• 54°

Take time for puddles

By Nathan Rice

I was careful to avoid all the puddles from the recent rainstorm as we walked towards the car. I entered the front while he proceeded to the rear passenger door. Looking back, I saw that he had not yet entered the car; he was jumping from one spot to another just outside the door.

I was about to enter typical adult mode and yell at him to stop jumping in the puddles and get in the car. It was at that moment when I realized the happiness he was experiencing. His tennis shoes weren’t new and the play clothes he was wearing wouldn’t be hurt by a few splashes of relatively clean puddle water. He jumped a few more times before entering the car while saying, “Sorry for the wait. I found some puddles.” “That’s OK,” I said. “Are you ready to go?”

I’m glad I let him jump in the puddles. The enjoyment that comes from simple things like jumping in a puddle will quickly fade. It won’t be long before the teenage years hit and he becomes concerned about his appearance, being cool and impressing the girls. Following that comes all the stress that come with adulthood. The days and joys of childhood can never be revisited, so why not let him enjoy the time he has?

My initial reaction was to tell him to stop jumping in the puddles. I suppose it’s just a natural adult reaction. We don’t want messed up shoes or muddy clothes, so our minds are programmed to stop puddle jumping before it begins. But maybe we need to pause for just a second to see if what we are stopping actually needs to be stopped. Are we reacting strictly on some pre-programmed, adult-based thinking, or is there a real reason to make them stop doing something?

I am in no way suggesting that children should be allowed to do whatever comes into their hearts or minds. There are countless things for which we need to stay to “stop” or “no.” Not everything that children start to do should be allowed to continue, but not every childish activity is wrong. It’s OK to be a kid. I let him jump in the puddles that day, but it would have been different if the puddles were muddy or if he was in good clothes.

Our responsibility as adults is to be able to determine the difference between behavior that is wrong, could create a problem or place them in danger, and behavior that is simply that of a child. It seems that many of us take one extreme position or the other in this aspect. Some say, “Let a kid be a kid,” and allow almost any behavior. Others expect 6-year old and 8-year old children to act like they are 46 and 48. Neither one of these is best route to take.

Let kids be kids, but be the adult and do all you can to keep them safe and teach them proper behavior. Sometimes — not always, but sometimes — it’s OK to let them jump in puddles.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.