My Husband and I grew up in a world where I’m sure most of you did. A world called the 80’s where bike helmets didn’t exist, we ran the streets without a parent, road our bikes to the end of the earth and back and drank from the hose. I actually grew up with a Mom who ran an in home daycare and the only time the TV was on during the day was when she was watching All My Children at noon. We weren’t even allowed video games and yet I didn’t feel deprived. We had every outdoor toy known to man, why would we want to be stuck inside?!
The world has vastly changed since then and we know all the reasons why. More cars on the road leads to stricter car seat laws for kiddos. More parents speak up about accidents that happen on playgrounds and metal slides and swings are taken away. Social media warns you of every scary stranger around the corner and kiddos can’t walk home from school. Nosy neighbors thinking they have a say on your parenting call the cops every time a child is outside playing alone. The world has changed indeed my friends.
We bubble wrap our kids, we try to delete every danger, ward off anything undesirable, hold their hands longer than what they need, chase them with Clorox to avoid all germs and in general become helicopters. We worry about the judgment if another parent sees us doing something different. But is it all worth it? What will it do in the long run for our kids? And seriously, we lived through licking some windows in our time, can’t our own kids?
I can tell you that my Husband and I may not be raising our child that way. We may be going against the norm. Where we live in the country, houses are spread out, heavily treed areas separating most of us. We still live in a neighborhood where kids ride their bikes around without shoes, helmets, kneepads or any other thing protecting them. They run rampant through the subdivision, playing on the mud roads, climbing trees, all unsupervised by an adult but maybe supervised by their dog with no leash and quite honestly nowhere near their own home. Kids we have never met knock on our door and ask to play with our dog or jump on our trampoline. We find discarded bikes along the road and know that no one was abducted but instead they found a turtle they wanted to drag home and had no way to get it there on their bike. We just deliver their bike to their front yard on the way by. Rebecca is no exception to any of this.
All these are things that would make some parents furious, nervous and the such. I do even understand that things have changed for a reason. Some would argue that we don’t live in the city but if we did we would be different. Sure, all of these things can make me nervous but am I doing anything good for my girls by standing over them? I want them to be able to handle themselves. I want them to explore the world, use their imagination, and not be stuck inside because sometimes the world is scary.
And that is the thing, only sometimes the world is scary. Social media wants you to think it is always scary. But I don’t want my girls to live in fear of the worst case scenarios, I want them to live for all the great possibilities that there are. I don’t want them to live in a box, safely inside, watching the world through a TV, right next to me. I want them to get scraped up and learn to get up, I want them to wander through the poison ivy to learn not to do it again, I want them to get stuck in a tree so they can problem solve their way down on their own. I also don’t want them living in my basement when they are 30.
Recently the baby sat on a blanket, in our front yard and rolled her way off. She started running her hands through the grass, digging her nails into the cool dirt and then lifted her hand to her mouth to figure out if any of it might be food I have been depriving her of. Sure, I wanted to plop her back on the blanket but I just let her go. She looked at me with a huge smile as she went back to digging in the dirt, loving the new discovery. It required a bath at the end of the night but no harm was done.
For as long as I can I will let my girls take one step ahead without me holding them back, no matter how much I want to warn them not too. Because one day I won’t be there to watch over them every minute, or hold their hand and I want to give them the tools necessary to think for themselves and discover. I want them to have a childhood where their imagination leads them to a tree house that is actually a space ship. Where the wooded area across the street from us is where Peter Pan and the lost boys may live. And maybe I’ll find a metal slide somewhere to push them down just to say “You have no idea how good you have it!”