Tuesday, 18 September 2012

And there were wolves...

Do you know how there are inside pets and outside pets? Some animals are content to spend their days snoozing on the carpet where others need acres of open space in which to run until their tongues hang out a foot or so. I can say that my boys are outside animals. They are like Irish Setters which, if not run into the ground on a daily basis, are insane beasts which chew up your furniture and drive you as crazy as they are. As a result, I run those dogs into the ground at every opportunity. I never fail to marvel how they can run and jump and climb at top speed for hours at a time. HOURS.

This has had a not surpising effect - while in the short term it tires them out, long term they have become fast, strong and challenge-seeking kids who crave more of the same. Through small increments, they now engage in play behaviours that I never thought I'd be comfortable with. However, at each stage they prove they are capable of taking that next step so who am I to interfere? They love to climb climbers (but on the outside of them or on top of the railings, on top of the covered slides etc.), trees, telephone poles and guywires. My 7 year old's favourite activity is to climb to the top of our shed and read comic books up there. Every so often I encounter people who have not attained this level of Zen parenting.

This Saturday I took my kids to the school playground to tire them out before dinner and brought a bag of sports equipment. I was throwing the football with my 10 year old while the younger two roared around on the playground equipment. I was a little surprised when a new father (he had a one year old with him) came up to me and said to me somewhat agitatedly, "You should be careful." I was unsure what he was talking about and that must of been clear on my face so he went on, "You should be careful - they're jumping off the equipment."

"OK thank you," I said, which is parent code for "@#$% off."

He went on, "No, I'm serious. It's really high. It's like 5 feet high."

I looked over and just at that moment my 5 year old leapt from the platform down 5 feet to the sand. He stumbled, wobbled, limped for a second or two and then raced off to do it again. "It's OK thanks. They've done it before."

New Dad was in disbelief, I think, at my casual neglect but just at that moment a guy in his sixties walked his dog through the playground and cracked, "When we were kids, we jumped 10 feet and got up and kept on playing".

Though I was totally with The Codger on this point, I could see that this did not go over well with New Dad and so, in an effort to lighten the situation, I added, "And there were wolves..."

That didn't help. New Dad, peeved, spun around with his one year old cradled protectively in his arms and snarled, "Yeah yeah you were all real men, I know."

To which the codger replied, "No, we were kids."

New Dad, storming off, yelled back over his shoulder, "Exactly!"

Exactly? Hmm. Not sure New Dad got the best comeback there. Now, I can barely remember that time - being the new dad with the little baby and hyper aware of any possible threat to my son and heir. So while I forgive him his inexperience I think even back then I MAY have balked at offering parenting advice to someone with three healthy children older than my own. One thing I have learned through benevolent neglect, is that my kids are capable of doing way more than I thought they could or that I ever would.

Maybe New Dad will someday discover that. And discover how much he will appreciate unsolicted parenting advice. And that he can smile and say "OK thank you" and mean something quite different.