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Puddle Parenting

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled up to the dry cleaners to drop off a few items.

It was a damp day, the rain had stopped but the aftermath of the storm had left the parking lot full of puddles. As I was gathering my clothing together I noticed a dad crossing the parking lot with his 3-year-old son. The dad was struggling with a huge basket of dirty laundry (next to the dry cleaners is a laundry mat)…while the little boy was following close behind.  I love watching parent-child interactions so I stopped for a moment before getting out of my car to observe.

Dad carried the laundry basket and the boy had a small bag, too.

(Dad had a little helper!) At the edge of the sidewalk was a large puddle. Dad stepped over the puddle onto the sidewalk his back to his child. The little boy (of course!) walked right through the puddle. Immediately afterwards he turned right around and I was witness to a glorious smile complete with childhood joy and discovery.

He looked over his shoulder to check where his dad was and saw that his dad was almost at the laundry mat door. The little boy then jumped into the puddle and stamped his feet over and over. The more he stamped his feet, the bigger his smile became and the child joy was classic.  Then he stepped back onto the side-walk and looked for his dad again. Dad had now put the basket down and was opening the door to the laundry mat. And guess what?  The little boy turned around one more time and went back to the puddle for yet another jump and stamp.

At this moment, Dad turned around searching for his child.

On dad’s face was a different look. It was the look of anger and frustration. He left the basket on the sidewalk and turned around went to the edge of the sidewalk and dragged the child out of the puddle while yelling at him for getting wet.

This made me so sad. I thought of all the missed opportunities that busy; stressed out parents, give up, for the “have tos.” “I have to do the laundry, make dinner, clean the house or get somewhere”  It also reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently: The father is sitting at the computer and the child approaches saying, “Daddy, look at the picture I just made!” The father says, “Keep talking, I’m listening.”

We need to get into the puddles with our kids.

Taking a few minutes to join in the joy of discovery such as stamping in a puddle or turning around to see what your child has created is what connection is all about.  It is the stuff that gives us goose bumps, makes us smile, and gives us pause to what really is important.

Next time there is a puddle, I challenge you to get in there with your child. Take the opportunity to stop, watch, and join the absolute joy that parenting can provide.

Susan Epstein, LCSW is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.