Over Christmas break, we spent a couple of days with my husband's parents, who live in a hobbit house (also known as an earth-sheltered house) in the boonies of southern Tennessee. Their house is set into the side of a hill and is surrounded by woods, so one day, I dragged my boys outside to play.
"What are we supposed to do out here?" my oldest asked.
"Just play," I replied. "When I was a kid, I spent hours in the woods, exploring and building forts."
The boys latched on to the idea of building a fort and were soon busily absorbed in scavenging for sticks and rocks and climbing fallen tree trunks. "Look what we made, Momma!" they chorused excitedly, proudly displaying a pile of sticks that they were calling a "fort."
After a few minutes, the three-year-old announced that he had to go potty. For a second, I debated taking all three of the boys back to the house, and then I decided that it would be all right to leave the older two alone for a few minutes.
"I'll be right back," I said. "Holler if you need me."
"Okay," the oldest replied. "But we won't need you."
His comment made me laugh, but it also felt just right. At five and seven, they definitely still need me, but hopefully, I'm giving them enough space to explore and play and create independently so they can feel like they don't.