My girls love to run around the front yard. There’s nothing out there but a patch of drying grass and a wide concrete driveway, but they think it’s as good as any park. While it’s lacking the swing set and riding toys of the back yard, it has the advantage of giving them a front row seat to the world. They can watch the neighbors come and go, see the cars (and occasional fire trucks, mail trucks, and garbage trucks) driving by, jump up and down with excitement every time someone walking a dog passes by, becoming more excited when the dog actually responds to their squeals.
The other day my two-year-old watched in awe as a woman jogged slowly down the street. The woman was clearly struggling, moving at a reasonably slow pace, but chugging along with determination. My sweet little girl pointed at her and shouted, “Look at that lady, Mommy. She’s running! She’s going so fast!” The woman smiled and waved, and sped up her pace a little.
Our house is on a corner, and the side street is fairly busy, so while the girls spend many hours in the front window watching the street outside, they don’t get as good of a view of the busy street from inside the house as they do from outside. I think this feeling of distance from the goings-on out there might explain why, when they are outside, they don’t realize the people they’re talking about can hear them. When they jump up and down yelling, “Look, that man has a red hat!” and the red-hatted man pauses to wave at them, they erupt into excited peals of laughter, run around the driveway a few times, and then finally get up the nerve to wave back, just as he walks out of view.
The best thing about their obsession with the front yard is that it gets me out there with them. The other day, sitting out front with them, post-naps but pre-dinner, I felt like we were all unwinding from a long busy day. Taking the time to wave at people walking down the street and greeting each neighbor as they returned home from work is a much better way to spend an hour than cleaning up piles of kid toys inside while trying to lip-read the newscaster’s report over the racket of two hyper girls.