Today was my son’s end of trimester, and he is more than ready for his two week Spring Break. His school usually does a huge formal gathering where students show off their term’s accomplishments, and this creates a great deal of stress for him. He does not cope well with the concept of “deadline,” even when he is ahead of schedule and knows exactly what he needs to do and how to do it. While the school adapted their learning celebration format for the end of the winter term in December, they made this one a “family only” presentation and encouraged kids to show off their work on their own. This, of course, was immediately abandoned as soon as the school day ended in favor of iPad games and playing Minecraft with his best friend, three miles and an entire pandemic year away.
Minus the stress of school and upcoming deadlines, he played for a while but then was easily coaxed into some chores and playing outside. It’s spring, so it started raining again today, but hardy Pacific Northwest kids handle playing outside in the rain just fine. (Okay, they USED to handle it fine. Now they whine and want to stay inside and play Minecraft, but hardy Pacific Northwest moms make them go outside anyway.) Since our backyard is liberally strewn with all kinds of bizarre boy debris, he had a lot of material to work with, and randomly decided to set up a rainfall musical instrument show. He lined up all kinds of different surfaces, different materials, sizes, weights, and combinations of layering along the drip line from the edge of the garage, endlessly tinkering and plinking to get the exact sounds that he wanted from each upturned plastic bin, metal pan, squashed tin can, and so forth. When he had everything “tuned” to his satisfaction, he called me outside to hear the performance. Of course, it immediately stopped raining, but since it is supposed to rain for the next week (which is what spring break is for, right? Wet feet and dreary weather?), there will be ample opportunity for an encore performance.
My son, although easily frustrated in school, is never short of ideas when he has control of his agenda, so he was only stumped for a moment. The rain orchestra was left to its own rain free devices and he began to mess around with his trampoline and his super soaker squirt gun. This time, when he came inside to request my presence outside, he brought in the squirt gun, and with his inborn heritage of talking wildly with hands, he gesticulated with the squirt gun and demonstrated how he would move and shoot it. By squirting water across my living room. After THAT was dealt with, I sent him BACK OUTSIDE, and joined him a few minutes later. He was jumping quite enthusiastically on his trampoline, and I discovered that I got to be in charge of the squirt gun. Hehehehe.
Do you know the game “Helicopter”? He learned this one in his activity classes when he was little, and continued it as an agility exercise during his Parkour classes at the beloved gym, now a casualty of the pandemic closures. He has not attempted any of those games and exercises for months, so I was a bit surprised when he informed me that we would play helicopter. If you are unfamiliar with this game, kids line up and a grownup with a pool noodle swings the noodle above their heads, at their knee level, or along the floor by their feet, and the kids need to dexterously jump, twirl, or duck continuously to avoid being tapped by the pool noodle. It’s hilarious, and hard work. My job was to spray the water across the trampoline so he could jump and duck and try not to get hit. I was instructed to only fill it up with warm water from inside or it would not be fair, and we got started. I sprayed water every which way, mainly getting him wet, because it is very hard to jump over a stream of water above a black trampoline on a gray and cloudy afternoon. It turns out that water is basically invisible! Who knew? He got soaked legs and a ton of jumping, and we both laughed until my husband came outside and called us both hyenas. I couldn’t keep it up as long as he would have liked, between the dual inconveniences of not being ten and having pneumonia, but it was a great way to draw a line under a few difficult weeks and face forward to some time off.
Rain orchestras and helicopter. Never underestimate the joyful release of playing outside.