Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sometimes You've Just Gotta Break the Rules

I would describe myself as someone who’s generally a rule-follower. Someone who obeys rules merely because they ARE rules. Someone who does what’s expected, what’s “normal,” what’s “right.” But every now and then, I just need to break the rules.

So today, when I picked up my son at lunchtime and he and my daughter begged to play on the big bell outside the school, I let them. I paid no attention to my arbitrary schedule that said we needed to be home by 12:05pm and eating our healthy, nutritionally-balanced lunch by 12:23pm and attempting to get my daughter to take a nap by 1:03pm. Instead, we hung around for nearly an hour, just kicking snowbanks. We banged on the big brass bell until it gave deep, sympathetic, shivering chimes. We chased each other down the sidewalk and played tetherball with the balloons on the signboard and took turns being the King of the Mountain on the big piles of snow still in the yard. We listened to the big carillon in the church steeple playing hymns. We spotted a fat robin hopping across the grass in search of worms. We waved at passing trucks.

And when we got tired of that, we decided it would be a good day to have ice cream for lunch. Not WITH lunch, not AFTER lunch, but FOR lunch. And not just ice cream, but ice cream sundaes, complete with hot fudge and rainbow sprinkles and mini M&Ms and gummy worms. 


A certain young man was quite proud to sit all by himself at the counter, politely wiping up his own spills (of which there were impressively few) and running over to throw his dirty napkins in the trash, while a certain young lady was content to let Mom share her treat, and who politely informed the older couple who inquired about the deliciousness of her ice cream, “Dat my brudder Ryan. Dat my mom. I Katie,” much to their delight.

And when we got home, instead of following my instinct to get them inside and cleaned up, I let them play in the snow and the puddles and the mud. (I did make my daughter take off her brand-new sneakers and put on her old, almost-outgrown ones instead.) My son spent an hour chipping little bits of ice and snow with his shovel and relocating them, pausing to watch a squirrel race up a tree or to pull a broken stick free from a snowbank. My daughter, at first clutching her stuffed monkeys, tentatively poked a toe at the mud just beyond the brick walkway, but eventually embraced the sloppiness so much that she actually lost a shoe in the mud. She patted puddles with her hand and then one foot and then jumped in with both feet, making a huge, muddy splash. She took charge of her brother’s shovel and dug both snow and mud indiscriminately. Her monkey pals were abandoned to play in puddles on their own (they were rewarded for their troubles with an exciting ride in the washing machine later in the day). 

And what was the price I paid for breaking the rules a little? There are 2 more pairs of pants and 4 more socks in the laundry than there would have otherwise been, there are a few muddy footprints in the hallway, there are a couple of pairs of shoes that will need to be scrubbed a bit, and there’s a full dishwasher that probably should have been run through before dinnertime. But the rewards of an afternoon of fresh air, two happy, laughing children, and several hours of not thinking about a schedule or a list of chores? Those rewards are far, far beyond price.

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