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Kids Reunite With The Great Outdoors
It's that time again...
Every year, just as the first tulip blooms and the temperature rises above 50 degrees. I lose my kids to the great outdoors; the adventure land known as my neighborhood.
Living in Chicago makes for a long summer hiatus...about six months to be exact. And with this past winter being one of the coldest on record, the kids were stuck in the house driving each other bananas, which in turn, drove me bananas...Well, you get the picture.
So we get a nice spring day and the warm weather puts me in the mood to actually start my spring cleaning. My son tells me he's going out to play. My pre-teen daughter who thinks she's 25, informs me that her friends have "texted" her to meet them at the park. OK, so I can do my cleaning in peace. I'll open the windows, put on some Billy Idol, and get busy. That is until I hear my son screeching from outside my bedroom window on the second floor. He's clearly telling someone off, and sounds quite angry and agitated. He's telling whoever this unfortunate soul is to "go home" and to "get out ot here." I'm taken aback and suddenly wondering who could have turned my son into such a maniac. He's only been out there for a short time, and he's already found conflict with someone? He usually gets along quite well with the neighborhood kids.
I look out the window and I can't see him, so I call his name. He answers, and he sounds very close by, but I still don't see him. I call him again, only this time I ask him where he is. "I'm in the tree, mama. Way up here, see? I came to pick you some spring flowers, and a giant squirrel came running down the branch right at me! He showed me his teeth and everything!"
Oh dear lord!
I immediately tell him to shimmy down the tree, informing him that squirrels bite, especially when they're scared. He must have heard the fear in my voice, because he quickly reassures me. "It's ok, mama. He's gone now. I think I scared him off for good, but I still have your flowers...." As my heart rate begins to return to normal, and my blood pressure is restored, I reconsider the urge to go out there with a ladder and rescue my son from that tree. Instead, I take a deep breath and remind myself that this is what kids do. They climb trees.
I continue my cleaning. My daughter calls me from her cell phone now to tell me that she's going on a bike ride into town. Not to worry, she's with friends. OK. again. She returns about two hours later. In the meantime, with the newness of spring, and in the spirit of it's discovery, my son has refamiliarized himself with every tree in the neighborhood, and has climbed about six of them. I look down the block for him and I realize I should now be looking up. Thank God he wore that bright orange shirt today...it's easily spotted among the green leaves and white flowers. I hope squirrels are afraid of orange....
Now my daughter decides to take the dog for a walk and see a friend of hers on the next block. "Don't worry, mom. I've got my cell phone. Be back later.."
My son's friend now comes over and manages to talk him down out of a tree. They decide to go up to an old church to play their spy game. This is where they hide in the bushes and spy on all of the cars and people that go by. They truly believe that they are undetected by all who pass. Bond beware! You finally have competition. Let's review all the little gadgets they bring with them to assist in this super sleuth mission; two magnifying glasses, a watch, a cellphone, an umbrella (looks a little cloudy), a box of Matzah crackers, a small radio, and a flashlight. I guess it gets pretty dark in those bushes. I'm not sure exactly what mystery they're trying to solve, but it winds up keeping them busy for another hour and a half.
Now I'm preparing dinner and I'm wondering how I'm going to get the kids in to eat. I make my motherly call from the front porch to gather my young for a meal, but all I hear is the birds and a lawn mower that appears to be cutting it's last lawn. So I call my beloved children on their cell phones. My daughter has stopped with the dog at another friend's house, and they've asked her to stay for dinner.
I call my son on his cell phone, and he informs me that he's just wrapping up his spy mission, and asks if dinner can wait 15 minutes or so.. "Sure", I tell him. "Just be home in time to wash up." About a half hour later, here we are; my husband, my son and myself finally sitting down to dinner. My daughter walks in midway through our meal and joins us at the table, even though she already ate. We talk about our day, and now I'm looking forward to spending a quiet evening with them, watching a little T.V.
What was I thinking?
Immediately after they inhale their last bite, both of them bolt out the door. As I yell to them "where are you going?", they reply..."we're going outside, it doesn't get dark out for another hour!"
One goes East. One goes West.
I go do the dishes.
An hour later, it's getting dark. Time for another call. Do I opt for the traditional "porch yell", or do I save myself some time and just call their cell phones? Gosh, how times have changed. Remember when you knew exactly when to be home each night?
Let's say it all together now... "When the street lights came on."
Well, as fate would have it, there are no street lights on our block, and I don't whistle very well. In fact, I can't whistle at all. So I call the daughter's cell phone and I tell her it's time to come home. She tells me that my son is with her and pleads with me to give them another ten minutes outside. "Young lady it's getting dark out and it' s time to come home!" Do you know what she actually said to me? "But mom, this is the first nice day we've had, and we didn't even get a chance to play outside that much!"
Are you kidding me?
So as I'm mentally recounting this day in my head, I conclude with the following:
My son almost got mauled by a squirrel
My son could have fallen out of 7 trees and could have broken his collar bone
My son probably got bit by at least 4 spiders and 3 ants while hiding in those bushes
My daughter was roaming around town on her own with strangers everywhere
My daughter walked the dog who probably walked her the whole way
My daughter is out after dark and probably fought with my son all the way home.
Now here's the difference between men and women..or should I say, mothers and fathers. As I'm coming up with this admittedly twisted and paranoid assessment of the day's events, my husband says to me, "Isn't it great that our kids know how to play? I'm so glad that they're not sitting around on the couch playing video games all day."
I hate it when he's right! As the usual voice of reason, I have to give him due credit on this one. After considering what he said, I realize how lucky I am to have healthy, happy, children who love to ride bikes, play spy games, climb trees and walk the dog. So I didn't get much house work done, and I've never actually come that close to having a stroke, but there was an upside to it all: I started my seasonal journey of "letting go" and giving up my kids to a normal childhood.
Thank God for those cell phones!