Thursday, December 6


There are two things that my 22-month-old son loves above all others: cars, and being outside. In fact, except for "mama" and "dada", "cars" and "outside" are his most-used words. Cars is always said as an exclamation. Silas lives in a charmed world where his very favorite thing not only litters every surface of his house (or so it seems to his mama), but also appears at every turn when we are out in the world, and this never fails to surprise and delight him. Cars! Outside is always a question, as in, Mama, are we going outside already?

I always wanted us to be an outside kind of family. We have a little over an acre--it's scrappy, but it's ours. I always imagined a garden and chickens and goats and children running free and happy among them. Reality's always a kicker. After another drought year the garden is all but abandoned and choked with weeds. We do have an almost-completed goat house, and a finished chicken cottage, but no hoofed or feathered friends yet. And, in the blasted heat and absence of rain that characterizes life in Texas, it turns out that going outside? is more complicated for this mama than just stepping out the door.

Silas does get plenty of time to roam the property freely, to investigate every stone and stick and dig in dirt patches--with his daddy. My husband grew up in Texas, and his youthful days in Scouts, and current work as an arborist, make him uniquely suited to life out of doors in these parts. Plus, he has stuff to do outside. While Silas wanders around, he is busy mending fences or clearing brush, and in this manner they both spend hours happily occupied. They don't care that the ground is cracked and dry. When I'm outside with Silas, I do nothing but stand around and worry about him getting messy. Not as fun, for either of us.

But it is clear that being outside? is of tremendous benefit, for me as well as for my boys. Yesterday, after a mile-long stroller walk down the road, we spent a good half-hour outside, doing what Silas loves to do best: wander, wonder, get dirty, chase the dog, be happy. He messed about in a pile of dirt, then splashed around in the fresh water I'd poured for the dog. He climbed his little fort and ran his car back and forth across the top, then slid down to the ground. When it was time for lunch, I stripped him out of his dirty clothes, we had a blast washing our hands at the kitchen sink, then he ate hungrily and napped soundly. And I got to soak up some sun, and begin to learn the long lesson about being less rigid and worried, about letting go and laughing more. It was a morning well-spent. I look forward to more of the same--outside.

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