One of the biggest perks of living in Mulletville Lite (besides not being robbed by crackheads) is that the park and playground are within walking distance—assuming, of course, that you want to walk.
Today I did; Junior did not. Halfway there I had to piggyback him—uphill—while pushing the stroller.
I now have a kink in my small intestine.
But we made it.
It has rained all week and I'd assumed the playground would be dry. It was, except for a few deep puddles under the slides.
Guess where everyone wanted to play, even though there was a playground of swings, slides and monkey bars?
Ding! Ding! Why, in the mud of course.
After being at the playground for a few minutes I could see it was divided into two camps: those who were letting their children play in the mud, and those who were not. As Junior stood at the puddle's perimeter and watched to see my expression, I realized I had to choose a camp.
Everyone was watching.
I stepped back and weighed the pros and cons.
The puddle was deep. Junior would be wet up to the knee. But it was a nice day. He'd be warm. The non-mud people seemed annoyed by their children's gravitation toward the puddle, despite their threats of "We're going to leave if you step foot in that puddle." Did I want to spend the next hour yelling? No.
A girl was making mud stew. Maybe Junior would like to play with her. But his shoes. They'd be caked with thick brown mud. That non-mud mother who told her son he couldn't get dirty because he wasn't wearing his mud boots might have a point.
Wait, what the hell? You can only play in mud if you're wearing mud boots? That kid was definitely going to have issues later in life.
But yuck. Who knew how long the puddles had been there. Don't bacteria grow in stagnant water? Is that why that other mom told her kid she couldn't drink her juice box if she put her hands in that mud? Is that why she was dousing her with hand sanitizer?
Oh, Jesus. I'd never gotten sick from playing in the mud. Junior wouldn't. Mud was fun. Playing in mud was fun for children. What kind of mother did I want to be? One who worried about the consequences of mud or one who let her child explore and get dirt under his nails?
"Go ahead Junior. You can go in the—"
I looked up. Junior was ankle-deep in the muck, pretending to feed grass to a pit of alligators. I can't be sure, but I think 45 minutes had passed since I'd embarked on my inner Tour de Mud journey.
Some might call my soul searching freakish, but I wanted to write this post for myself. I want to remember to let go of the "nos" and "don'ts." I don't want Junior to need special boots to play. I want to remember that Junior is a young boy who needs to connect with nature in a tactile way and who needs to relish the cool splattering of mud on a spring day.
I want to remember, always, that this is the good stuff. The letting go. The freedom.
The mud streaks on my shirt as I piggybacked Junior home and his shoes and pants gripped my waist.
Glorious ^%#&ing mud.