So first of all, let's set some ground rules for this post.
By reading any further you promise that you're over 25 years old, have some common sense, and will not share any of the subsequent activities with anyone young, impressionable, or stupid.
Also, if you could not mention any of this to my Mom, that would be great.
Having said that, here are 5 things I survived as a child, and what they taught me about parenting my own children.
#1 Hide and go seek
Sounds harmless enough right? Well, let's paint a slightly clearer picture.
When I was 7 my dad was a logger, and sometimes we'd get to go spend time with him at his camp.
Mostly this was awesome, but one day while my Dad was out, my brothers and I decided to play hide and go seek.
For some reason my brothers (the oldest was 13 at this point) didn't find it odd to tell their little brother to go hide where nobody could find them in the National Forest.
After hiding for an hour or so, I started to realize that I hadn't found a good hiding spot...I had gotten lost in the wilderness.
After hours of wandering around in the forest, I miraculously found my way back to camp.
Here's a map. I'm obviously doing this from memory, but I can imagine it's pretty accurate...
Parenting lesson: Always overcommunicate rules to baby-sitters, and when in doubt, you can never go wrong with saying: "Do not let your brother out of your sight."
#2 The Mini Cannon
When I was about 12 my family would visit some friends who had a 15 year old son who REALLY liked camouflage, guns, and knives...Pretty much everything 12 year old boys think are awesome.
Strangely enough, my parents didn't feel the need to monitor our hang-out time at all, and we were both encouraged to go play in the basement for hours upon end.
It was at this point that we got the idea to build a "mini cannon"...nowadays they're called "pipe bombs," but to us we were just playing around with gunpowder, and being crafty.
Basically what we made looked like a shotgun shell with a fuse.
Fast forward a couple months...
I'm playing in my room, and I have the idea to light the fuse, and then put it out before the mini-cannon actually explodes.
What I didn't know was that the fuse was smother proof, water proof, and frozen-in-terror-proof. There was no stopping it. It burned all the way to the shotgun shell portion of the cannon, and then fizzled out.
As I stood there holding what I knew could have blown both my hands off, I suddenly became much less grateful for my friend's "gift."
Parenting Lesson: Be highly interested in all the crazy things your kids build so you can discover half-built "mini-cannons" before they turn into fully functional pipe bombs. You'll be the cool parent for being involved, and your kids will get to keep all their digits.
#3 The Cave
When I was 6 years old, my brothers and I moved from a house that was surrounded by all kinds of awesome trees, to a house that was surrounded by hill, after desolate hill.
What did this mean? No tree houses. What did we find instead? A CAVE!!! Who was the real winner here? How many kids get to have their own cave!?!
The cave wasn't actually on our property, but it was in BMX bike range, so we started hanging out in our cave frequently. It was in an arroyo right between two other caves that had...you guessed it...caved in.
We spent time in this cave for years before the owner of the property caught us and told us to get out of there, and never come back.
What a jerk.
We were shocked by his pessimistic nature when he asserted that "this thing could cave-in any second."
Parenting lesson: Occasionally ask..."Where have you been for the past 5 hours?"
#4 King-Of-The-World Car Ride
When I was 16 years old I got my first car. It was a mid 80's baby blue Soporro. I've included a picture here so you can be jealous...
Literally the first day I was allowed to take it out on my own, my friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to take turns riding on the top of the car like stuntmen.
Midway through one of my flights we passed a car moving in the opposite direction. The driver (who was our age) gave us a sarcastic thumbs up, and then shook her head like we were the biggest idiots she'd ever seen...and we were.
Parenting lesson: Know where your kids are going. Do not accept: "We're going to go drive around."
#5 The Hole
About a half-mile from my house, we had what was commonly referred to as "The Hole."
It was a cement portion of our canal that ran about 50 yards through a hill, and then spilled out on the other side.
Translation: I had a redneck water park in my back yard.
The Hole was specifically fun at night because when you first get into it, you can't see light on either side. It's just you, the occasional high-speed sparrow zipping past your head, and the 10,000 spiders who live on the ceiling of this make-shift water-slide.
When you come out the other side you're greeted with a much grittier butt-slicing concrete as you slide off the end and into a pool of water.
In all the years of going through "The Hole" nobody ever drowned, or hurt themselves badly enough to need medical attention.
We had a blast at the hole. It was a MAJOR part of my childhood. In fact, my last will and testament currently requests that my ashes be scattered at the beginning of The Hole so I can go through it one last time. (I know that sounds weird)
The point is that sometimes the things we protect our kids from are the same things they need to feel some independence, adventure, and risk.
Parenting Lesson: While sliding through a hill in a spider infested irrigation ditch may not sound like a good idea, it was actually a reasonably safe thing for us to do. Obviously use your judgement, but don't forget to let kids be kids, and take reasonable risks.
I'm incredibly grateful to be typing this today after all of the crazy things I did as a kid.
But why did I write this?
I write this to remember that our kids will likely do strangely stupid things, but also to remember that there's a happy medium between being a helicopter parent, and being the parent who just isn't invested in their kids' lives.
I know I won't be able to stop my kids from doing every single stupid thing, but maybe if I step in and join them on as many of their adventures as I can, they won't feel the need to be secretive.
Maybe I can help them do a cost-benefit analysis or two before they decide to ride on the top of a car at high speeds. And maybe, just maybe I can strike a healthy balance between caring, and smothering long enough to raise 4 awesome humans.
I also write this as a reminder to pray, pray, pray, and then pray some more for your kids.
Hang in there parents! And Mom, If you're reading this, I'm sorry.
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P.S. If you're a mother of boys, there's not always time to do you hair while you're just trying to keep them alive and out of the hospital for another day. For all those busy summer days...there's a Bolder Band!
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