Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just minding the gap


Ok, "you do," but if you fall, you're explaining it to Mom.
One small step for Rand; one big step for independence.
"No, No, No.  Me," my son says as he tries to span a gap that seems impossibly large for his little, flip-flop clad feet.

"Alright, son, I'm just minding the gap."

As much as the refutation of my help hurt on some level, I loved his independence in this moment.  Of course there was a chance he would get hurt.  He was three feet up on a metal play set crossing a gap he probably had no business crossing.

To me, this was a prime position for him to lose balance, topple over and bang his head on the metal play set.  Probably multiple times.  Have I mentioned its metal?

He wobbled and my hand reflexively grasped at his shirt. Again the words came, this time with a swipe at my shirt-filled hand; the turn required for this rejection of Daddy unbalanced him more than anything he had done.

"No, No, No."

"Ok.  I'm just here for you if you fall."

Of course, if he fell, I'd have to trek back home to explain the fall to my wife.  "Yeah, yeah, hon, I was watching him closely.  Well, no, in hindsight it doesn't seem like a good idea to have let him do that, but at the time ..."

In the end, parenting isn't so much about protecting your kids as it is about letting them take calculated risks You could wrap your kid in bubble wrap and never let them leave a secured 8-by-8 room if that was the goal.  And you'd probably be 99% successful in safely raising your child to adulthood.  Whether that adulthood would be happy or not is another question.

No; parenting isn't about just getting your child to adulthood.  It's about raising a future adult.

Think about childhood as the minor leagues of adulthood.  Sure, you don't throw your best young pitcher into a major league game until he's developed enough pitches and enough experience to handle it; but that also doesn't mean you don't promote him to an appropriate league and let him get hit around a little.  The goal isn't to dominate A-class ball, its to eventually dominate the Major Leagues.

You might be 99% successful in safely raising your child in that bubble wrapped room.  But here is the thing: I'm likely to be 98% successful in safely raising my child, and I hope he'll be a lot better off for it.

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