Motherhood Muse: Puddle Jumping


In the Southern Hemisphere, the rain has begun. Our laundry hangs on sagging lines, the clothes weighted down by three days of downpour. I hung the last load beneath a clear sky but by afternoon I looked up from working on a chapter to see that the sky had gone grey and our clothes were soaked.  Winters in New Zealand are not easy for me. I have to find my way moment by moment through the cold, the grey, and the pervasive dampness.

This afternoon I bundled up my five month old in his new stroller – a gift given to me by my parents. I tried to focus on gratitude for the stroller instead of the frustration I was feeling at having to take my baby out in the rain. My daughter’s daycare is a few blocks away and our family has one car, so we do what we have to;  we juggle schedules and commutes and I pack up my baby to walk in the rain.

Halfway down the block, I began to relax. Joaquin snuggled in the stroller, protected from the elements, watched me with a sly smile on his face. That smile was like a hand reaching into my mind and pulling back the drapes to let the light shine in. I noticed the smell of wood burning just beneath the clean smell of rain. The trees shivered. Leaves glistened.  Instead of the winter sky being oppressive, it wrapped itself around the land. It became an intimate and protective presence.  

It occurred to me that when I was a child, this is the way I saw the world, and that this is the world my children wake up to every day. I thought, “If only I could remain in this place, imagine how different things would be. I’d be a better mother, wife, and friend.”

As I struggled with the daycare gate, the stroller banging up against my legs, Joaquin beginning to cry, I felt the drapes fall closed in my mind. Once again, my mind became a crowded, chaotic room with too many voices competing for my attention.

On the way home, my daughter weaved back and forth across the sidewalk. She never travels in straight lines. She twirls and pounces and back tracks and skips and then sits down without warning, refusing to move. I battle with the fact that I often hurry her along. I am afraid of those moments she might decide to sit down and the struggle I will have getting her back on track again. By afternoon, I am weighted down by all of the things that need to be done and the fear that if I don’t keep up my pace, I will find myself sitting on the sidewalk next to her.

Pushing the stroller, I watched her perfect little legs carry her forward and I wanted to cry – she was that beautiful.  I wanted to shake off the tension that had wrapped itself around my bones. I wanted to see the world as she was seeing it.

 She suddenly veered off path and jumped into a deep puddle.  

Instead of laughter, she went silent. She looked down, horrified.

“Oh noooooo,” she cried, her voice stretching into a whine. “My dancing shoes! I’m all wet now!”

She was outraged, betrayed by the fact that the puddle had filled her favorite shiny black shoes with water.

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I let my shoulders shake with the laughter. I let it open up my chest.

“Well, what did you expect? A puddle is wet, that’s why you jumped in it!”

She stepped out of the puddle, disgusted. Frowning, she took off her shoes and then hurled them at the grass as if they had offended her. She stood with her hands on her hips glaring.

 “Come on sweetheart,” I said. “Pick up your shoes. We’ll go home and get you into a warm bath.”

Joaquin had begun to stir, his small hand reaching out toward me from the darkness of the stroller.

After a few minutes of walking next to me, complaining about her wet clothes and her sore feet, she pounced into another puddle. This time she declared, “Yay! Puddle!” before looking down to realize she had once again been betrayed. The puddle was just as wet as the last one. For the next three blocks, she repeated this process and I began to wonder if the annoyance at the wetness of water was just as much fun as the jumping in. She moved effortlessly from one emotion to the other, only lingering for as long as the emotion remained an adventure.

Tonight, as I cuddled up in bed with her, our limbs tangled, her fingers in my hair, I rested in this one act of motherhood I know I do perfectly – I know how to snuggle with my babies. Every few minutes she startled, whispering something or singing a few lines from a song, and then sinking back into sleep. I closed my eyes and began to drift. I found myself standing at the edge of a puddle in my dreams. I looked down into its mirror-like surface and I saw my daughter looking back at me. I understood that the things I love unconditionally in her are no different from the things I judge in myself. I love my daughter’s fierce, irrational puddle jumping. Every day she teaches me a little more about being authentically alive. Sometimes it means hurrying us along before the rain starts, sometimes it means hurling our favorite shiny, black shoes in the grass and returning to the puddle for another round.

