Zoey goes to a great preschool. The teachers are nurturing. The parents are friendly. And the kids get a lot of time for free play. When I get her from school, Zoey is often involved in an elaborate game of Wicked Dragons, Family Fairies, or Something Involving Bunnies. At pick-up the kids are usually frolicking in the dappled sunlight of the playground. But today, the first day we’ve had with snow (a whole 2 inches), the kids were frolicking in slush and mud.
I am not a fan of mess or mud. NOT. A. FAN. When I picked up Zoey this afternoon she was pushing around a wheelbarrow filled with mud. A wheelbarrow. FULL OF MUD. Well, it also had a few wood chips thrown in. But mostly it was mud. Slimy, liquidly, oozy, dirty mud. As I tried to remember that free play is good, Zoey called me over.
“Look, Mommy! I’m making lots of hot chocolate!” She struggled to push the heavy wheelbarrow over to the tree stump. Then, as I stood there hopelessly watching, she stirred the hot chocolate with her mittens. Vigorously. She stood there with her mittened (and dripping) hands on her hips and looked up at me with obvious pride.
“Mmmm,” I managed, “It looks delicious.”
“It’s for you, Mommy! All for yooooooouuuuu!” She shouted to my back as I walked towards the other mothers. A lot of other kids were playing with mud too. None of them had a wheelbarrow full or anything, but mud is mud. I scanned the other mother’s faces — they all looked calm and happy. A few of them even looked blissful. I, on the other hand, was clutching my chest about to have a HEART ATTACK.
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed the arm of another mother and hissed, “I can’t even watch. Is Zoey dunping that wheelbarrow full of mud ALL OVER HERSELF? IS SHE?” It’s possible that I ended that sentence in a shriek.
The very nice other mother glanced at Zoey and whispered back, “Ok. She’s dumping all the mud from the wheelbarrow into a bowl. She’s doing great. The mud’s going in the bowl. Mostly. . . Kind of . . .” And then the other mom politely excused herself.
It took 20 minutes to get through the parking lot. There was more mud and slush to be stomped in, sat on, and scooped up. When I got Zoey to the car, she had muddy mittens, muddy boots (no, she was not wearing Silver Wonder Boots), and a big smile.
I chose to focus on the smile. And that, dear readers, is what is known as progress.