Our Big Boy was sent home early from preschool one day last week. He wasn’t sick. He wasn’t biting other kids. He just couldn’t stop scratching. He’d clawed his arms and legs to the point of drawing blood in some places. What I’d thought were a few bug bites that morning turned out to be a full-fledged reaction to poison ivy. (Bad mom. Ouch.)
We’re not sure where Big Boy came into contact with the urushiol oil of the poison ivy plant. Maybe it was when he helped his dad and granddad clear some brush in a field the previous weekend. Maybe it was when he played in a hollowed tree with his cousins at the lake on Labor Day. Wherever the poison came from, it was potent. And it got everywhere: his back, his tummy, his bum, in between his fingers. For almost a week, Big Boy has scratched and squirmed and awakened in the night crying for more calamine spray and Benadryl.
It’s a sad sight. And he may end up with some ugly scars from the incessant scratching. Even as the bumps and blisters begin to fade, I still feel sympathy for him, along with a little parental guilt — shouldn’t I have checked inside that hollowed-out tree before allowing him to climb in? Shouldn’t I have made him wear long pants to clear brush? (Oh yeah, I did.)
Then again, a little poison ivy isn’t so bad. To get it, he had to be playing outside, which is Big Boy’s favorite thing to do. And poison ivy potential aside, I know that unstructured, creative outside play is good for his mind and his body. As I’ve noted before on this blog, today’s kids spend 50 percent less time outside than they did just 20 years ago, according to KaBOOM. And research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that kids spend an average of six and a half hours each day on electronic media.
I’m thinking that if I had to choose between a squirmy, itchy, blistery boy with a day of fresh air, sunlight, dirt and exercise behind him, and a four-year-old couch potato with a dazed look in his eyes, I’d take the poison-ivy sufferer any day. Who knows? One day he may see those three-pronged leaves and feel a rush of nostalgia for his playful boyhood.
But I think we need to prune the brush around our back fence, just in case.
Photo credit: 123rf.com