How safe is too safe? When does my concern as a parent turn my children timid? Is that even possible? Have I stumbled into the realm of nature vs. nurture? Have I lost complete control of this article already?
Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day and if everything went to plan, Six and I are at Disneyland. There is zero risk taking at Disneyland. It is probably one of the safest places on earth. Six loves Disneyland and I thought it would be a good idea to get one more visit in before Star Wars land opens and we won’t be able to get near the place.
I have a hostile relationship with taking chances. I am (either by nature or nurture) not a risk taker. I do not engage in activities that involve carabiners. I haven’t worn a helmet in years. I once fell off a bicycle that wasn’t moving. I was just trying to get on the fucking thing and somehow managed to fall off. I am not the klutzy romantic comedy heroine. In normal circumstances, I manage to keep myself upright 99.9% of the time. I just have no aptitude for activities that involve wheels or cliffs or sails.
Six, my younger son, has no sense of self-preservation whatsoever. He flips off one piece of furniture on to another. He loves skateboards and bikes and scooters. He runs when other people walk. He skips and jumps and climbs and generally chews his way through his physical environment.
And I pretty much let him. We are trying to figure out how he can slide down the stairs in our apartment. He managed it once and scared the bejesus out of me. I yelled at him to never do it again and because he loves his mother, he hasn’t.
But then I got to thinking that there is probably a relatively safe way for him to slide down the stairs but he can’t remember how he did it.
So we are working on it. Together.
Just because I would rather read a book for 5 hours does not mean that my boy shouldn’t rampage through the world. I want him to rampage thoughtfully (if that is even possible). And I am doing my best to feed his need for physical activities.
I don’t much care for the outdoors. Yes, I enjoy an evening under the stars at The Hollywood Bowl (section X if you must know) and a summer evening at Dodger Stadium is a singular joy, especially in the dead of summer. I’ve even been known to camp and there was a time I regularly rode a bicycle. I sucked at it but I did it because Older Son liked it. I can also boogie board with remarkable skill. Again, because Older Son wanted to.
Left to my own devices, I would never stand in direct sunlight ever again.
So what to do when your kid yearns to do things you have zero interest in?
Six and I are attempting to meet somewhere in the middle. I recruit friends and family to teach him activities I have no talent for. At other times I remember he has his whole life ahead of him to do the things he loves and I give myself a break.
I also make an effort not to demonize the things he’s interested in. He talks about joining the Army (he’s seven). I want to demand that he never even consider such a dangerous career. But I don’t. I listen and I try to encourage in the only way I know how.
He loves science so I say, “There are lots of scientists in the Army.”
He gives me a skeptical look and then tactfully changes the subject. I figure this will be our pattern going forward.
But that’s okay. We are learning how to be different, together.