We bought the boys walkie talkies for Christmas because they’ve been wanting to branch out and leave their momma farther than she likes.
So now when our friends at the end of the street want Isaac and Asher to come play, Isaac takes the walkie and gives me one. We check the battery, and practice our walkie lingo, and then send them on their way.
Here’s what happened last week:
Isaac was down at the court and I felt the need to come over the walkie to tell him I loved him.
“Isaac, Come in.”
“I love you.”
“… Me too.”
“Roger that, Over and out”
He said (in a way) that he loved me over the walkie talkie in front of his little punk friends! Ha! Still got him!
Here’s what happened this week:
I took Tabby (the dog) for a walk down to the court to check on the boys. They were taking turns getting in a wagon with no sides and being pulled as fast as possible down a sloped driveway and into the street. When I arrived, Asher and Isaac were getting in for the first time. The look on Asher’s face was sheer horror as he realized what he was about to do. His white knuckled hands tightly gripped the small lip on the wagon. They raced down the driveway and into the street. It was probably a 10 second ride. I wanted to laugh at Asher’s face, but I also wanted to tell the boys not to do that anymore. Or to wear helmets. Or to tie pillows around their sides… and fronts and backs… plus the helmets and elbow and knee pads…
I just kept imagining the wagon tipping over and me having to take someone to the ER.
And then it occurred to me. When I was a kid and I wanted to do fun things like slide down the stairs in a sleeping bag, or dance in the rain of a thunderstorm, or climb out a second story window using knotted sheets and some adult told me that I couldn’t do that. It made me think that parents were lame. In my head, they were lame, not just because they were telling me not to have fun, but because, they obviously had never experienced that kind of fun before themselves. I always thought that if an adult was telling me not to do something, then that activity was scary to them.
It never occurred to me that of course they had done risky, possibly painful things like that in the past but they were telling me not to do it because they cared more about my safety than my need for adventure.
Then it occurred to me that both a child’s safety, and their need for adventure are important. Kids need to do risky things every once in a while. It helps them to grow! As much as we want our kids to always stay little, our JOB is to help them grow.
I was talking to another parent this week who was raised in Egypt. In third grade, she started taking the city bus to school. Her dad walked her to the bus station where she would board one bus, catch a second one at the next stop and then arrive safely near her school. She said there was an atmosphere of protectiveness from every adult she came in contact with. The bus driver would often drop her off at the door to the school instead of the bus stop nearest school. People would give up their seats on the bus for her. Now that was a different culture and a different era than my boys are growing in now. She reminded me that adults are cautious to help stranger kids for fear of a law suit these days. She said she and her husband were at a park when a little girl near by was having a hard time getting on a swing. Her husband asked if they should help her and she told him, men don’t get to help little girls anymore.
The idea that “it takes a village” to raise a child rarely applies anymore because parents are so fearful of their very own village! Even if you feel you live in a safe area, parents are called neglectful if they let their children take risks… So they don’t. The result is over protected, spoiled kids who don’t know how to survive in their own environment. College kids have to call their parents to ask how to wash their clothes. People are applying for jobs for the first time ever after they graduate. Kids get their first taste of freedom when they get their drivers liscense and they get out of control because they don’t know how to handle the freedom they’re experiencing.
When my boys are out of my sight, 8 houses down the street, that is a very risky activity in my mind… I can’t get anything done. I pace around the house and make frequent trips to the window and mailbox to check on my boys. I love my boys with a fierce love. I think they know that. But I also know that my own comfort and ability to relax does not mean that I am being a great parent. In fact, it may be the opposite.
I think it’s true of adults: if you never step out of your comfort zone, then you will never grow, change, or live a great story. And that’s probably a widely accepted idea. So the same is true with our kids: If we don’t let them take risks and scare the beejeezus out of us every once in a while, how will they grow? Yes, they will get bigger. Yes they will learn new things. But will they be independent? Will they be courageous? Will they be adventurous, assets to society?
Here are my thoughts (and I think in Dr. Seuss and Uncle Shelby):
Let them play,
Let them run,
Let them jump,
And have fun.
They are little
And they are ours,
But give them freedom
Give them power.
They are children
And they will grow.
If they are loved
Then they will know.
Give them the chance
To try and fail
Or spread their wings
And learn to sail!
Pick them up.
Always be there
And you will show
How much you care.
They will thank you.
I hope so.
When little by little
you learn to let go.
Poetry 101 by Emily Littleton