112 responses

  1. Beautiful. I too have been seeking the wonder of my childhood, before cynicism crept into my room like monsters in the night.

    We can learn a lot from our children, can’t we? For all the things we are supposed to teach them, I think the greatest lesson of all is the one they teach us.

    • It’s a good thing I can express something eloquently somewhere, right? ;o) Half the time I’m forgetting my own name while navigating three different convos with my crazy little tribe! I’ve started saying, “Um, like, yeah…” a lot as a stall tactic. xoxo

  2. Lovely, Alegra.

    I remember taking my young children on a hike at our local environmental center. It had been raining for days and they were itching for something to do. We all put on our rain gear. I packed peanut butter sandwiches and juice to take with us. At first, they balked at the idea of getting wet, but I told them I would show them where all the insects went on a rainy day. That fueled their enthusiasm. We found many different kinds clinging to the underside of leaves. They ate lunch in the pouring rain. I had to throw our clothes in the dryer when we got home. What a wonderful day that was! 🙂

    • You had me at ‘throw our clothes in the dryer’! I hope you climbed into them afterwards (all warm and fluffy). Yes, kids are such a gift in their ability to force us out of our routines, our perceived comfort, to go out into the world and redefine it: a rainy miserable day because a day of wonder and hidden life beneath leaves.

      I try not to dread the way my kids seem to be sprinting into bigger and bigger kids – I reassure myself that each stage, just like every day, will bring its joys, its bittersweet, its challenges.

  3. That was a very nice post. 🙂 Honest, and heart-felt. I don’t have children yet of my own. I think that more parents should open up their eyes and realize that their children can also teach them valuable lessons, and not disregard the children as “disobedient and loud”.

    • Thank you! Yes, one of the most challenging aspects of parenting for me (other than the sheer NOISE – I have a sensitive nervous system) is the dual responsibility of establishing boundaries/disciplining them while wanting to stand back and just watch them in all of their glory – I have yet to meet a small child who is truly disobedient – they are Curious George by nature.

  4. Keep stomping in puddles!

    I feel the weight of a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders. Your children will grow up SO FAST. This might be a dumb question — Can you live on less and have more time? It’s always a trade-off.

    A chapter of my parenting book is called “When it rains, stomp in puddles.” Would you consider reviewing the book? It’s about how chores empower families. I’ll send or email you a review copy 🙂

    • I am a big believer in chores being empowering! I’d love to have a read.

      Yes, if we could shift some of the responsibility right now, we would – but with the intensity of our current lives, we sense there is an end in near. We are hoping by next year our schedules will be calmer – it is just one of those seasons in our lives where things need to be done and the stressors we are presented with (we are living on as little as we can right now) are also the paths to a future where we will have more time/less stress.

  5. This reminded me of a time when my brother and I were young. We were walking to school and we both decided if we jumped in a mud puddle ON PURPOSE we wouldn’t have to go to school. Our mom made us go anyhow. See how girls and boys think differently..;)

  6. Beautiful!
    Thank you for spending all that time capturing these moments, putting them into words and then sharing them! Absolutely priceless!
    I am a Californian who now lives in the Southern Hemisphere. I moved from San Francisco to rural Zululand, all for love!
    Keep writing. You have a brilliant gift!

    • I was born in SanFran (on Clement St)! What a small world.
      yes, I am here in New Zealand – all for love – although I feel forever torn between the two hemispheres.

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

  7. Don’t have to be a Mother to enjoy your beautifully written story. Fathers too. Nicely done. Extra hugs to the kids tonight.

    • Yes, personally I like to lump ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ (aka ‘parents’) because I know so many amazing men who are fathers and we love to swap stories/struggles/laughter. Glad you enjoyed! Hugs with the kids are my daily vitamins.

