How do you feel when you look at this picture? Are you worried he's going to burn his hands? Would you let a three year old make macaroni and cheese?
When I only had one child, I was a Hover Mother. You know the type. I'd follow him with my arms reached out to catch him while he cruised from sofa to sofa on our carpeted floor.
Most of my friends were also first time moms, and we would have park play dates with out little babies, careful to keep them clean and comfortable.
Was it too chilly for the babies to be outside?
Are they getting too warm in their jacket?
Is this wind bothering their ears?
Did he just put dirt in his mouth? Noooo!!!
My parenting style has evolved since those days, mostly out of necessity. There just aren't enough of me to watch all of my kids that closely.
And do I even want to? Not really.
I doubt anyone can argue that childhood is different now than it used to be in the eighties or nineties. Growing up on a farm, my sister and I would explore and play with no adult supervision for hours. Things were different.
Raising little boys is different, too. They are naturally drawn to danger. Every one of my boys will climb a tree, swim in murky pond water and do stunts with their bikes that make me have to squeeze my eyes shut and turn away (with helmets, of course).
One of my favorite parenting books is called Wild Things: the Art of Nurturing Boys. He explains brain development in growing boys and how to give them what they actually need. If I'm being honest, sometimes I feel like I can't relate to my sons at all. Their little minds work so differently from my own. This book really helped to clear up a few of my concerns!
At every stage of development, little boys need an element or risk. Beginning at two, children need to be allowed age appropriate independence.
Our homestead is surrounded by pastures and fields. One of my boys' favorite things to do is pack a snack, grab their binoculars and whatever gear they think they might need and go explore the pasture. Sometimes I can see them from the window, sometimes they've wandered further. They know the limits, and I trust them.
Using tools is another way to allow children to be risky. A real hammer, a real nail and some scrap wood can turn into an architectural masterpiece. My older boys are allowed to use an electric orbital sander, as long as they are wearing eye protection.
Cooking, baking and sewing are also ways to engage in risky play. When we have playdates and a child asks if we can do a sewing project, I always say yes. I've caught my finger on the needle of my sewing machine before, and I caution the children about it before we get started.
Could the child potentially get hurt? Possibly. Does the benefit of the skills learned outweigh the risk? Definitely.
What are your thoughts?