Monday, July 9, 2007

Letting our children grow up and away

As a parent, you do your best to protect your children. Of course, you don’t want anything to ever happen to them, but from time to time, accidents do happen.

I know that when my kids were small, as much as it pained me to see them scrape their knees or hurt themselves, I knew that it was all part of growing up and exploring. I see some parents telling their children not to run because they may fall, not to climb because they may slip. Yes, they may, but they have to run and climb too. Scrapes heal, bruises go away – but being constantly told you shouldn’t or can’t do something because you might get hurt, takes away from the ability to make your own choices about what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s not as if my children were accident-free. From broken bones to stitches to emergency surgery for appendicitis, we had our share of hospital visits, that I can say.

Of course, I’m not talking about letting your child pull over a pan of boiling water or sticking a fork into an electrical socket, but allowing your child to climb on a jungle gym, playing superman with a towel clothespinned to a t-shirt, or having a pillow fight with a friend are activities that can end up with an injury, or with lots of giggles.

We weren’t the type of parents who sent our children to camp. For one thing, they were way too expensive for us and another – important – thing was that our kids weren’t the type to want to go away to camp. Until 3 years ago, when my youngest son came home with a pamphlet for a camp two hours north of us; it was a sports/wilderness camp for boys 12 years old and up. It has been around for many years. I knew someone whose son had gone for a few years and had begun to work there as a leader-in-training. At first, my heart sank when my son came home all enthusiastic about going, because I thought, there is no way on earth that we can afford to send him to a sleep-away camp for two weeks. Tht is, until I found out that it only cost 375.00. That’s right. For the full two weeks. It’s a camp that gets funding from many different sources to make it and keep it affordable. It’s been around for so long that many of the campers are sons of men who went to there.

When my son came home after his first summer there (two weeks), he said to me in the car, “Mom, I did things that I never imagined myself ever doing.” I thought I was going to cry. He climbed rocks faces, jumped into rivers, kayaked, camped, and just had a wonderful, wonderful time. And it was the beginning of something wonderful for him.

After two summers of being a camper, last summer, he was invited to participate in a special week at the beginning of the session, reserved for boys who the leaders saw as being potential leaders. My son was ecstatic because becoming a leader had now become a serious goal. While he was there that week, he did even more things that he never imagined, including kayaking on rapids. What I found out later is that something went wrong on one of those trips and he could have been severely hurt, even killed, at one point. There was a miscommunication somewhere and my son went down some rapids and headed straight for a log that was across the river. Quick thinking had him flip upside down, but then the fast current made it almost impossible to tear off his kayak skirt so that he could right himself. He told me after that this was “the most scared” he had ever been.

Part of me was severely ticked that this could happen, but a bigger part of me knows that accidents happen and that we can’t wrap our kids in cotton batting and still expect them to be able to go out and challenge life head on. I am so forever grateful that he escaped unscathed and I know what could have happened. However, he could have stayed home and almost been hit by a car crossing the street too. Life is full of challenges and dangers. So, what did my husband and I do Sunday evening? We dropped off our son for yet another week of this leadership training. We know that what happened last year was an accident and that the leaders are now aware of the breakdown in communication. We know that we have to let our kids do things, to try things. And we have to hope and pray that they come out ahead at the end.

Just like when my daughter broke her arm, or my oldest son broke his elbow, my heart sank when my youngest told me of his kayaking adventure. But, as with all the other accidents the kids have had, I know that holding them back won’t keep them safe. Holding them back would only encourage, in a sneaky way, other types of risk taking. So, I let them go. I hold my breath and I wait for them to come back. And then I listen to all that they learned. And I never forget those words from my son, “Mom, I did things that I never imagined myself ever doing.” That makes it all worth it to me.

Today's News:
Health Canada approves Seasonale
India's HIV infection estimate drastically lowered
Jefferson oncologists show breast cancers to be more aggressive in African-American women
Exelon(R)Patch, the First and Only Skin Patch for the Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, Receives First Worldwide Approval in US


Crabby McSlacker said...

This is so encouraging to hear!

I often get the feeling that many parents these days are so afraid of risk that their kids never get to play outside unsupervised or experience any of the fun things (and sometimes dangerous things) we did growing up. Must be awfully hard to strike a balance between safety and adventure, but it sure sounds like you have. And as a result, your kids sound very healthy and mature!

Dawn said...

Your kids are lucky to have such a wise mother. You do have to let them go and with that comes risk. Better for them to learn how to handle risk while they still have you for guidance when needed. You can feel proud of what your children are accomplishing.