Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dangerous Things

I spent an afternoon binge listening to the NPR TED Radio Hour podcast while I sorted through our bookshelves and homeschooling supplies recently.  If you've never heard them, you must subscribe; seriously, do it right now. You won't regret it. For the podcast, they pick a theme, then play portions of TED talks which relate to that theme, and also interview the presenters. A talk, 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do, caught my attention. Granted, the notion that you should allow your children to take risks or try activities that might not be approved by the AAP is not a new idea, but this talk sparked a little more reflection than usual on my part. The older kids were spending a week with their grandparents, and during a FaceTime call my son showed us the sewing machine he had just made a project on. My first reaction was surprise and a little thrill, since he really enjoyed sewing (hooray!). My husband's first reaction was something like, "Wow, be careful using that." He saw danger. I did not.

The next day my father in law called to ask how to cook the allergy friendly mac and cheese I sent up. After talking him through the steps I mentioned that Madeline could help, since she had made it before at home. He noted his concern about boiling water. He saw danger. I did not.

While camping, my husband taught Max how to make a camp fire. He let him build it, feed it and stoke it. It was a pretty big fire. I saw danger. He did not.

Upon reflection, I realized how intimately connected the risk we allow our kids is intertwined with our own feeling of expertise. My mother in law and myself are completely comfortable with kids using a sewing machine because we both sew. I sewed on machines at ten years old. I started cooking around that age, too. Baking actually - from scratch, the whole nine yards. So I feel comfortable with teaching my kids to use the stove and oven. My father in law, and my husband for that matter, see the risk, because they are not comfortable in the kitchen. Just as I saw the risk with the camp fire, which is not part of my responsibilities when we camp.

Of course, now the question becomes how do we get comfortable with risks that are outside our areas of expertise? Oh, that is the catch, isn't it? How did my mother feel comfortable with me using the oven when she'd never made a cookie from scratch in her life? While I'm pretty good at letting my kids use tools and appliances to create what they wish, I'm much more protective with physical risks. Climb that towering tree? Jump off of high places? That's much harder for me to approve. And yet we know that's exactly what we should be doing, within reason. We should be allowing for wings to expand, for space to explore, for challenges that just might cause injury, but definitely will cause pride and a sense of accomplishment.

It's still an open question for me. I am making more of a conscious effort this year to allow more risks in areas I feel comfortable with (more sewing!!!) but also encouraging my husband to expose the kids   to things he feels confident in (power tools, anyone?). And those dangerous things that scare me? Well, for now, once in awhile, I will try to smile and say, "sure, but be careful." Try.

Do you allow your kids to do "dangerous things"?

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