Puddle Jumping

Mar 21

Image by Janet Ramsden

On Sunday mornings, some people go to church. I go to the grocery store.

The boys take turns coming along, clamoring for the chance to spend some time alone with me – and for the chance to get a free cookie from the ladies behind the bakery counter.

This Sunday morning, my two year old joined me. After gathering my coupons and grocery bags and buckling him into his carseat, we headed for the store. The day that had started out hazy and unseasonably hot turned angry as we drove the short distance to the store. The skies opened just as we were dashing through the parking lot.

Soggy, frustrated (I dried my hair this morning with a round brush and now I look like a wet dog!), trying to decipher the smudged writing on my list, I was decidedly grumpy by the time we reached the dairy section. My impatience only grew as I looked for Little Brother’s favorite yogurt, nowhere to be found. A friendly voice called my name just then and I rearranged my face into a smile before looking up and into the eyes of an acquaintance from my old book club.

A fellow mom of three, she is the kind of woman I admire: kind, funny, patient, ready to play Legos or tennis or read for hours. I hadn’t seen her in a long time, but was glad to find her this morning – a bit of sunshine among the clouds.

She caught me up on her boys. One was getting ready for spring Little League, but couldn’t manage to connect bat with ball. Another was waking up with crusty eyes due to food allergies. Her eldest was having trouble with an older kid on the bus. Although she only spoke for a minute, I could hear the exhaustion in her voice, how badly she wanted to help her kids and how hard it was for her to feel like she couldn’t.

“And how about you guys?” she asked. “How’s it going?”

Little Brother answered for me then, a grin stretching across his face, the chocolate from his cookie a clown’s make-up around his lips: “We just ran through a puddle and got all wet!”

If I had answered before him, I might have told her that Baby Sister had been waking up way too early for the past few weeks and that she doesn’t really eat anything except for Cheerios, that the boys are driving me nuts with their constant wrestling, that I haven’t had enough time to write. That it was pouring rain when we were running into the store and now I’m steaming inside my slicker.

But I didn’t. Instead I smiled at him and at her and said, “We’re great.”

And then I offered up a silent prayer of thanks, so brief it didn’t register until later. For this moment of parenting, when problems are confined to the four walls of our house and the puddles outside them. For tiredness that comes from too many readings of Knuffle Bunny and too many games of Nerf basketball. For bruises that can be cured with a hug.

Because I suspect that it’s never going to get any easier than this moment, right now.

The storm burst was over by the time I wheeled our full shopping cart into the parking lot. I unloaded our bags into the trunk, then ferried Little Brother over to the cart corral. A giant puddle pooled in the space between the corral and our car. We could have gone the long way around, but we were a few minutes from home, where bathtubs and dry socks and the rest of our family were waiting for us.

So we held hands. And we jumped right in.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey March 21, 2012 at 9:01 am

Love this. And I think you’re right, that it isn’t going to get easier … in some ways, sure, but the problems get more complicated and thorny, I suspect. Next time I’m grouchy and feeling the undertow of misery and complaint pulling me down, I’ll think of you in the puddle and smile. xox

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Nichole Bernier March 21, 2012 at 9:35 am

Your headline caught my eye on Twitter because I wonder that often: As the kids get older is it going to be easier or harder? I should know by now; with five kids ages 2-11 I have a sense of the elementary school terrain. But not middle school, high school, teen years, college.

I think we can only operate one day at a time, with hope and hopefully love. And hopefully sometimes the friendly face in the dairy section. But what I’ve learned is that the friendly face in the grocery store is only useful if they’re honest and so are we. This is a lesson I learned writing my novel, coming out in June. Because while sometimes acting like we’re fine can buoy us up sometimes it also makes us feel like we’re sinking alone.

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Kristen March 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

You’re really onto something when you talk about the importance of honesty in our interactions, Nichole. Right after becoming a mom, I tried to put on a happy facade all the time and it left me feeling hollow and lonely. It was actually blogging and connecting with a community of parents online that helped me become more honest with the people I see everyday and those friendships have strengthened as a result.

I’m loving your new(ish) blog, by the way, and can’t wait to read your book!

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slamdunk March 21, 2012 at 10:22 am

Fantastic images Kristen (created via text especially). Our crew has rarely seen a puddle that they did not want to jump in. Just add a large yellow dog laying in the puddle, and you have an appropriate response for how we are doing.

