Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Instill Independence Fearlessness Good Decisions and Safety

He ran like a freight train out of the living room, stomping his feet with each step, and I heard a door slam in the distance.

Exhale.  I took a minute.  This all happened because I told him not to play any video games tonight.  It's eight pm already, the summer sun remains bright in the sky.  But, I've asked him to start to wind down and get ready for bed.  The kids have been sleeping well past 10pm every night and I know that sleep is important for brain development.

It's been a tough balance for me: between my desire to provide an environment for the kids where they have as much creative and personal freedom as possible, while also ensuring their safety and healthy development.  I end up saying things like, "TV is not good for your brain, you need to see in three dimensions."  While in the back of my head knowing that most well paying jobs require you to sit in front of a screen for more than 8 hours.

So I took a minute to plan out how to explain better.  I've found that when I give all the information I have, Kaio then chooses something on his own accord rather than feeling forced.  But, really he's so quick to anger and I wish I saw signs of that abating, but not yet.

I go to look for him and he has locked himself in the classroom.  Locking doors is another new development he's exploring right now.  I knock on the door and have a parental de-ja-vu moment; from memory, I echo the words of my own parents.

I know I've been on the other side, I remember how refreshing the power to man that lock felt.  Now on the outside, I feel how troubling it is to know that your child needs to put up a barrier.  How unjust it feels to not have access to your baby.

This month Kaio's been infuriated by things that do not seem like a big deal to me.  He's told me he hates me and wants to leave, at least twice.  One night, the first time this happened, it was because we asked him to to stop a noise he was making with a toy.  He actually ran outside in the dark, yelling that he was leaving.   I plopped down on the stoop in shock, watching the little kid decide how far he would run.    He came back and cried about how mean we were being to him.

It seems that he interprets any disapproval I have as mean.  I can say the exact same thing to Nala and Kaio, "It makes me really mad that you guys made such a huge mess tossing packing peanuts all over the floor and aren't helping me clean it up."  Nala will just ignore and continue what she's doing unphased, Kaio will enrage and provoke like an itchy poison ivy he needs to scratch.  Neither will help clean up.

"Look under the door."  Kaio said.

I saw a sheet of white legal paper loosely folded and stapled.  oh, a note.  I opened it up to see it was blank.   

"No, it's a telescope, to use to look for me."  He said from the other side of the locked door.

Then he slipped another message under the door.

"It's a map to find me."

And came another de-ja-vu parenting moment.  I remember sitting in the storm drain across the street from my house, with a pink suitcase packed with clothes.  I told my parents I was running away, then I made a map with directions for how to find me, left the map at the front door, rang the door bell and ran back to my new home in the storm drain.

Last Christmas my dad made a comment around how he and my mom always wondered if I would understand what they went through once I had kids.  I replied that if he had given me more freedom, then I wouldn't have fought so much.  And he said, "But every time we gave you freedom, you'd do something to get in trouble."

And it's true.  Like driving drunk and crashing my car into a steam roller with my younger brother in the passenger seat.  Like getting brought home in handcuffs at midnight as my dad answered the door in his underwear.  Like saying I was spending the night at a friends house, but instead going camping in mountains with two older boys and the driver almost drove us off a cliff: three wheels were off the ground and we needed to crawl out of the driver side window to escape.  Like spontaneously driving across the country in December, having no idea the kind of snow and weather that exists on the rocky mountains and almost crashing on black ice.  So many other times that I put my body in danger.

And so I see how Kaio chooses to ride his bike down our huge steep driveway with no helmet even though he's hit the pavement with his head twice already, and I find myself fighting for this moment and for all the future moments.  Today I may be insisting that he wears a helmet, and asking him to unlock the door.  One day I'll be on the other end of the phone, asking him to come home when he's half way across the country in the winter without snow tires.

So the flip side to all my dangerous behavior is that I have always been a strong and independent person.  Although I made some stupid decisions, I've also experienced so many wonderful, beautiful and profoundly special and inspiring things that wouldn't have happened if I was so worried whatever it is that people worry about.

I remember a mountain top hike with my dad, and I was maybe 9 years old.  The hike summit ended at a jump off point for handgliders.  I wanted to peak over the edge, and my dad insisted on holding my hand as I peeked.  Or how he'd drive for an hour to pick me up from a friend's house in the morning so we could go to the movies together or the gym, never complaining about how far out of the way it was.

I haven't figured out the secret to parenting that instills independence and fearlessness, while cultivating good decisions and safety.  And I haven't definitively decided yet whether there is anything wrong with the decisions I made and the path they took me on.  I mean, good decisions can end tragically, so who's to judge a well-intentioned bad decision as 'wrong'?

But I know that through all the turmoil, I always knew my parents loved me and wanted to protect me, even if I didn't agree that I needed protection.  And that confidence and support is what has made the most lasting positive impression on my life.  So I think I can at least give my kids that and hope that things work out as they did with me.

Yesterday I left my flipflops at the pool and had to turn around to recover them.  From the other side of the fence, I saw my kids attempting to get into the locked car by walking onto the road, very carefully, keeping close to the car and trying to open the door.  I had one of those mom freak out moments, afraid that some crazy distracted driver would veer into my car and hit them.  So I hollered over to them to wait for me on the sidewalk.  Walking back out of the pool game me time to calm past my initial fear kids aren't supposed to do that reaction and realize that it was a good thing they were so brave.  I exited the pool and found them sitting on a picnic bench enjoying the ants on a log snack we had packed. Such sweet independent kids.

Serious Jedi Face


  1. Beautiful post, Krissee. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world not to literally hang on to these precious little beings that we love so very much. Parenting forces us to return to that place of deeper trust within ourselves, again and again. Its quite wonderful, and so scary too. Kind of like falling in love. :-)



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