I am the “muddy puddles” mom. But that wasn’t always the case.
On the fourth of July, 2010, I was at a backyard party with my two baby boys. My oldest son, Ty, was 2 at the time, my youngest, Gavin, just 2 months. As the sun went down my friend called me over with a huge smile on his face so I could see what Ty was up to. There he stood, in the middle of a muddy puddle, as wild-eyed and giddy as a kid on Christmas morning.
Inside my head, I wanted to scream. I didn’t have a change of clothes. We had a long drive home. He would get his car seat all dirty. It was too late for a bath, he would go to bed filthy. And to be honest, I was exhausted from chasing him around all day while caring for his baby brother.
On the surface, though, I smiled. I didn’t want to think about the mess even though I couldn’t help it. I wanted to think about the smile in front of me. I tried to let it go and remember that he was just a little boy having the time of his life doing nothing more than splash around in a puddle. I wanted to see the joy and humor in it as the others did around me (sure, they didn’t have to deal with the mess afterward and the whiney toddler who was sure to cry about his wet clothes during the whole ride home).
Turns out that Ty didn’t complain once about his clothes being wet. We got home late, washed his hands and feet as best as we could, let him go to bed dirty and no harm was done. It is now five years later and I can’t express how happy I am that on that day, at that moment, I chose to shake it off and smile. It was the first and last time my son ever had the chance to enjoy that simple rite of passage. I had no idea what was ahead of us.
Less than two months later, Ty was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. The diagnosis was a complete shock. The only reason he was even approved for an MRI was because we suspected headaches when he had trouble sleeping at night, but he was otherwise an unstoppable force on the playground, at the beach, in preschool, etc. A perfectly healthy, happy, energetic little kid. Cancer? Impossible.
For the next two and a half years my son endured 20 surgeries. He spent 260 nights in a hospital bed. He was too weak to ever walk again after his very first treatment; and every time he almost got back on his feet, another set-back put him right back in the hospital bed. Cancer is so just so cruel.
I often watched Gavin growing up under the care of countless friends and family members who had to pitch in so I could be with Ty. I missed out on so much of the normal “babyhood” that a mommy is supposed to experience – but I promise you that when I did experience it, each moment was that much more precious. Every sloppy kiss, every handprint on the window – a treasure. I was forever changed as a parent, and for that I am grateful.
Ty had an adorable little voice, and he would always say he was feeling “all bedda,” even when I knew he was in pain. He didn’t like others to worry about him. One day I asked him, “What do you want to do when you are all bedda for real?”
He answered… “I’m gonna jump in a MUDDY PUDDLE!”
That one simple statement blew my mind. I needed to shout it from the rooftops. I wanted parents everywhere to know that there are hundreds of thousands of children in this world – for one reason or another – who can’t have enjoy some of the most simple joys of childhood. Honor them by stepping back once in a while and letting your kids be kids.
To support that point, my husband and I launched The Muddy Puddles Project, which is a fundraising platform to fund lifesaving childhood cancer research through the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation. As founders of the project, we have declared April 1st National Jump in Muddy Puddles Day!. Won’t you please join us? Take photos of your kids jumping in puddles and post them to the Muddy Puddles Project website or facebook page. Let’s raise awareness together. Remember to let your kids jump in muddy puddles whenever they want. Let them get wild with finger paints and glitter. Because soon they will be all grown up and see wet clothes and dirty shoes as nothing but a nuisance.
The Muddy Puddles Project doesn’t have to be just for kids. The muddy puddle doesn’t have to be a puddle in the literal sense of the word at all. Whatever your “muddy puddle” is, I hope you will face it head-on today… and just JUMP IN IT!
One in two men
One in three women
One in 300 children… will get cancer.
What’s YOUR muddy puddle?