Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Untie the Apron Strings, the HMS Freedom is Sailing
I appear to have reached some critical juncture in my parenting life. I didn't see it coming, there was no signpost reading Imminent Demands for Freedom, 10 miles ahead. No warnings. Just out of the blue, my kids want more freedom to do more things. The requests come fast and furious and apparently I wasn't prepared enough to think out the answers ahead of time. This leaves me standing there in the moment thinking "Is it okay if he goes over to a friend's house when I'm not at home?", "Can she really cross the street safely by herself without me to jerk her back by the arm if a car comes speeding around the corner?", and worst of all the recent "Will this kayak turn over and drown both of my kids if I let them paddle out into the lake by themselves?" Of course, in that moment in which a child has asked to do something daring and exciting, the last thing they want is parental him-hawing.
To add complexity to my decision-making task, one of my kids is extremely cautious and one is a risk-taker extraordinaire. Which means that by the time the first one has come to the conclusion that he is ready and responsible enough for a certain freedom, I can usually just rubber-stamp his decision. The second one is just as likely to ask "Can I fly to the moon tomorrow?" as "Can I cross the street by myself?" And I'm not the kind of parent who likes to put unreasonable No's in my kids' path. I want them to have the kind of childhood I experienced: building forts in the forest and riding my bike around town and basically feeling like the world was wide open to me. Unfortunately, I also don't want Miss Risk Taker doing some of the crazy and, I should point out, unsupervised things that I did as a kid. There was a well on our property and we liked to take off the old rotting boards covering it and throw things down it to listen to how long it took before they hit bottom. I grew up in an old gold-mining area and one of our favorite places to play was the "Chinese Diggins", an area of old tunnels with rusted out mining cars and dangerous shafts going straight down into the ground that had been mined by Chinese workers in the late 1800s. As much as I love my folks, sometimes my childhood reminiscences end in my head with the phrase "What the hell were they thinking???"
So it was with great trepidation that I watched my kids paddle off into the lake last weekend. But what can you do when your oldest, who up until recently wouldn't set foot in a boat (I think he might be the only child in Disneyland history to refuse to get into the Storybook Boats because they were "too dangerous") suddenly asks to paddle around in the kayak by himself, and then after an hour of that asks to take his little sister for a ride??
You can unti the apron strings, throw some confetti, wipe a tear from your eye, and watch the HMS Freedom sail away.