A familiar rush of water coming down the drain pipe demands its presence, and brings me out of my sleep. Sitting up, I see my three year old at the end of the bed, blinking at me through the dark as he waits for the other “earlier riser” in the house to get the day started. “It’s a rain day”, he whispers gleefully to me.
As a parent we all face barriers that seem to eschew our best intentions with surgical-like precision. Often the biggest one we all face is our own children, with songs of “ I don’t want to”, “I just want to play”, and the ubiquitous “No”. For most of us, getting out the door can be a huge hurdle, and when you’re doing the extra work of preparing for rain, an hour walk around the neighbourhood can slip easily from your daily agenda.
Fostering a deep respect and love for our planet is something that is imperative for parents in 2018. The soft environmental conservatism of 80’s and 90’s that we were raised on was...fine. It was perfectly fine. The question remains, however, of how can we do better? How can we raise this generation so that their children might not have to fight for their environment? I don’t believe in grandiose ideas and solutions, I think we foster this love through simple acts, and doing our best to interweave environmental respect and education into our everyday routines. Live it, as the kids say.
After inhaling his breakfast my son is waiting, with as much patience as a hyperactive 3 year old can muster, to put on one of his favourite bits of clothing, his muddy-buddy. The rain is still beating down on our windows, and with our bags finally packed I turn to finish helping with boots and rain gear. My very patient son has retreated to his room, is onto his second toy, and removed all clothing below the waist. I glance over at the clock, it’s now 10:16, and I had originally planned on leaving the house by 9:30.
I had a friend who used to joke that you could always tell a west coast local because they had a backpack full of clothes for various weather situations on them 10 months out of the year. While this might be completely true a slight exaggeration, planning to keep warm and dry in any condition will open up your little ones eyes to a wonderful, sparkled, wet world. Layering 3-4 thinner layers under their rain gear will serve you much better in the long run, as you’re better able to regulate their heat through layer changes as they go from different activities. We typically put our own in a t-shirt or muscle shirt, long sleeve shirt, thick or thin sweater (depending on local temp) and then rain gear. Usually a double layer of pants is plenty. Keeping their core warm is more important, and mobility becomes an issue as well, especially if your little one is still in diapers or trainers.
Sliding like a bullet down a barrel he comes careening down a wet slide, gathering speeds he otherwise would not be able to reach without the rain and slick rain suit. He lands on his bottom with a thud, jumping up to once again to go shooting down the slide. “Once more”, he pants, “and then let's find some puddles”, as he races through the empty playground. It’s a cold wet October Sunday and he is the only kid in sight.
A different world comes alive when you reach out into the rain, and following your little ones heart (and head) through the downpour can be incredibly rewarding. Whether it is the deepest puddle, the muddiest puddle, or maybe the fastest “gutter-river”, you can rest assured you will never run out of things to do on your rainy day outing. Have you ever taken the time to see how rain falls differently off of different plants and leaves? Or counted all the earthworms that have come up from the soil? Following them as they explore their new world, and creating these little activities to suit their interests can make minutes disappear into hours, and also helps to build a strong respect and admiration for nature that is imperative for our children's futures.
Racing around the corner he disappears from sight only for the briefest of seconds, but I find I put a hop in my step to reach the bend that much faster anyway. “NUMBER 5”, he barrels at the top of his lungs, startling the couple walking towards us. He’s stopped just around the corner of the trail, and has found his fifth slug. “Be careful”, he warns the couple as they pass, “slugs are very fragile and we don’t want to hurt one”. At least, that is what I translated for them through his tonque-tied still toddler speech. We walk a little further down the path, and settle on seven slugs for our daily count, before turning back to find another adventure.
Exploring in the rain can teach your child important lessons about the ecosystem in which you take part, and experiencing it with you will be all the more powerful. Respect for our planet needs to be instilled and nurtured from birth, and getting a bit wet, and maybe a little bit muddy seems like a small price to pay. Here in Vancouver we experience somewhere between 150-200 rain days every year, and having a dedicated drawer or shelf near the front door for rain gear, a few grab and go snacks always on hand, and a positive attitude will have you and your little one enjoying most of them outdoors. Just remember to stay hydrated, stay safe, and have fun.
“Thanks,” he gasps after downing half his water, “Hungry now”. We sought out the shelter of an old growth cedar that managed to survive the ravages of modernity in a park a few blocks over. It is always dry near the trunk, and this tree has kept me dry many times throughout my life, and now my sons as well. We both sit down to eat lunch, backs against the tree looking out at the wet empty park, happy in our sopping wet rain gear.