I’ve never been an outdoorsy person. I’m not agoraphobic, but when I was twenty and I willing moved from the wide-open southwest to the cramped confines of New York City, I felt a sense of relief. If I had to choose between being strapped into a spaceship with recycled air or riding a horse, I’d choose the spaceship every time. But my daughter is not me. My daughter loves the grass and being outside and I like seeing her happy. So I go outside. Lately, it has been raining a lot where I now live in Portland, Maine and I have had to develop a system for dealing with this. Here’s how it works: I let my kid play in the rain. That’s it.
And I don’t mean a couple of minutes. I mean half an hour.
My daughter was born in downtown Manhattan and would proudly tell you so, but she’d be the first to admit that New England has its advantages. Yards are chief among them. We’ve got two, front and back, and they’ve been a revelation for both her and me. In New York, I’d run for cover the second a drop of water touched my nose. Precipitation was a good excuse to grab a happy hour drink. Now that I’m a parent, I see other dads using it as an excuse to rock some screen time. I don’t get that. Spring showers are a delight, especially when you’ve got a toddler who is down to clown in the mud.
Why sit inside and twiddle our thumbs like those poor suckers in The Cat in the Hat when we could be enjoying a squall? No reason really. Some specious argument about colds perhaps, but I don’t buy that shit. As our Nordic brothers are fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
Rain doesn’t mean you have to change your plans. At all. If you were planning to go outside with your kid and it starts raining — I’m going to let you in on a very obvious secret — more than half the time you can just go outside anyway and your kid is going to fucking love it.
Toddlers can’t do much of one thing for longer than 30 minutes and spending that time running around in the rain, stomping in puddles and screaming about how great it is that there is water coming from the sky is like Crossfit for 2-year-olds. My job is just to facilitate. I do by carrying a giant umbrella with butterflies on it. I twirl the umbrella and the butterflies dance in the rain. More often than not, my daughter runs ahead and lets the raindrops fall on her hood. When she’s done or cold, she tells me.
I said I was proud of my system, not that it was complicated.
And letting my daughter play in the rain has bought my wife or me precious amounts of time. Instead of a toddler melting down in the living room while one of us prepares a meal and the other one tries to cure her cabin fever, I have a happy, red-cheeked kid. It’s a small thing, but sometimes small things make a big difference.
So, when the rain starts at the playground, and all the other families or nannies run for cover, ask yourself this question: Is the rain getting in the way of your kid’s fun or are you? I used to be. Never again.