Lately, I've been troubled. This world of ours... Is it really so much worse than it used to be? Is it really any more dangerous for Pippi to be riding through the neighborhood at age 6 than it was for me to be riding through the neighborhood at age 6? I seem to remember wandering the neighborhood on my bike, with training wheels. Are we just more aware? How is this Silly Witch, supposed to protect Pippi and give Pippi enough freedom to be her creative and social self?
I think I'm probably looked upon as a permissive parent.
I allow my kids (yes, Bardo, too) to run through the woods along the trails in our neighborhood. Pippi has a tree. She says it's hers. She calls it Rose. Rose likes to be climbed, by Pippi. Bardo likes to sit on this tree. Occasionally we'll see small bugs climbing over the tree. We don't care. They are Rose's friends.
Saturday we went to the playground. A very large tree was knocked down in the "woods" nearby. Pippi overlooked the playground equipment and went to test her balance by walking along this tall tree. She balanced across from top to bottom. As she was playing on the tree, a father came to me, "You know, kids need to be careful in the woods this time of year. There are copperheads everywhere." "Yes, I guess my daughter will have to pay attention." He then told his daughter, a girl of 10, I'd guess, that this was her chance to climb a tree. She wouldn't budge. As Pippi reached the top of the tree again, she tripped a little. A little trip on a narrow tree trunk, on the part elevated the most off the ground equals a scary fall. Her back was scraped on one of the protruding branches, and it hurt. It was ugly. She couldn't see her injury, so she didn't cry for long. The father looked at Pippi and said, "Ooooo, I bet you won't climb trees again. You've learned a lesson." On the way home, I asked Pippi if she would climb trees again. She replied, "Yes. I'll just be more careful." And I felt relieved, not just because she'd be more careful, but because she was going to still do something that she loved. I wouldn't want Rose to get lonely.
When I'm doing dishes or working in the kitchen during the day, Bardo lets himself outside. The dog will snatch his snack out of his hands. Bardo will cry for a moment then come to the window and tell on the dog, "Waaaaa, Puuuuuppy. Take." I'll give him a hug and after a second in my embrace he'll squirm to be out the door again. If the "turtle pool" is full of water he'll go wading. Eventually he'll fall and get wet. He'll want his wet clothes off, so I let him run around in a diaper until it's time to come inside.
Sometimes Pippi rides far ahead of me on her bike. So far ahead of me that the dog stops and waits for me, and I can only see the dog, and not Pippi. He's not comfortable being that far away from me. Pippi is. Eventually she stops and waits for me. As I catch up with her I'll find her collecting flowers, leaves, rocks, or grass by herself, having a great time, alone. I had that as a child, time, alone, outside.
So I've been thinking: How can I give these children the freedom, the stillness, the independence, that they will need by the time they're ten, (I'm guessing here. Pippi's bursting at the seams with energy right now.) and still keep her safe from sexual predators, bullies, copperheads, alligators, spiders, etc.?
No matter what, before I set her free, she's gonna have to take a cell phone. Also, I need to figure out a way to train Hunter to take care of her. Maybe I can send him to Search and Rescue school or something. First, I'll probably have to teach him how to happily be tied to a tree. Most of all, I'll have to train Pippi. I need to raise a child that I can trust. She needs to know her limitations. She needs to be able to ask for help. She needs to be able to read people, to keep herself safe, and to know when she's driving her friends' parents crazy. She needs to be obedient, or she's not going anywhere.
So I don't feel like a permissive parent. I feel like a control freak. And I don't like it.