  8. That was truly beautiful to read. I’m not a mother but I was a nanny for 8 years, and the little girl I took care of would always curl up in my arms to fall asleep, then I’d have to carry her to bed. I’m not ready to be a full time mom, but after being with her for the first 8 years of her life, I started to feel kind of like one.

    Thank you for that, really made my day!

    • Wow, yes, being a nanny for eight years to the same child would definitely give you a taste of motherhood! I admire you for that. Before becoming a parent myself I was one of those people who didn’t think she would ever be a mom – mostly because I knew I would have to find the right man to embark on such an important journey – so when I met my husband I thought, “Uh-oh…” ;o)

      I imagine that your experience is going to make you an amazing mother when you do feel ready.

  9. Children Do teach us so much, if WE would only learn?? We never remember, though, it’s fleeting, we always have to grow up, why is that??

    • Kids transition so easily between emotions and they have no concept of the future – something we slowly become burdened with as adults (even though the future is just as imaginary as any tall tale my daughter comes up with!) – when they are miserable, they are wonderfully miserable – it is all part of the adventure for them. I’m trying to adopt that attitude toward things. ANd when it doesn’t work, I eat ice cream and watch back to back episodes of whatever new comedy my husband and I are fixated on.

  10. 🙁 My clothes got wet too.

    I hate it when that happens.

    I love how children love the smaller things in life that adults seem to forget.

    xx Action Wolfe

    • I suspected that my kids would remind me of the wonder of the world, I just didn’t expect it would arrive with so much beautiful irreverance, wildness, and permission to just BE in the most unlikely situations. Never a dull moment.

  11. Despite the grey of the day, I felt such peace and comfort while watching your children through your eyes. Beautiful writing from a mother who truly understands the magical way children connect us to life.

    • Before I became a parent, I remember hearing friends/family say, “Having children helps you rediscover the world.” This, of course, was followed by something along the lines of, “but it’s also the hardest job you’ll ever have!”
      Thanks for reading!

  12. You have a beautiful way with words. I am less than a month away from meeting my first child and I am eager to learn from her as I try to teach her, too. Children are indeed a great gift.

    • Oooooh! How exciting! I wish you the very best with the delivery/those first months! The first year of motherhood is such a transformative time, even on my third child (he is now 7 months old) I am amazed how each child brings his or her own gifts/lessons to our lives.

  13. That has to be the most beautifully written blog post I have read. You really drew me into the scene, your children, your day. I really am stunned by the beauty of your words.

    I’ll never forget the day when my eldest jumped in the pool for the first time. She looked at me, pulling in disgust at her bathing suit, as she pouted, “I’m wet!” Ahh, I love motherhood.

    • Wow, thank you! I am off to a day of grinding through some chapters, so your kind words are a wonderful boost.

      And yes, motherhood provides us with endless ‘moments’, doesn’t it? WIth three kids, I never run out of material (just energy, ha!)

  14. this is awesome sis! you have such a way with words and a great writer. Keep it up.
    I was absorbed in the story the whole way. Even if i didn’t know your or we weren’t family it would have captured my heart to read your beautiful words.
    Honest truth and also looking at the world in another perspective.
    Praise God for your wonderful gift!!

  15. you made me wish I too could puddlejump.however,age and profession are barriers!As mother of triplets, now 18 years old, I have seen it all. Enjoy them while U can.

  16. Thank you for reminding me to stop more often and enjoy the moments we have with our little people. It passes far too fast. All too soon the idea of cuddling up with mom will gross them out!

    • It does pass too quickly – I recently spent time with dear friends who have children several years older than mine and it was a real reminder of how we blink and suddenly our little ones are poised on the edge of becoming big people

  17. I’m speachless, this is so beautiful! Touching, endearing, eloquent, abstract, just beautiful!

    fyi, as a teenager, i still love cuddling with my mom… except when she snores 😛 but when I was little, I was always too figety. she would have her arms around me and would soon fall asleep and I was always so afraid that if I stired I’d wake her up.

