Prescribing Joy: Letting the good times roll
Catherine (Ten Thousand Hour Mama) and I became blog friends after a mutual acquaintance shared one of her posts with me. We’ve only met once in person, but meet in heart/words as often as our demanding schedules enable.
She blogs about motherhood–the good, the bad, and the messy enough to require a garden hose. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two girls and dog. For craft ideas, parenting tips and the reassuring knowledge that you’re not the only one who swears in front of the littles, read along or follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Letting the good times roll
The other day I met a friend and her kids at a park across town. The playground sat at the top of an enormous hill. Peeper, my almost-three-year-old, watched as my friend’s kids rolled down the hill, giggling.
“Do you want to give it a try, too?” I asked my daughter. She is sometimes shy around other kids, often preferring to talk with adults or older children.
“Yes,” she finally said.
Another little girl tried to explain the mechanics of rolling down the hill. Peeper watched and tried it herself, but she still had a hard time.
“Mama, will you show me?” she asked.
I’m not sure about you, but the last time I rolled down a hill was circa 1990. But I’d do just about anything for my munchkin, so I got down on the grass. I lay down on my side. And I started to roll.
As the world spun around me and I gained momentum, I began to laugh. Really laugh. Within a few revolutions I was laughing with complete abandon.
I came to a stop where the hill leveled out and I sat up. I looked to the top of the hill, still laughing. Peeper was watching me, a big smile on her face. My friend and her kids were grinning, too. Unsteadily, I got to my feet and walked up the hill to help her do the same.
Seeing an old hill-roller helped her figure out how to do it herself. She liked it, but she was content to stop after a few gos. She moved on to climbing the spider web-like ropes and zipping down the slide.
We didn’t stay much longer; we drove home for lunch, my almost-one-year-old’s naps and the more mundane parts of the day.
Later in the day, I squirmed as I felt something poke my back. I took off my sweatshirt and pulled out a sharp piece of grass—leftovers from my roll. I smiled, temporarily transported back to the sunny morning.
For just a few seconds, I had given in to the freedom of being a child. I had followed an impulse (it was my daughter’s, not mine, but still—it was spontaneous). I had let go of a grown-up’s inhibitions (What do you mean adults don’t roll down hills? Watch me!). And I had enjoyed something pure and joyful.
Here’s where a grown-up’s filters kick in. You rolled down a hill; you didn’t do anything spectacular, a voice in my head chides me. You’re reading too much into it. Get over yourself.
In some ways, its very un-spectacular-ness is why a 32-year-old rolling down a hill is so wonderful. Because there’s nothing remarkable about a kid letting go and doing something just for the fun of it.
We could all stand to be un-spectacular like that. My girls constantly experience the joy in the moment: Peeper paints her entire body with watercolors because she likes the patterns and the tickly feeling on her skin. Lately Kiwi pauses in her play to lay her head down on the ground, we think just to feel the sensation of whatever is below her: carpet, our dog’s back, the wet pavement at the splash pad.
That’s what I did on the park hill, if even for just a few seconds. I let go—of judgment, of ideas of what I “should” do, of the separation that keeps us parents on the ground instead of on the monkey bars. As gravity took over and pulled me down the hill, I gave up control.
I won’t spend every day rolling down hills—or pulling pokey sticks and grass out of my clothes. That’s ok. But every so often, even for just a few seconds, I’ll surrender to the joyous momentum of living and laughing like a child.