My 'be cautious' daddy instincts kicked in and I told JJ, "You know you don't have to walk through the puddles, right?"
"Oh," JJ said as if he was unaware that he was ankle deep in a puddle.
Then I remembered something: I was that kid once. In fact, I was worse than all three of my kids combined. I am sure my mother loathed rainy days like today (and in the Seattle suburbs, this kind of weather was a recurring possibility). The half mile walk from Pinewood Elementary down 53rd and around the corner to the white house on 80th stretched longer than the typical ten minutes on days filled with heavy precipitation.
Because I was that kid. The one who had no qualms making a spectacle of himself. The one searching for each and every rain puddle with gleeful anticipation, often straying from the path to find those out-of-the-way puddles. The one jumping as high as he could upon approach and simultaneously stomping with both feet as close to the middle of the puddle as he could. The one on a quest to discover the biggest splash he could create. That was me.
By the time I stepped through the front door I was drenched and disheveled, dripping my own rainstorm all over the hardwood floors. Every square inch of fabric covering my body was soaked. Shirt and coat. Pants and undies. Shoes and socks. This routine was so thorough, my waterlogged shoes would still be wet the next morning when it was time to go back to school. I was sodden and numbed, shivering as if I had just gone for a winter swim at Kayak Point. Sniffling runny nose, toes and fingertips tingling as they adjusted to indoor warmth. My mom could only embrace me with a towel then follow me with a mop.
I was that kid. So it seems a bit ignorant of my own history and inner child to deny my youngest son the same pleasure. This is the boy who does not like getting dirty. Who craves order. Who is the most organized student in his class. Who believes that everything has a place. For him to mistakenly wander into a puddle because he wasn't paying attention to the ground beneath his feet hardly deserves correction considering I (at his age) would have likely been dancing like a kangaroo in that same puddle.
To my youngest child, please allow me to revise my previous guidance. You don't have to walk through the puddles, but you can if you want. You don't even have to walk. You could jump.