by little red pen

There’s a new activity in our household, and it may be the salvation of us. It’s parkour, or — as we called it in olden times — playing outside.

I’ve been encouraging the boys to get outside forever, and they seem strangely resistant unless they have an adult with them. The Cat bemoans our lack of a soccer pitch, which is an odd thing to expect a house to have — although he would settle for a flat bit of lawn — and somewhat unnecessary given that we have four or five school playgrounds, two public gardens and three playing fields within 20 minutes walk of our front door. Not that I expect them to trot off alone because kids don’t do that these days, but they do have fairly regular outings to places where they can kick a ball around.

Anyway, the soccer at home seems a bit fraught and I find the afternoons get swallowed with chores and cooking, so we often end up inside more than any of us really need or want.

But then we discovered this parkour thing. My acquaintance with the sport is extremely nascent, but it seems to be basically moving in interesting ways around urban environments. This gorgeous video shows what you can do with some walls and a fence, and this one takes things a bit further with a field of aeroplanes and high-level gymnastic skills. We have neither aeroplanes nor gymnastic ability, but we have a deck, a path, some fencing, garden beds and a guinea pig hutch, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with those ingredients. Essentially, the trick is to find a space with some stuff in it, then work out how to run, jump, climb, crawl and slide around that stuff. We can do that.

The Cat has made up a basic route around these items, and everyone in the household has had a go. I like the way it draws on the different skills and characteristics that we each have: the Cat’s inventiveness and spatial creativity, the Rabbit’s agility and love of play, Ian’s sense of fun, and my enjoyment of movement and dance. It’s also completely non-competitive, so the boys can go outside, make up a route and each have a go without it descending into a scrap over rules and outcomes.

It was so successful yesterday that they moved on to picking blackberries down the back of the property and harvesting zucchinis and potatoes from the vege patch without any maternal prodding or, indeed, attention. There was a wee incident with the spade, but we resolved that one without major bodily harm. So, parkour for the win. We’ll head out this weekend and try it in the urban wilderness.

After that, things got a bit busy while Ian did the frying part of the stir fry and I lit the fire, and through it I had a vague sense that the Rabbit was up to something, possibly in the bathroom, but I assumed it related to a bodily function and ignored it. So then I met him coming out of the bathroom looking damp and on-a-mission-ish. The bathroom also looked damp, and there were five facecloths in the sink and a sneaker and a fair bit of dirt in the bath. “I’ve just been washing things,” he said. “My hands, all these things (gesturing at his clothes), my shoes … well, mostly my shoes. They were very muddy, but they’re clean now.”

Which is delightful, because I had been fearing all week that my inability to get the bathroom cleaned was procrastination or laziness or poor time management skills or something morally questionable like that. But, no. It was prescience.