Zippy is a kid of lofty ambitions. Turning our backyard into a nature preserve for squirrels, converting our house into a natural history museum, putting rocket-boosters on my car…none of these things seem out of reach to him. Not only does he come up with these ideas, but then he starts laying out his plans for how we’ll do it. That is usually where I smile and nod or, if he starts getting too excited with his planning (When are we going to buy the oak trees for the squirrels, Momma?), provide a gentle reality check.
Have you heard about the kid whose parents let him play with nuclear materials in their garage? When he was in middle school? He created nuclear fusion when he was 14. Hubby told me the story over dinner one night and I started thinking that maybe we should go along with Zippy’s plan to turn my car into a rocket. We could buy some metal tubes, like he suggested, and then Google “rocket boosters” and go from there. We’d probably burn ourselves alive, but at least he could never say we didn’t support his dreams.
Lucky for us, his latest idea was one we could actually pursue safely. He proposed inviting all of his buddies over for a race around the neighborhood. Ah, finally! An idea within my meager abilities and our budget! We sat down and drew up a plan. Super fun and very do-able. We pulled this together in less than a week and it was easily the least stressful event we’ve hosted. That was largely because wasn’t a lot of “hosting” involved, and also it was all outside so I didn’t even have to clean the bathrooms.
Although Zippy’s idea was to invite a few of his best buds from daycare, he was easily convinced to include the kids in the neighborhood too. I love neighborhood events! He came up with a name for the race (because every big race has a name, right?): The Firebooster Race for Kids. We decided on a $1 entry fee and I let Zippy choose the charity. His first suggestion was “toys for my little brother.” Awwww. Thoughtful, but I suggested we think outside our family. Always the animal-lover, his second choice was the Jane Goodall Institute, a la Chimpanzee. We created flyers which we sent to some families via Facebook and dropped off in our neighbors’ mailboxes.
I picked up easy, race-friendly snacks (oranges and granola) the day before the race and whipped up these race numbers to pin on the kids’ backs, so they’d know that this was no ordinary race – this was official.
The morning of the race I marked out the half-mile course, looping through our neighborhood, with sidewalk chalk. (Have plenty of chalk on hand, if you decide to try this!) We had a few little kids racing, like Bee, so I also charted a mini-course just to the end of the block for them. Little kids do not like to be left out!
After the kids and parents wandered down to our house Saturday morning and checked in at the “registration table,” I recruited a couple of adults to stand at the corners to make sure the kids crossed the roads safely and stayed out of harm’s way. Yes, the last thing we wanted was to scar Zippy’s memory of the day we made his dreams come true with the image of his friends being carted away in an ambulance.
Okay, I did not realize how seriously these kids were going to take the race! They were hard-core! I stayed back at the start/finish line and couldn’t believe how soon those kids (especially the older ones) were flying toward finish line, red-faced and sweaty and out of breath. I figured there would be some walking, some stopping to rest on the curb, some foot-dragging…but the “big kids” were back in under 5 minutes! We may need to make it a mile next year.
After the race we handed out medals to all of the kids and let them loose in the backyard to play while the adults visited.
We raised money for chimpanzees, enjoyed some neighborhood camaraderie and exercise, and the boys napped great that afternoon! As an added bonus, I can let go of a little of the momma guilt. We may not have put rocket-boosters on my car, but maybe it’s not which plan we help Zippy achieve – just that we help him achieve whatever ones we can. Safely.
p.s. – In the spirit of not showing my kids’ faces on this blog, I am becoming an expert at taking pictures of people’s backs. I wonder if there is a market for a photography business specializing in “back-of-head-portraiture.”