Great stuff.

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Kate March 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Lovely. I love being reminded that the irritations may be fun and the problems that surround us are smaller given a little perspective.

Enjoy the puddles.

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Kirsetin Morello March 21, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Oh my goodness, girlfriend, you are more right than you know. And the way that you are able to recognize that even when it’s rainy and wet and life is frustrating: beautiful. Those are some very lucky boys. xoxo

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Kristen March 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thank you for your sweet words, my sweet friend, but please rest assured that learning to keep perspective is very much a struggle for me. I wrote this post to remind myself – as much as anyone else – how important it is. xo

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Elizabeth Grant Thomas March 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Beautiful, beautiful. Tears in my eyes at the end. We have had a REALLY hard month around here, involving an 18-month-old who is cranky nearly all day for most days. At the end of each of these days I am exhausted in every way, shape and form. I just want it to get easier, I think to myself, but, as you said, in so many ways it’ll never be easier than this.

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BigLittleWolf March 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Appreciating that puddle – and jumping right in – that’s as good as it gets. And there are many more moments like that. Years of them. But they coincide with the exhaustion, with the feeling of being overwhelmed, with the task lists that spill over and the problems that invariably grow in importance as children grow older.

But if we’re lucky, we also grow – into our capacity to know them and what they need, to encourage them to speak freely, and even when they reach the age at which it’s normal that they not, hopefully we’ve learned to deal with that as well.

And occasionally, find a puddle to jump in or something similarly messy and irreverent. Because for some of us, that really is as good as it gets.

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Kristen March 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Oh, how I hope this is true of me, that I continue to grow alongside my kids. Because as delicious as these puddle jumping moments are, they also kick my butt a lot of the time. :)

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Justine March 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Nothing like kids/parenting to teach us a lesson in perspective isn’t it? I know what you mean about appreciating the finer things and seeing the bigger picture, because it has been difficult for me lately too.

Here I am thanking my stars for leaving my day job so I could be with my girls more but with that comes the unending worries about finances…yet I sometimes forget to be grateful that I FINALLY have this opportunity to do what I’ve longed to do for so long. Yes, there will be plenty of worries, but I really need to see this for what it is too: An amazing, wonderful gift!

If only I would allow myself to savor it.

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Kristen March 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Once again you and I are so alike: reaching, reaching, reaching, grabbing, and then not always stopping to be grateful for what we’ve got in our hands. I suppose this might be a trait of hard-working, striving people; I certainly know it’s trait of stressed-out ones!

xo

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Privilege of Parenting March 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

This fills me with love—damp, earthy, wet wooly socks, steam rising from coats and whipped cream on hot chocolate love.

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Lady Jennie March 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Perfect Kristen. Your son serves as a lesson even to me. “We jumped in a puddle and got all wet!” What more is there to life at this age?

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Jane @ northernmum March 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Beautiful post, really puts things into perspective x

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Kristen March 22, 2012 at 9:27 am

Thanks for your kind words, Jane. Welcome to Motherese!

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Wolf Pascoe March 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I want to be a mom!

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ayala March 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Kristen, these are not easy times and yet they are wonderful times. Your son so sweet with his reply and innocence. Trying times indeed but filled with blessings :)

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Galit Breen March 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm

This is stunning.

And breath taking.

(As are you.)

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Perfecting Motherhood March 22, 2012 at 12:17 am

Life is hard, parenting is hard, but at the end of the day I think most of us wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, we’d all love a break once in a while and sometimes you just have to notice that break when it comes, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Your puddle story made me laugh as it reminded of what happens a couple of days ago. My oldest starts school 30 minutes before my youngest so we all go together to school in the morning. As we were walking toward the school entrance, my four year old managed to step into the biggest puddle around (a pond as we like to call this type of puddle). I thought I’d just dry his clothes in the car while waiting for his class. Well, I soon realized his pants were soaked, and so were his shoes and socks so I decided to go home and change him. I could have gotten upset over it but time was on our side and it’s the second time he’s managed to do this in a few weeks so I’m used to it now!

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Kristen March 22, 2012 at 9:29 am

I love what you say here, Milka: “sometimes you just have to notice that break when it comes.” Because that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Choosing to notice the good stuff as readily as we notice the not-so-good.

