Many of the kids in the neighborhood have been flocking to our house the last few weeks. I’m not sure what’s attracting everyone, but I’m glad they’re here! I enjoy the noisy games and kids racing through the halls. It’s also nice to know where my kids are, who they’re playing with and what they’re doing.
We don’t have a very big outdoor area. Our patio has a barbecue, a small concrete space, and a playhouse. The kids don’t go in the playhouse very often because they’re afraid it has spiders and I don’t blame them! They prefer to sit on the roof and play imaginary games, like being on a boat in the middle of a lava explosion. They also like to play thunderstorm, but they haven’t quite connected with the fact that you don’t climb on the roof in a storm.
We get all ages of kids over here, and I feed as many of them as I can. Maybe that’s why they keep coming over? It can get expensive providing snacks for the neighborhood, so I’ve found some cheap ways to keep their little bellies full: popcorn, pretzels, and pink lemonade made from a tub of powder. The oldest kid who comes over is about 13, and he has autism. He’s high-functioning and loves playing pretend with the kids. He’s a gentle boy and being around the little ones makes him feel important, like he’s helping us out. The youngest neighbor is his 2-year-old brother, who often tags along. I don’t mind the little guy being there, but I do make sure to keep a close eye on him. Sorry, buddy. No popcorn or roof-climbing for you!
It rained a little bit, and the dirt made thick mud that was perfect for making pies. The girls realized that you could make colorful pies by adding ground-up sidewalk chalk, and they spent a good part of the afternoon baking things for all the boys. It’s funny to hear them mimic things they hear their parents say, like, “you better eat all your chicken or you won’t get any dessert!”
In the midst of busy schedules and juggling a stressful work load, it helps to be around kids who are fully entertained by mud and playhouses. I love listening to their stories spin out and their innocent chatter as I’m elbow-deep in dishwater. I get caught up in their excitement, and forget about my worries. When all the kids are here, my mind doesn’t have to think about any of the big, grown-up problems that so often hold my thoughts hostage. For a while, I get to live with them in the carefree land of imagination. It’s a mental and emotional state that I think we all need to find ourselves in more often, don’t you?