    All I have to say is let your daughter frollic and jump and dance and figet. Its the best thing for her. I’m still like that, walking and dancing, I even dance in my sleep apparently. And I love jumping in those puddles 😛

    • I am hoping, hoping, hoping that my daughter will forever love cuddling me! So thank you for giving me some proof that it is possible.
      My daughter sings and dances and carries on conversations in her sleep as well – she is a magical person and it is my commitment to guard and nurture that as best as I can!

      • Well congratulations. Thats all she could ask for in a mother. I always thought I had the best mother in the world. I better not tell her she has competition :P. Hold her when she needs it, always lend her a hand, especially when she unwilling to ask, and help her to follow whatever dreams she has in that little head. When I wanted to be a ballerina and then a violinist and then so on, my mother allowed me to follow them, getting me lessons. Every year before renewing the lessons our parents would set us all down and ask, do you want to continue? its ok if you don’t but we will only get you the lessons if you promise to go to all the lessons happily. And every year we did. We never felt pressured by them to achieve, we just felt that we were happy. Now, due to the pressures of school and the impossibility to continue playing every instrument and dancing every dance because there are simply not enough hours in the day, I am still doing Ballet, still playing violin, and still unable to sit still for more than a few minutes.

        • It sounds like you have absolutely lovely parents! My own parents were always (and continue to be) supportive of my dreams – they have set the foundation for my own parenting.
          I know about not having enough hours in the day – and i think somehow that when we find our passions, they help to stretch those hours out further, they bend time. One of my main hopes as a mother is to be able to recognize those passions in my children and help them pursue them. I want them to be beautifully, unapologetically the creations that they are!
          Thanks so much for your kind words and taking the time to read.

  18. Your writing is beautiful. The moments you described with your kids make me think of what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being.” I look forward to reading more…

    • I’ve had a Woolf quote running around in my head for the last few days – I am always tumbling my way into and out of those moments and hoping that the gaps between the out moments and the in moments continue to shrink (writing is my entry IN to those moments).
      Thank you for reading & commenting

  19. My goodness, this was such a wonderful post! I especially liked the part about snuggling- that’s my favorite time of day with our daughter, watching her drift off in my arms.

    You so eloquently put into words what I feel to be the essential “motherhood” struggle- keeping your mind in those precious moments of childhood while juggling your own adult worries. Very well said!

    My blog is about all the lessons we learn on that road called adolescence, that takes us from child to adult. If you were ever interested in submitting a Letter, I would be totally honored…

    • Yes, you summed up the conflict of parenthood perfectly!
      I just had a peek at your site and would love to submit a letter – I’ll send you a quick email to your gmail account!

  20. Love it .. I recall once sitting in a puddle in our street with my daughter in the rain .. the neighbours thought I was a total loon I am sure. But I wanted to see how it was for her, she was having a blast and I was whining about the rain making it hard to dry nappies etc – seeing life thru 3yr old eyes is a treat at times, I agree. If you have time check out my “its snowing” post, sounds like your kids would do something similar 😉

    • I have been known to sit on the sidewalk with my daughter (or older son), or throw myself down in the grass next to either one of them when they are having a good tantrum – I think it is the best way to survive some phases of parenthood! (plus, it’s fun) I’ve given up all illusions of holding on to my dignity long, long ago (I’m not sure I ever really had any to begin with)

  21. This is so awesome I hope you are saving these musings for your children to read one day.
    Such soothing truthful writing. love it love it!
    I think (from mom to mom) you will appreciate this inspiring video:
    Blessings gmom

    • Yes, I plan to pull together all of my writings and put them in a book to give them one day. I have a published poem that I wrote for my daughter waiting on the bookshelf for when she is older and I’m hoping that the collection of publications like that will grow.
      So glad you stopped by the blog, loved the video!
      p.s. I just watched it again and it made me cry – I am about to pass it on to all of the other moms I know – so beautiful, so perfect, so true

        • Yes, I will post it on the blog in a day or two as a way of giving it a new home (I’ll link it to my publications on the side bar).
          Btw, speaking of bringing women’s voices together, I have just been thinking of the power of this, how much as women we need one another! – I am currently working on a project for charity. When I won the 76th Writer’s Digest comp part of the prize was this great self-publishing package, I wanted to use it to give back somehow – it has turned into an anthology of published writers/mamas called ‘Milk & Ink: A Mosaic of Motherhood’ I have been printing out all of the essays/poetry/short stories and what a beautiful/powerful gathering of voices it has become. We are hoping to have it available by the holiday season this year and all proceeds are going to a charity, Mama Hope that helps families in Africa.

