Yesterday I took the dog for a walk in a small wood near our house. The path was barely there—overgrown with brambles that tore at my jeans and green hand-me-down vest. I breathed in the cold air, glad to finally be walking on something besides manicured lawn or asphalt.
Everything seemed to be sleeping under the dusting of snow. The twigs snapping under my boots nearly echoed. After a few steps, a big, brown owl took flight in front of us and glided further up and further in to the trees.
Piper, a novice at hiking, hesitated to make his way through the thorns, but bounded forward once I called him. I could see that this dog, who shakes with anxiety when we travel, was morphing into the puppy whose senses are bombarded with everything that’s new and exciting. He wanted to sniff it all.
Piper’s not busy like that inside. In our old house, he’d silently sleep the days away upstairs in a dark corner of a deserted room. Up there, it was warm and lonely, with little sensory input.
Sometimes our kids are like that. We want them to have tidy, full resumés for college. We want them to achieve and not make a scene. So we sign them up for every organized activity under the sun, planning their days, and tucking them away in safety until they turn 18.
In pursuit of these goals, we subordinate their senses, their creativity, their very freedom.
We still have a lot to do today: things to unpack, things to organize, and things to clean. Like my friend Sally said, it’s enough to make me want to BURN ALL THE THINGS. So yes, my girls are currently cleaning their room, and my son will help unpack garage boxes later, but right now he’s building a snow fort with the neighbor kids who have trickled out of doors.
Sometimes vitality is easy to facilitate: like saying “Yes,” or venturing off the asphalt. Sometimes it takes more effort, like the hour it’ll take to put gloves and boots on the girls this afternoon. But every second of joy in the snow will be worth the effort.
How can you help your kids awaken their senses today? What can you say “Yes!” to? What doors can you open? What mess can you allow? What freedom can you give? Won’t you let your kids come out and play?