In order to keep things as normal as possible – both for the tinies and for myself – during my travel days away from home, I try to mirror a couple of our evening routines when I speak with them each night on the phone. One of these routines involves asking each of my children this question: “What was your favorite thing that happened today?”
My husband and I have asked the kids this question almost every night since they were old enough to speak. In the early days, answers included “playing outside” or “lunch” or “going potty on the potty.” As they’ve gotten older and using the bathroom has become more commonplace in their lives, their answers have become more nuanced and varied, such as “getting to spend time with my new friends” or “learning about kinetic energy” (in Kindergarten… what???) or “when you came to have lunch with me, Mommy” (everybody say awwww).
The other night, I asked my Kindergartner this question, and after about twenty ums, she suddenly said, “I know! I had to bring a bag of dirt to school, from our yard. And then in science class, I got to play with it!”
I replied, “What did you learn about the dirt?” to which she cheerily responded, “I don’t remember.”
“So,” I said, “you’re just happy you got to play with dirt. Yes?”
With very clear glee, she emphatically replied, “Yes!”
Her excitement wasn’t all that surprising. My daughter has loved to play in the dirt since the first time she was placed on the ground. She loves to run her fingers through the soil. She is physically incapable of passing a patch of sand or dirt on the ground without bending down to let her fingertips at least graze it, but usually she prefers to at least pick up a handful, to feel the grains against her palm. It’s her passion. It calls to her and brings her joy. She can spend hours – literally hours – sitting on the ground, moving her hands through the earth.
|Check out those fabulously dirty fingernails.|
We each have our own version of playing in the dirt. Each of us has that one passion, that thing we do that brings us pure, unspoiled happiness and that lets us feel deeply connected to a special part of our souls. For some of us it’s writing stories and poems. For others, it’s creating artwork or getting out into nature. For yet others of us, it’s knitting or hunting or gardening or surfing. It might be bird watching, or it might be rebuilding automobiles.
In rare instances, people make a living with their version of playing in the dirt. But usually these are the things we do away from work, away from the normal day-to-day, when we need to get back in touch with that part of us that hasn’t been beaten down or abbreviated by life, that part of our hearts that isn’t burdened by the need to be productive or responsible. We do these things just… because. Because not doing them makes us feel just that little bit less alive.
If you’re reading this, my wish for you is that you never forget to play in the dirt. I hope you never let the daily grind or the judgment of others or the odd diversions of the world prevent you from getting those hands dirty and soaking up every ounce of pure happiness.
As for me, I realized – while speaking with my little girl the other night – that for a while now I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by things that seemed more important at the time but that, on retrospect, are rather ephemeral. I forgot to play in the dirt for several months. Shame shame. But I’m back. And I’m re-energized. So look out, world… it’s time to play.