Since we’ve been back home, the boys cannot get their fill of the sandbox. Time spent out of the sandbox is time spent waiting until it’s time to be back in the sandbox again.
I’m not sure exactly what the classification is for what this fulfills, but whatever it is, it’s significant. It completely absorbs and engages every angle of their concentration for lengths of time no other toy or activity here can. From the time we wake in the morning, and then sprinkled in between planned activities, both boys are in the sandbox. Digging trenches, swishing sand, plowing fields, building roads, erecting bridges; it’s like the ultimate in creativity and messiness, blissfully spread on the ground ready to be pounced.
So while the sunshine still blesses us with its warmth, we’re skipping appropriate breakfasts and taking bread and jam to the sandbox with the shovels. We’re donning our hats and socks and eating quick bites of noodles in stolen snippets before dashing back to finish smoothing the road. Any mention of my intention to go inside and accomplish some sort of household task such as laundry or dinner is met with fervent pleas to come back and play in the sand.
But because peeing in the bushes is not a viable option for me, nor is fasting, I am inevitably met with vocal objections when I do go in. No amount of explanations on the necessity of the errand can sink in.
So today I decide to engage the obsession. While the baby slept, we tiptoed downstairs to create a canal. Grabbing our small plastic boats and racing on tip-toe, we dove into the project. While I was choosing to be excited to create a canal in cold, wet sand, Austin was genuinely delighted. He didn’t even know what a canal was, but we were going to build one!
Throwing myself into trenching, I realized it wasn’t so awful. With a hat to keep the chill away I bent down on my hands and knees. My out-of-whack back behaved itself and allowed me to enjoy the dig. As our canal lengthened, I found myself really starting to think. This is a quality usually lacking in many children’s toys and activities…pure creativity, the opportunity for children to apply critical thinking skills. An idea emerged to add a fork in the path. There were visions of tiny fluorescent sailboats surprising us with their chosen direction. I got to wondering what the statistical analysis would be for boats going left or right. Ahh…just thinking the phrase “statistical analysis” was refreshing!
As the first tiny boat neared our “V” I realized that for some reason the sand wasn’t going to hold enough water to give me a chance to test my probability project.
While I was irritated and began to lose myself to dredging the river in hopes of creating current, Austin asked me what “dredging” meant as he picked up his shovel to help. When we finally acquiesced to the futility of floating the boat, it was then that I realized that for him it wasn’t about making a functioning canal. Maybe it didn’t need to be for me either.
It was about building something together. It was about exploring and discovering, about mud, creativity, and companionship. As the river slowly drained, the baby woke and joined us, the dredged mud took on a new life as strawberry pie, with enough for “everyone!” The trench was reinvented as road, agility course for the baby, and material to build bridges over.
And just like everything else built in the sandbox, by tomorrow afternoon it will be a memory.
And we’ll be ready to create the next project.
Copyright 2010 Ginger Payton all text and photos