Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Be Out There Challenge Day 3: Pine Cone Fight!

I'm reading: Be Out There Challenge Day 3: Pine Cone Fight!Tweet this!

One of the unexpected take-aways from our Be Out There Challenge is how I struggle as a parent with letting go. I'm all for my kid climbing up a tree, but when I see he's about 15- 20 feet up, I call for him to return to the ground now! as fight off unwelcome visions of him with a broken arm--or worse.

My boys are free to roam the park...unless I see someone or something suspicious.

I want my boys to have grand adventures! But I also want to keep them safe. Where does one draw the line? I suppose this is every mother's dilemma.

Almost immediately after arriving at the playground yesterday, my boys met up with their friends and I spent much of the time walking with another mom (another moms of two boys. I guess like does attract like at times). We were joined by yet another mom of two boys and walked the half-mile path around the park.

At one point we stopped near the playground and saw an all-out pine cone fight taking place. Kids have to improvise after the snow has melted, right? The children lobbed (sometimes whipped) pine cones across an imaginary line with no clear goal in site other than to try and hit each other.

We observed the children. It was all in good fun. They were laughing and scrambling around to find cones and avoid getting hit. It's easy to imagine children 100, or even 500, years ago playing such a game.

But it's only fun until someone gets hurt.

We debated whether or not to break up the game. Surely, if these were young children, we'd caution them to stop. But as it was, they were mostly 3rd-5th graders and none of our children were involved, so we moms stayed mum.

I saw my younger son grab a bunch of cones and asked if planned to throw them. He reported that his plan was to hide them and make the others search them out. Um, okay....

I told him I wanted to take a picture of them, which I did and then he promptly and carelessly tossed the whole bunch into the fight because he's rebelling over the fact that I bumped up our challenge week to this week instead of holding it last week as originally scheduled.

While I was rolling my eyes and my boy was reveling in his act of rebellion, another mom called out. My older son got beaned in the forehead with a pine cone. Mind you, he wasn't part of the great pine cone war, he just happened to be walking past the battlefield.

At that point, the moms broke up the fun. Amid protests and cries of disappointment, the group scattered eventually recovering and moving on to Tag and other games.

Did we step in too late? What if there had been a worse injury? What if someone else's child got hurt?

It can be a tough call, but the only way to avoid bumps and bruises (physical and emotional) is to raise a child in isolation and who wants that? Better we learn to fall down and promptly get back up.

During my next walk at the park, I'll be singing these words from Poi Dog Pondering's song, U LI LA LU, "You should wear with pride the scars on your skin, they're a map of the adventures and places you've been." But I'll still be struggling with when to step in and when to let go.


Leighann of D-Mom Blog said...

After school when the weather is nice I let my daughter play in the school yard for 15 minutes before going home.

It is interesting to look around and see some parents up by the steps not paying one lick of attention to what their kids are doing.

Some of these kids are the older kids who play too rough around the younger kids and throw insults to the kindergarteners calling them "dumb" and "baby" hurting their feelings. Maybe these parents need to pay a little more attention.

And then some of the parents of younger children are right there next to them like white on rice.

I try (and "try" is the operative word) to hang back a little, but still be there. I like to sit on the ledge that borders one of the playgrounds.

Yesterday I went down to the lower playground to summon my child to leave. She and two other girls were doing a tight rope walker worthy stunt.

One of the moms cautioned her child to get down, she might get hurt.

I thought to myself at that moment that these kids probably play like this during recess. They are probably rough and tumble. They probably work things out (or go crying to a teacher).

At the zoo the other day, I positioned myself at the entry so that my younger child couldn't escape. It allowed him the freedom to play. At once I felt like I needed to be there with him so that he didn't topple from the high play structure, falling and getting hurt. But I think he appreciated the freedom of running around and exploring. He ran by every so often and said "Hi mommy!" and just as quickly he was again out of sight.

One reason why we love our fenced yard is that I can send the kids out there and I don't have to be *right* there.

It is so hard to strike a balance between being a helicopter mom and being completely hands off.

Luann Abrams said...

That is always a tough call. I just read an article about a study published in Early Child Development and Care that Dad's give toddlers more leeway to explore their surroundings. I can send you the link if you are interested. It definitely made me think.

Kim Moldofsky said...

@Leighann - yes, hard to striek that balance.

@Luann - I have to say I was much bolder before I had kids. These scenarios that never occurred to me before now pop into my mind, What if? What if?

I just noticed on Twitter that @freerangekids is proposing May 22 as Bring Your Kid to the park and Leave Them There Day. Interesting.

Ashley (Fletcher & Lola) said...

Kim - This is such a tough issue! My kiddos are younger, only 4 and 6, but I struggle with this already. Playing in the backyard alone, no problem. I'm even mostly ok with them out of my sight at our neighborhood park. But when my 4 year old left a friend's house, crossed the street and came home by herself? I lost it! "But Mommy," she said "I looked both ways before I crossed."

I'm not sure when I will be comfortable with her crossing the street alone - possible never! But eventually I will have to let her do it anyway. It's all part of growing up. (For her and for me!!)

Emily McKhann said...

Before I had kids, or was even married, I had a conversation with a mom I've never forgotten. She told me when her daughter was young, she had been so worried about keeping her daughter safe that her over-protection had made her daughter afraid of the world. At the time, her daughter was in high school and she was fearful of everything and afraid to step out, take any risks at all in any realm and the mom said, "I created this in her." She was feeling so sorry about it. It was the first time I realized what a difficult line it would be to walk for me as a mom, and the impact that hovering too close could have. Freedom, exploration, adventure - yes. And safety too. It's on my mind almost daily. Great post, Kim. Thanks!

Kim said...

I understand what you are saying perfectly. As a mom of a toddler and preschooler I want to keep them from getting really hurt without being a helicopter mom. I can't seem to find the balance. Hopefully I will by the time I am a grandma.

Shari said...

Freedom to explore and safety can go together. It's fine to let the boys play pine cone dodge ball until someone gets hurt. They are pine cones, not rocks.

The girls play in our not fenced in backyard without me and they are six. Of course, it's false freedom for them because I keep a the patio door open so I can hear them. My husband just rolls his eyes when he comes home and I have the door cracked open to hear them and the fireplace on to keep warm.

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

Yeah, I don't know what I would have done! But I like what Leighann said -- hang back but be there.