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Take It Outside

Spring in Richmond. It’s rife with daffodils and tulips, baby bunnies in the backyard, and hummingbirds helplessly trapped in the garage. Okay, maybe that’s just at our house. But we all know the season. It’s the transitional period before summer, earmarked for outdoor festivals, indoor cleaning, and entertaining on the recently powerwashed deck.

Spring in Richmond. It can last anywhere from twelve hours to three weeks.

To fully celebrate this much-ballyhooed season, we had a tradition back in the salad days, when story time at the library was one of our most pressing commitments

I’m sure I lifted this from a parenting magazine somewhere, but over time I managed to claim independent authorship of what the girls and I called – the spring walk.

Every year, we’d strike out on a neighborhood quest in search of the signs. Crocuses popping up amidst winter’s spent annuals; robins with swollen bellies; forsythia just about to bloom forth; and the flower Sam absolutely adored – the dandelion. “How can something so lovely be called a weed, Mommy?” she would ask, picking a tiny fistful of sunshine, which invariably would end up in the bottom of the stroller or in her younger sister’s mouth. Oh well, technically it’s an herb.

One year, I think spring was over by the time we got back from our spring walk.

I could feel it waning as we rounded the cul-de-sac and headed across the street for the comfort of home. We wiped the sweat from our collective brow, bemoaned our red faces, and dragged our damp, dispirited bodies up the front steps and inside to air-conditioned relief. Crawling to the freezer for ice-pops to usher in summer properly, I knew what was coming next: “Can we set up the Slip ‘n Slide?”

Before I continue, let me be clear about something. This is not a rant on the weather. After all, how could I possibly grumble about the weather with NBC12’s very own Andrew Freiden just a few pages back in this issue of RFM? And like I tell my daughters all the time, there’s no use complaining about something over which we have no control. Like the weather. Or boys who wear skinny jeans.

No, I like spring in Richmond, as short and unpredictable as it can be. Factor in the runny noses, allergy eyes, and persistent coughing that plague three-fifths of our family, and spring is definitely high on my list of seasons that come every year after winter.

The truth is, by the time warmer weather arrives, we’re so ready to spend more time in the great outdoors that it doesn’t matter that doing so makes us physically sick. The emotional benefits of a quick game of four-square in the driveway or a family bike ride after dinner far exceed any drawbacks the pollen-laden spring breeze might blow in our direction.

Looking for other condensed activities to get the family outside? Try some of our favorites, like weeding for at least twenty minutes to assure the neighbors and other passersby that you actually do care about your yard; walking instead of driving to the store for that gallon of milk you need for breakfast; or washing the car before summer’s water restrictions take effect.

The common denominator among these spring pursuits is the length of time necessary to execute them, or rather, the lack thereof. Around here, compelling the women children (as my husband calls them) to don appropriate footwear often takes longer than the actual activity. But that’s quite alright. There is no maximum requirement for spring activities. Moments shared, out-of-doors, in the sunshine and semi-fresh air, are what matter.

Thinking about it this way, when it comes to actually getting outside with our kids, spring’s lesson is a timeless one for parents. Anyone who has kids in college will tell you: As quickly as spring in Richmond morphs into summer – childhood is even more fleeting.

Go on a spring walk/scavenger hunt with your kids in the neighborhood.
Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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