When I was 9 years old, I was visiting my grandma, who lived on a dirt road in a small town, population 6,000. If you needed help, you relied on neighbors that lived one farm over.
I loved climbing trees, but it scared my Grandma half to death. The higher I climbed, the more often the screen door would fly open and I would hear her say: Steph-nee, do you know how far we live from the nearest hospital?
Of course I didn’t, nor did I care. I was an expert tree climber and no one could tell me otherwise, until I stepped on a dead tree limb that left me hanging 20 foot from the ground.
I held on for about 30 seconds until my little fingers could no longer hold my 60 lb body. I dropped 20 feet out of the tree and hit every limb along the way. And you know the first thing I did? No, it wasn’t check for scrapes to see if I was ok. It was looking around to see if my Granny saw me fall.
I would rather say my battle wounds came from falling out of a tree, rather than my granny spanking my be-hind! I had scrapes and a bloody knee. My fingers hurt and my foot felt sprained. That day, I realized I wasn’t an expert tree climber, but I was definitely an expert tree faller; and I felt pretty good about that.
A skinned knee is like a “bade of courage.” Kids are just waiting for someone to say (in a high-pitched voice of concern): What Happened? Cue their big smile.
If my kid hurts their foot, even a little, they want to use crutches for days, just so they can tell others about their fun adventure. Let their boo boos, ripped up jeans, dirt on the knees and oppsie daisies be a sign of courage. They took a chance and have a story to tell.
Summer is around the corner! It’s time to start planning! What will the kids be doing for the 60 plus days of summer? It’s time to make a plan, whether a family road trip, joining a sports team, visiting grand parents or heading to summer camp, it’s time to turn off the TV, give the video games a rest and head outdoors.
Often times, we caudal our children. We anticipate the 2 year old falling, with a “First Aid Kid” at arms length. Since they were born, we’ve had fears regarding: child safety issues, injury or teasing. We over-schedule their athletic events, their music lessons. They need a black book to keep up with it all.
Of course, we want the best for our kids, but it’s important to determine what IS best. Keeping them in-doors, protected and safe, or teaching them life lessons that will afford them the independence to keep THEMSELVES safe.
Life lessons come in many ways, but often times in an effort to keep the knees from getting skinned or their emotional psyche from getting bruised, we sit in front of them, like the Olympic Sport Curling (whisking the broom from left to right, in a frenzy, making sure little Henry gets to where he needs to go without getting hurt). We can’t roll them in bubble wrap, though I’ve seen parents “virtually” do this very thing.
Like a bird that’s trying to hatch, if we do everything for Mary or Johnny, they won’t be strong enough to stand up to bullies at school, handle college peer pressure, enjoy the great outdoors of summer camp, or handle life’s unexpected challenges, because mom and dad aren’t there to fix it. We can’t always be their safety net, their first aid kit. At some point, we have to let them become strong, confident individuals – on their own. You’ve given them the foundation they need; let them fly.
It’s time to unplug the electronics, send them to casual play, where there are no fixed schedules, time clocks and hurry ups . . . just trees, bikes, pine straw and great imaginations. For in this free time, their imagination will grow and their exploration skills will kick in.
When kids learn about nature, they’ll want to take care of it. When they play with others, compassion will rise; team spirit will be built and character will grow. So unplug your kid’s life this summer and jump into the great outdoors with gumption and gusto, enjoying the value of a skinned up knee.
Here’s to living the Best Version of You.