27 August 2014

The Be Careful Generation

Claire's favorite way to use the monkey bars.
It's no secret that our girls are little wild things (in the best sense). They love to run, jump, explore, climb, scream and try new things. And I let them. There's a strange trend going on in the world that prevents kids from being what they are: kids. Some adults would rather smother a child's curiosity than let them explore, watch every minute of playtime so they can decide whether what their child is or isn't doing something risky and stunt their growth and progression all in the name of keeping them safe. My children appear to be part of the Be Careful Generation.
Within the last two months, my position as parent has been subverted several times by well-meaning but out-of-place adults who, in the name of being cautious, did something I found completely inappropriate. At the store, Kate was desperately trying to help sack groceries and had stepped up onto a ledge barely twelve inches off the ground to try and reach something to put in her sack. I saw her do it and in a clear, calm voice, told her to step down. Before Kate could decide whether or not to obey, a frantic store employee rushed over and yanked her off like she was standing on the edge of the Sears Tower. Another time was at a children's museum on the carousel. Our girls have been riding carousels since before they could walk and know they need to hold on. Even though I was standing within arms length and alertly supervising my children, an employee felt the need to come tie a strap around their waists in an attempt to make them more secure without any thought to asking me if I prefered to have it on or not. I told him I would rather they didn't have them on to which he raised his eyebrows, told me they'd be more safe and tied them anyway.
Lighting her first firework.
Part of life is learning cause and effect. Of course I tell my children to hold on when they're on something that moves, watch out when they're near something dangerous, that the bugs they're poking might bite, pulling the cats' tails might make them scratch, fire is hot, scissors are sharp and it's a long way down the stairs if they goof around. But then I leave it at that. The beauty of taking what Jack calls calculated risks is that A) our children learn that we'll always tell them the truth (Hey, that cat DID scratch me when I yanked that his tail!) B) cause and effect is a pretty swift, stern teacher if it's allowed to happen and C) eventually they'll learn to make their own decisions without our warning them because they learned how to take appropriate risks at a young age.
Evelyn holding our rooster Rufus.
That's not to say we don't scoot them right out of the way when they walk up to the wrong end of the horses or stop them if they're climbing dangerously high. But, especially if it's a life skill they should master, what better time to do it when they're curious about it and I'm around to help? Stairs, scissors and ladders have to be learned eventually, after all.
Kate helping move wood.
What are your thoughts?

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