Young children often prevent adults from ignoring the fresh energies of spring. The forces that push nature to bloom and propagate explode in their bodies as well. Adults try to grab children’s attention as they run or gallop past. A couple of preschool boys forget indoor plumbing and relieve themselves in the preschool yard. Yet it always seems to surprise us. Children also display new skills, like turning on the hose by themselves and spraying each other—feats they couldn’t have accomplished in the fall. Every year teachers and parents stop and confer, asking, “What’s happening? Have our children become problems over night?”
In the past, springtime was talked about and celebrated more expansively. Life revolved around the seasons. With the thaw of winter, everyone’s behavior changed, and when feelings of giddiness, amorousness, or restless energy emerged, people knew it was spring fever. Today, adults are often too focused on indoor work to feel connected with changes in the natural world. How-ever, scientists have researched “spring fever” and noted that people have more serotonin in their brains during spring. No wonder children’s antics often have a silly, euphoric quality.
Why not join them in their responses to burgeoning new growth? Enjoying spring with kids is healthy for adults and children. Lafayette gardening author, Carolyn Parker, sees every spring as an event to be remembered in a person’s life. Poets have long expressed ecstatic appreciation for the season. It was probably spring when Walt Whitman stated, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars.” In the book (and movie) The Color Purple, the character Shug asserts her understanding that if we walk by a field of blooming purple flowers without looking at their beauty, God gets “pissed off.”
One way to steady children’s silly energies is to engage them in activities. This is the time to construct a simple bird feeder or a house for bugs. Put children to work in the garden or vigorous spring cleaning. But don’t stop with your house. Take a family outing to pick up trash on a trail or beach. Spending time in the outdoors helps our bodies integrate the new energies of the season.
With April Fool’s Day coming up, it’s also the time of year to acknowledge the delight of mischief. Hide your child’s shoes. Abscond with his video game and tell him an elf is playing it. Look out your window and pretend to be astonished by a large animal walking past the house. Holidays like April Fool’s Day were created to channel the natural trickster quality of spring, and whimsical practical jokes emphasize that we have time for fun in our lives.
Children don’t need us to worry about them in spring. However, we all benefit from noticing the changes in nature and acknowledging with reverence that we are a part of them. On the coast in Jenner, there are sheep with their lambs on the hillsides and infant seals with their mothers on the beach. Closer to home, we can delight in fawns in the bushes and animals just learning to walk at the zoo. It’s time to catch those memories to carry them with us into the future.
Susan Isaacs Kohl, is director of the White Pony preschool in Lafayette. She is the author of The Best Things Parents Do: Ideas & Insights from Real-World Parents and four other books and numerous articles for parents.