We were on the road, windows down, house locked up and alarmed behind us, as if we had hung a Gone Fishin’ sign on the door. We were giving ourselves a time-out. Time-out! For too much carpooling, too much rushing, too much yelling, too much organizing, too much working. But this was no sit-in-the-corner-time-out. Nope.
There was going to be rafting and late-night dance parties, and down-the-side-of-a-mountain hikes, and cliff-jumping and rapids-surfing, and window-shopping and steak-frites-eating. Not a corner in sight. Just wide open road and a new attitude.
It has been a few weeks since our end-of-summer Canadian road trip ended and there has been a near-immediate return to normal life, complete with the anxiety and tantrums (ours and theirs) that come along with all we’re trying to accomplish every day. And I find myself wishing for a time-out again and again. If I could just step out on the balcony of the hotel in Mont Tremblant and smell the mountain air! I could, of course, just as easily step outside into my own backyard, but I don’t. There are dishes to do, homework to push, bedtime routines, phone calls to take, and honestly, there are raccoons out there. Big ones.
But then I do escape, with my kids and their books, and there is that sigh I ‘ve been looking for all day long. Take Little Bear, serene Little Bear. Thank you Else Holmelund Minarik (and Maurice Sendak!) for this little peaceful gift you gave us. For offering an ambience to our children and to us that we couldn’t possibly replicate. Even the cartoons of the books are comforting. (Yes, I wrote that.) Little Bear goes wandering through the woods and listens to the wind and meets a little green worm and life is quiet and good. My kids love these books and of course they do–and so many others like them.
The same way I liked My Side of the Mountain so, so much. While I was listening to Pat Benatar and the Bangles, Sam Gribley was collecting flint and a knife and heading for the Catskills, walking away from his kid-in-the-city-life, making a home inside a tree and conquering fear and hunger with confidence and know-how and gusto.
It is so enticing, the tangibility of the natural world in books for kids, the somber wind that soothes Sophie when she gets angry, the splishing and sploshing they do in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. It’s just exhilarating, you know? The mud up to your knees, the singular mission of it all. There is no multi-tasking. We’re just going on a bear hunt, that’s all.
In some of these books, the characters wonder, and in some of them they simply wander. Wander the outside world, live and breathe in it for a little while as a little break from the inside pressures. All those toys! The homework! The television! The little brother! The bright lights of a home buzzing with bottled-up, organically-fueled energy. Sometimes, we all give out, exploding into the outside for solace and a respite.
Dusk falling, oceans waving, trees swaying—these things rock us back into consciousness when we’ve knocked ourselves out trying too hard. Here are some books to help you and your kids wander, or wonder, or maybe just hang with a little green worm for a bit…
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury—You will be breathless at the end and it will put you all in a better mood, Promise.
When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang—a book that speaks it’s own language about anger and its aftermath. Everyone should own it.
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
A Snowy Day—Just a miracle of a day when the city is blanketed in snow. A gem of a book.
A Goodnight Walk by Elisha Cooper—He has special way with squirrels on electrical wires and wheelbarrows and sunsets and the stuff of a street saying goodnight.
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson—Because it introduces Thoreau and the spirit of exploration and resourcefulness and kids think it’s just a good story.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George–give this to your 9-12-year-old and watch as they step away from the i-Pad.
…and if today is heading toward a time-out for my kids (or for me), I’m thinking maybe we’ll all just go climb a tree instead. No corners. Just trees.