It sounds like both of us should start keeping dry socks and pants in the trunk, huh? :)

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Perfecting Motherhood March 23, 2012 at 12:43 am

Well, I have the change of clothes but I don’t have extra shoes!

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Christie March 22, 2012 at 11:41 am

You set the bar high using the round brush to go to the grocery store! Love the idea of pausing before launching into the oh so ready complaints! I gravitate to negative so I fight that all the time!

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Kristen March 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The round brush? Yeah, I don’t know what came over me. And I was swiftly punished for my hubris. ;)

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Missy | Literal Mom March 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Because I suspect that it’s never going to get any easier than this moment, right now.

I feel that way too – that every day is easy compared to what could come down the road. It’s a great reminder to live in the moment.

And I love grocery shopping on Sunday mornings too. Sometimes if I really get out of the house early, I can get there and back and still make our 11 church service. If not, we just go later.

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Tiffany March 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm

This is so beautiful, so poignant and so true!!!

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Cathy March 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm

For me that’s one of the hardest things – learning to LET GO! Why is there this need to contain, control and manage all the time? It’s way over-rated.

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Belinda March 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Lovely sentiments you share with us here on the poetry of puddle-jumping. Thanks for reminding us of the magic moments of parenting.

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Jack@TheJackB March 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Tell me, is there anything more joyful than holding hands with your child and jumping in a puddle. To me that is the definition of joy.

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Kat March 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm

You had me at, “On Sunday mornings, some people go to church. I go to the grocery store.”

Is it not the most peaceful place at that time? I love it sick. Right now my husband is doing the grocery shopping during our “normal” time because I’m training for a marathon. But in all seriousness, I can’t imagine setting foot in those aisles at any other hour.

What your son said was so touching, especially in terms of the present-ness it was spoken from. I think we could all take something away from that.

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Kristen March 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

My kids put me to shame in their ability to be present. Me? I’m usually in the past or the future.

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Jane March 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm

So glad you jumped right in! You’re right. Some things get easier and other things get infinitely harder. Take it from a mom with 19-yr old and two 8 yr. olds (for the next month, anyway, as #1son is about to turn 9) Where does the time go? Take a lesson from your kids – about living in the present. You miss a whole lot less that way! (Of course, when you learn how to do that, share your secrets with me. I still have a little time, right?)

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alita March 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I normally adore shopping on Sunday mornings, too. Especially during the hours that most people are absent from the store. Sometimes I feel guilty. Most of the times I do not.

I adored this line: Little Brother answered for me then, a grin stretching across his face, the chocolate from his cookie a clown’s make-up around his lips: “We just ran through a puddle and got all wet!”

I can just see my youngest saying the very same thing. And with the very same “clown’s make up” (precious!) around his lips.

It is always a treat to read your work. I love coming here.

Alita

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Allison @ Alli 'n Son March 25, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I’m trying to think of something to add to your beautiful words, but you’ve said it all. Sometimes it takes a little voice with a different perspective to remind us that life is wonderful, even with the early morning wake ups, the wrestling boys and the endless cycle of laundry. We all struggle with this, even if we don’t openly admit it.

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Christine March 26, 2012 at 8:19 am

This is JUST what I need to read on a morning when I’m feeling like a figurative wet dog. I have to resist the temptation to pour it all out here, but just know that this post brightened my day.

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Kristen March 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I hope you know you can pour it out to me anytime. xo

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deniseI March 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I really loved reading your words, as always. This vivid, rich description of one little slice made me smile and nod. I love imagining you in a puddle with your boy. And, lucky for you, because you captured this moment here, you’ll always be able to come back to it.

The question you raise is one that I’ve considered, too. I wonder about easier/harder and compare the different stages of parenting. I don’t know the answer yet. As they grow from infancy, the physical dependency lightens which is simultaneously wonderful and awful. I’ve gained free time but have less time. I’m going to have to chew on this for awhile.

Love to you, your puddle-splasher and the rest of your clan.
xo

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Liz Sturm Hanatuke March 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Thanks for sharing this — you brought a smile to my face and lightened my heart. Might even go jump in some puddles ;-)

Liz

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rebecca @ altared spaces March 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Each summer we celebrate Decadent Day and my kids make wishes for their summer vacations to hang on the family tree. I remember the summer my son wished “To jump in every puddle I see.” It was a high bar…but we did our best to have the best summer he ever experienced.

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