My little one pops down from her car seat and heads straight for her new tricycle parked nearby. Onto the trike and out into the driveway for a game of slow motion chase. I pretend to chase her and she peddles as hard as she can, barley moving up the slight incline of the driveway. I give her a gentle push and she screams, "I won!" Ah, I didn't realize we were racing. She is full of laughter and the game morphs by the moment from chase to race to make believe Just the way it should be for her after a day of school. She just wants me nearby to witness her feats of adventure. "Here I goooooooooooo!" she shouts as she heads straight into a hedge.
This time of day is usually challenging. We are both tired but don't want to do anything structured. We can't really go anywhere since the school bus will be coming soon. I dread turning on the TV because then that is all that happens for the rest of the afternoon. And so, instead, here we are in the 36 degree temperature, running and laughing and racing back and forth and back and forth. I feel my lungs fill with chilly air, I see my daughter's nose get red from the cold and her cheeks flush with running. This little bit of time will change the whole course of our afternoon. I can feel it. I will be more calm and more patient with the after-school/pre-dinner routine. And my little one will be tuckered out in a happy way. Finally having had the freedom to just be outside.
I think about that garage door and how I always make sure to close it before we get out of the car. I thought I was keeping the cold out but really I knew that if it was open my children would see the open space of the driveway, the toys parked near and would want to go outside. And secretly I would dread this. Yes, I have to admit, I dreaded them wanting to go outside. Why? I think because I always feel like I have so much to get done. And I would just feel so tired and not want to stand in the driveway. But here is what I have realized, we don't have to be out for two hours, just 15 minutes, and if that stretches to 30 so be it. I am starting to see that the time I spend in the driveway playing may be the high point of my day.