Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Questions

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.

10 comments:

Rachael said...

I loved reading this post and feel the same way. I tell my kids be proud of your scrapes and bruises those are great things to have when you are a kid, it means you’re having fun. When you figure out how to feel safe and letting them have the freedom let me know the secret. I let my two oldest ride to McDonalds for lunch by themselves crossing two busy roads. I was so proud of myself. (no one needs to know that my oldest will be driving in a few years. :))

Sheralie said...

well, one thing i have been thinking about lately is to enjoy the present. it is easy to over worry about the future and dwell on the past.

i think for the present you are a wonderful mother and do a great job giving your children opportunities to experience and love life. i wish i was more like you :)

Sheralie said...

and i am glad she will still climb trees. jeff needs her friendship - in the classroom and in the "woods."

Amberly said...

this is a great post and to answer the first question, I think whether your world is different from the one you grew up in depends on where you live. at least I hope so. I wouldn't dare let coop play outside in our neighborhood unattended. no way. and while I may be slightly overprotective, I would love for him to do that in "safe suburbia," which I hope still exists, because someday I want to live there. I think you totally hit it when talking about how we want our children to be, what they need to know and be aware of, because there will be a time when we can't be with them all the time, so between their good sense and their angels, we hope the nasty people of the world are held at bay.

Kissy said...

I never grow tired of Pippi's imagination. How wonderful to have such a delightful friend (Rose). Knowing that she has such a great imagination, I feel confident that this, in part, will help keep her safe. It's easy to not be afraid when your not creative enough to imagine things to be afraid of. I think that as you teach her that scary things can happen if she's not careful, Pippi will grow up understanding that, and her imagination will help keep her safe!

Lisa said...

I think that Pippi has a mom that is just perfect for her. You and Pippi will figure out what’s right and wrong together. Their are so many people who think they now the right way to raise children, but really they just now what is right for them. I was reading a book that doesn't think parents should rock or cuddle children to sleep, but I like cuddling Kael to sleep, so their!

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

I spend most of my days with my heart in my throat worrying about the safety of my children, but I have to remind myself that my childhood was only truly incredible when I was inventing my own independence. Well, I thought I was independent, what I didn 't realize was that my mom was peeping over the fence in her pink silky bathrobe. I think its the great dilemma of parent/child relationships. I hope the holy ghost helps me because I have a hard time figuring out when to be there and when to let go.

Flora said...

I've had much of the same thoughts lately ... where have all the "safe" places gone?! I think that is one of the things that keeps us in our neighborhood. It is a place where I can let my kids out to play and know that the neighbors have their windows open, just like me to listen to those delightful giggles and sounds of kids playing and working things out together, without adult intervention! Part of me worries about not knowing their every action, but then I don't want to deny them of the growth, imagining and discovery that only comes with being free from adult presence, just because I'm fearful. So, it becomes my job to teach and love and assure them of our presence, to be a control freak about a few things and then let them learn without us.

Melanie said...

Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth. This has been my biggest struggle with raising kids. How to give them more freedom to choose. Marty grew up on a farm and had all the freedom he wanted and all the work to keep busy. I can't come up with that much safe space to let them roam nor the jobs to create character. When you figure out a good idea, please let me know!

Prudence said...

Being outside the US, and then looking at the news in the US has made me contemplate the same problems and even wanting to go back to the US! I feel so safe here! When we go back to the US I don't know if I can let my oldest outside without me or let her out of my sight. I love me neighbors here! We are all just doing our best and pray for protection for our kids and inspirations so we know what we need to teach them to be safe. You are doing great!