clean fun

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twitter: @right­meg

It was quite the grimy week­end. I’m told I must get used to be­ing a “boy mom,” and my son cer­tainly has an affin­ity for filth al­ready. I grew up as one of two sis­ters who might as well have been wear­ing frilly lace pet­ti­coats, we were so girly; I stayed far away from dust, dirt and “boy things,” what­ever that meant from one day to the next.

The only time I touched a G.I. Joe was to have him marry Bar­bie in a sim­ple, rus­tic cer­e­mony on the porch of my grand­par­ents’ house. Katie and I went there daily af­ter school and played with the two Matthews (Big Matt and Lit­tle Matt, re­spec­tively), who also at­tended Gram’s daycare, but our worlds were of­ten sep­a­rate.

Un­less the sprin­kler was in­volved.

Grow­ing up in South­ern Mary­land, we all know that sticky sum­mer af­ter­noons turn neigh­bor­hoods into waste­lands. Hu­mid­ity thicker than fleece; blaz­ing sun that scorches more than warms. But a gag­gle of kids can’t be kept in­side all day. Gram would set us up in the shade with kick­ball, color­ing books or bub­bles.

And on the hottest af­ter­noons? She’d pull out a yard sprin­kler, more com­monly used to keep my grand­fa­ther’s grass look­ing im­mac­u­late. We’d run around like wild an­i­mals. The sprin­kler os­cil­lated, so we’d take turns shout­ing and high-step­ping as the wa­ter came to­ward us. In­evitably some­one would get pushed, but it was all in good fun. Even the blades of damp grass stuck to our bare feet.

That level of “dirt­i­ness,” if you can even call it that, is about all I’ve ever tol­er­ated. You would never find me fling­ing mud. My jeans? Im­pres­sively neat. I never played long or hard enough to earn rips, tears or stains.

I’ve shared my love of the vast, air-con­di­tioned in­doors be­fore. My hus­band and I make at­tempts at “get­ting out in na­ture” (read: walking well­worn paths in parks) oc­ca­sion­ally, but they don’t last long. The most time I ever spend out­side hap­pens when I go for a walk around our of­fice park, and that’s about 90 per­cent con­crete. The rest? Dash­ing in and out of my car for cof­fee.

That’s not to say that I don’t en­joy be­ing out­side — in small bursts. My 2-year-old son has dis­cov­ered blow­ing bub­bles on the deck and run­ning on side­walks, his new fa­vorite pas­times, so I’m spend­ing more time in the sun­shine than ever be­fore (with sun­screen, of course).

My love/hate re­la­tion­ship with na­ture is def­i­nitely bug-re­lated. It might seem like I’m ex­ag­ger­at­ing when I talk about my fear of crawly, winged things, but the anx­i­ety is real. I am try­ing to con­quer it. I mean, but­ter­flies and la­dy­bugs — they’re our friends. I guess the bees are, too, but the sting­ing re­ally puts me off invit­ing them to the bar­be­cue, you know?

Sun­day was nice. Af­ter run­ning some er­rands, we got home with baby Hadley still snooz­ing in her carseat. That’s a rar­ity — and an op­por­tu­nity to do some yard work as a fam­ily.

Be­fore kids, my hus­band and I tack­led most chores to­gether. If he was do­ing laun­dry, I was sep­a­rat­ing the whites. If I was chop­ping vegeta­bles for din­ner, he would add them to the skil­let. If he was work­ing in the garage, I would be . . . OK, well, not work­ing in the garage. But maybe nearby, of­fer­ing wa­ter or some­thing.

Two ba­bies later, the idea of both of us han­dling a chore si­mul­ta­ne­ously is sweet. If we have to co­or­di­nate bath­room breaks, I can’t imag­ine how we could pos­si­bly work on paint­ing a spare room or pulling weeds to­gether. I usu­ally com­man­deer our tod­dler while Spencer has the baby, and then we switch. When I leave the room for 15 sec­onds, I tell Oliver “not to do any­thing crazy.” And you know what he does? Some­thing crazy.

But Ol­lie has been easy­go­ing re­cently. It’s awe­some, espe­cially given how much we must tend to Hadley — but kind of freak­ing me out. The head-bang­ing tem­per tantrums are slow­ing as his lan­guage im­proves, so he can tell us what he wants in­stead of mak­ing us guess (wrongly, of course). “Ap­ple juice” was his first twoword phrase. Ol­lie might not eat much, but the kid can drink.

Be­cause he was late to start mov­ing, I think, Oliver is very cau­tious — espe­cially when walking out­side. While he loves the play­ground, he’s mostly a peo­ple-watcher: con­tent to laugh at the an­tics of big­ger kids while keep­ing a safe dis­tance. I don’t have to worry about him run­ning up a slide or leap­ing from mon­key bars (yet).

Ol­lie is fine with a lit­tle dirt, though. Un­like his mother, sweat and sand and stick­i­ness don’t trou­ble him.

As Spencer and I were out­side clean­ing the sid­ing Sun­day, Ol­lie was try­ing to get into the bucket of soapy wa­ter. When that failed, he tried to com­man­deer the long-han­dled brush to dip it into the bucket — and drenched him­self in the process. He ran through the yard, kicked at the grass. His can­vas sneak­ers aren’t long for this world. And his arms, hair, face — all streaked with sweat and dirt.

He got so grimy that I wanted to wrap the af­ter­noon up and march him straight to the bath­tub. But “he’s a boy,” Spencer said. “He’s go­ing to get dirty. It’s OK.”

Girls can get grimy, too, of course; that’s just a con­cept lost on me. I’ve spent my life try­ing not to get wet, sticky, sandy or shel­lacked with filth, so see­ing my tiny crea­ture stomp in mud makes me phys­i­cally re­coil.

Af­ter yard work, Spencer had the idea to dig out a kid­die pool and let Oliver kick around on the deck. Spence did the heavy lift­ing while I stayed back with the baby, given that was the splash zone. And the bug zone. (I still man­aged to earn 10 mos­quito bites in the short bursts I was in and out, re­in­forc­ing how I like the out­doors: best viewed through a plate glass win­dow.)

With Ol­lie hap­pily sail­ing his toy boats through choppy kid­made cur­rents, I couldn’t miss an op­por­tu­nity to multi-task. I grabbed sham­poo while Spencer poured bub­ble bath un­der the run­ning hose. Suds went every­where, over­flow­ing onto the deck — like some­thing out of “Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory.” Our son was ab­so­lutely de­lighted.

The best of all worlds: splish-splashing Ol­lie was “mak­ing a mess,” so he was hav­ing the time of his life. In re­al­ity, an hour in the sudsy pool and that kid was so clean he prac­ti­cally squeaked. Two birds, one stone. See? We can be cool par­ents. Just don’t ask me to run un­der that hose.

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