When my kids are finally able to shed their winter boots and coats, playing outside is a thrill like no other.
This year, after months of intense cold, cancelled school buses, hockey games and swimming lessons, spring has finally arrived. And in my house, perhaps because of its somewhat overdue arrival, my kids have both come down with a hopeless case of spring fever.
Apparently, there is something addictive and intoxicating in the sweet spring air that beckons them outside, and once there, or during their non-stop attempts to get there, affects their judgment and personality.
Until a few weeks ago, 11-year-old Nick and eight-year-old Elena calmly came into the house after school. They would dutifully hang up their coats and unpack their lunch bags, before sitting down for a snack.
Now, they step one foot inside the house, hurl their backpacks toward the kitchen, and bolt back out the door.
On one of the first true spring days, Elena had a wild look in her eyes and a grin that I suspected would result in aching facial muscles as she excitedly proclaimed, “I don’t know why, but I…I…I just can’t get enough of being outside!”
Like a kid in a candy store – actually, more like a kid after a candy store – she went from bike to skipping rope to basketball to scooter to sidewalk chalk, clearly overwhelmed by such an awesome selection.
While Elena was content to play on the driveway, Nick was out biking around the neighborhood. Not far from our house, a serious lapse in judgment resulted in what one of his friends dramatically described as a “face plant over his handlebars.” Although, his pain and suffering were short-lived I’m confident that this relatively minor accident will serve as a reminder to him (please, please let it be so!) to limit any future death-defying bike stunts.
My kids had settled into a reasonably efficient morning routine for the past seven or so months, but now, along with the promise of sunshine and spring air, it seems to have gone out the window. Both are distracted like toddlers with a task.
I now need to stand in the hallway instructing them what do next. “Nick, brush your teeth. Elena brush your hair. “Nick, get dressed. Elena, put on your socks.”
“Nick… I mean, Elena… I mean… Would you both please just get ready!”
“And quit running and hollering in the house!” I holler while chasing them back to their rooms.
Our soccer and baseball season has not yet begun, so our weeknight suppers are relatively relaxed… except for the kids’ intense urge to get back outside to play. Both have to be constantly reminded to sit while they eat, and when the phone or door bell rings, they both dash to see who it is, and what evening game or activity is being planned.
Finally, when the last laborious bites have been taken, and we’ve bargained about what time they have to be back in, they burst out the door. They proceed to run around as though an internal gauge indicates a certain amount of energy that must be spent in the next one-hour time period. They opt to scale fences, rather than walking through the gates with easy-open latches, which are often open anyway.
Our house sits at the edge of a small wooded area and the closest trees are home to hundreds of starlings. We are treated to the enthusiastic spring song of these choral birds early each morning, and again in the evening, around the kids’ bedtime.
Nick’s bedroom faces the backyard, and he insists, regardless of temperature, that his window be left wide open each night so he can hear the birds. It makes him feel as though he’s still outside, he says, and I’ll agree to just about anything that helps to lull this over-active child to sleep.
As I say goodnight, I consider the kids’ inhuman amount of energy, reluctance to sit while eating, instinctive desire to be outside when awake, and need to hear the birds while asleep, and I can’t help but consider the possibility that they were born into the wrong family. …Could it be that they were actually meant to be raised by wolves?