    • I appreciate that video . . . moms can never be reminded enough that what they do, day in and day out, matters! It truly feels like no one sees but the payoff is so widespread, you can’t measure it. Oh, how we like to measure our success! And sometimes the payoff isn’t until much later . . . patience, not really my strongest virtue. I’m home with my two boys, 5 and 3 years old, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  22. Hi. I’m from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I like your post, though I don’t fully understand the language. But the way you describe the rain, remind me of our days here in wet season. In my religion, rain is a bless from Allah. I’m a mother of 3 child, I can feel all your explanation. Thanks.

  23. That was beautiful. I loved your last paragraph. I read it from the point of view of a daughter, and I just wanted to say that maybe 10 years down the line in a moment of anger or distraction your daughter may snap at you or hurt you in some way, but remember she is a child and she loves you immensely. Mothers make our worlds go around.

    Beautiful post.

    • Yes, I am already preparing myself for that window of years of adolescence! My friend once teased me, saying, “Alegra it is years away!” To which I said, “You can never be too prepared for teenagers!”

      But I suspect like every challenging stage, it will have its moments of trial and reward – and both my husband and I had good relationships with our parents through those years, so here is hoping history will be on our side ;o)

    • Thank you for reading and commenting – it is always a little bit like opening a present to discover someone has read and taken the time to make a comment.

  24. I clicked over on a whim after seeing a link to your post on the wordpress homepage, and I’m so grateful that I did. This was stunningly beautiful, both the moments you captured and the overall feeling that your writing evoked. I love when I’m able to recognize these moments with my son, when I’m able to learn (and re-learn) about life by viewing it through his eyes. This was a wonderful read!

  25. Once, about 17 years ago, I was walking with an 8 years old girl on a rural dirt road in India. All of a sudden, she stopped to watch something her face told me was the 8th. World Wonder. I looked around but could not enjoy the Wonder for there was nothing, absolutely nothing awsome for me to see.
    – How beautiful, she said.
    – What?, I dared to ask.
    – That plastic bag!
    Then I saw it. A dancing queen, filled with hot dirty air, flying across the road in total freedom. Then time became still, everything arround me disappeard and I was that magical ballerina made of plastic bag, unfolding my mistery and beauty for those who really can see.
    Even today, when I recall this experience, a sense of deep peace comes to me. But I don´t recall it very often, though. You know why too: motherhood, writing, one car family, schedules. “Once again, my mind became a crowded, chaotic room with too many voices competing for my attention.”
    Thanks to post, that expanded unity consiousness came back to me today. Thanks for helping me reminding it.

  26. Have you read Naomi Aldort’s “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves?” If not, it might be a good book for you to pick up…I myself have read it multiple times and have found much self-growth from it.

    You are a beautiful writer.

  27. wow! a great post, I surely can relate 101% for this is just one of the many things I (an absent-mom) have missed and/ or missing in my kids’lives, they are with my mom back home, while I’m working here in China….thank u

    • Oh, I feel for you! There have been times over the last few years I’ve needed to be away from kids for a week or two at a time – it is always difficult.

  28. wow what a great writer!
    yes it is difficult but they are beautiful and that smile that reaches into the depths of your soul is the life line that i have everyday.

    Thank you for such a great piece of writing

    Michael’s Mom

    • :o) The challenges of parenthood definitely come with those rewards/lifelines – my biggest ongoing battle as a parent is that I hate losing any moments with them due to fatgue/overwhelm/impatience – but I think the trick is accepting/surrendering to these moments. We all have them (daily!)

  29. I love my children, too! I especially love how they force me to look at the world with fresh eyes, and get me to see that I don’t need to stress about things.

    • Yes, they are little teachers, aren’t they? All three of my children have such different personalities and their ways of approaching the world provide me with so many opportunities for discovery.

  30. I just read your post again and the comments from all the moms and was reminded of how many times over so many years of raising children i would berate my distracted husband to stop and look at our children. “Your missing it!” I would often say.
    The experience of raising children is so universal.
    What a powerful thing you have done to have brought all these thoughts from so many women together. Powerful.

  31. I, too, am best at cuddling with my boys, 5 and 3 years old. My fav part. I have moments of clarity and seeing the world through their eyes and a lot more moments of fighting through the cynicism and fatigue . . . you portrayed it so well!! Thanks for the post! I think I’ll try harder to live in the moments of clarity . . .

  32. Beautiful writing! Since I had my boy two months ago I’ve noticed myself taking pleasure in the smaller things again; like I did when I was a kid. I can’t wait till he’s old enough to jump in puddles with, but at the same time I want him to stay a tiny boy forever.
    Sometimes, though, I find myself so weighed down with the chaos in our lives right now that I blink and he’s doing something new that I’ve missed. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and absorb him as much as I can before he’s 18 and moving out 🙂

    • Motherhood IS such a constant teeter totter of awe/love and total chaos! I go through the same feelings with my children daily – I celebrate their milestones, their ‘growing up’ and the ease with which these things bring while also mourning the loss of their ‘tiny’ selves. I had a visit with some friends recently whose children are older than mine – they were already mourning how quickly time is going to pass…you blink and they are moving out of home!

  33. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your words are so heartfelt and genuine, while reminding all of the mothers out there (myself included) to take the time to simply watch our children explore and live life. Your words remind me a lot of how I view my son. At almost 6 years of age, he seems to have the time of his life at every single moment. For him, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Me on the other hand – I will probably always strive to be like him. I can only hope that he continues to live the rest of his this way.

  34. I loved this post. When my children were young, I could sometimes catch glimpses of the adults they would be. Now that they are grown, I catch glimpses of the children they once were were. Either way is precious.

    • I find your comment so reassuring – my husband and I often discuss how we had a ‘sense’ of their personalities during the pregnancies (so far we have been correct). The idea that I might be catching glimpses of their future in the beauty of who they are now…well, that just fills me with happiness.

  35. ahhh…i love those moments when we are not consumed by life’s distractions and insane seriousness. it is in those moments of complete abandon that i finally really enjoy my children. beautiful insight. thank you for sharing.

    – emily

    • “it is in those moments of complete abandon” – yep, that’s it! (and sometimes the exhaustion/stress actually can lead to that complete abandon!)

    • Crazy luck of the draw Pete! (Only I am choosing to view it as a divine tap on the shoulder – ‘cuz you know how I go)

  36. Wow, so many wonderful comments to a wonderful post! I love your words!

    I relate completely as I am the mother of a 17 month old. I am and continue to learn so much from him. Thank you for sharing.

  37. Wow, I love seeing all these new faces here, even though a part of me wants to clutch you back to myself…that’s how you write: as though each one of us were the only one you’re talking to.

  38. Your story utterly resonates with every mothering cell in my body right now. I have a three year old and a one year old, and I too feel sometimes I get tangled in the daily grind net which distracts me from actually enjoying my children. Then I feel like a horrible mom, because I’m not able to constantly communicate how phenomenally crazy in love I am with them, because I feel that love no matter what state of mind I’m in or what my blank overwhelmed face may show. Thanks for sharing and I will definitely be sharing this story if that’s alright with you. It’s absolutely lovely.

    • I would be honored if you passed this on!
      Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if it were not for other women saying, “Yes, me too…”
      There is power in the sharing of experience. And a great deal of beauty/laughter/relief.

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