How far do you push for a healthy lifestyle for your kids, vs staying warm and keeping your feet dry?
On Saturday afternoon a watery sun sort of poked through a grey winters day. Sort of.
It was all the window we needed. It was time to get the girls and their little brother out the door, regardless of the weather.
The signs were all there; the arguing, the requests to watch T.V turning into demands, a desire to eat for the sake of eating, the bitching and whining and moaning.
The kids were going a bit stir crazy too.
I geared up one of the girls fishing rods and we tucked the little ones into gumboots and jackets and the rest. This time of year, the threat of rain is ever present. The dogs tagged along, young and old, and we took on the mud successfully, making our way down to the waters edge.
The trip was really about introducing the new addition to the family, a puppy we have named Tui, a Black Labrador x Weimaraner, to the water. And no, owning a pet is not an attempt to make the kids learn responsibility or any of that. They do share a few small chores around pet ownership and care, but we don’t over do it. The pets are for fun, love and companionship, not to be resented.
It wasn’t a warm day. Not cold, because it never gets really cold where we are, but a long way from warm all the same. Plus, there was mud to contend with, four kids and two dogs to supervise at the harbour’s edge and two dogs, romping about in their bid for freedom and fishing hooks and a knife and sharp, broken shells and slippery rocks and fallen trees and fading light and Oh My God why did we leave the house?!
But we had left the house and if one, or even all, of our lovelies had slipped and ended up with a muddy butt…bummer, more for the washing machine. If one, or all, had gotten themselves entangled in the Pampas, covering themselves in stinging little cuts…out with the band-aids. If one of them had taken a tumble on those slippery rocks, crash landed, splitting their forehead open before rolling semi-conscious into the cold, salty waters of the Hokianga, to float face down in a silty pool of their own blood, then we scoop the poor unfortunate, scarred, waterlogged creature up, cuddle and cradle her/him, and gingerly negotiate our way back to the comparative safety of house and home.
I say comparative because there is no guarantee that your dear little ones are any safer inside the four walls of your house than out. A variety of kitchen implements and utensils, a bath tub full of water, or the toilet bowl, chemicals and power points and ornaments and toppling furniture and stairwells and glass doors and all manner of shiny things that don’t belong in mouths.
You can child proof your house all you like but if they want to hurt themselves, they will. The little ones do stuff that is very much related around what can go in their mouths, the older ones jump onto and off stuff simply not designed for the purpose.
I am a sports fan and the term that pops up in the world of professional athleticism is ‘wrapping in cotton wool’. Protecting. For the coach, that might be fair enough. Save your key players from harm so they are fit and rearing to go come the big game. For our children, everyday is the big game.
There is a bump, a bruise, a scrape or graze around every corner. There is always a scar waiting to happen. A child will fall off a bike and yes, that is partly your fault because, eventually, you have to let go. There will always be one bright spark that decides to go up the slide and down the steps, rapidly and at the risk of a broken limb. There is always the limb on a tree, a branch, that just isn’t going to take their weight.
And most of that isn’t your fault.
Finding fault, isn’t really the point though is it. The point is you can put as many measures in place as you can possibly think of and find, and then a helicopter crashes through the roof.
A big part of learning, of developing, is bleeding. A black eye, at some stage in your young life, preferably not caused by another’s knuckles, is almost a rite of passage for a boy. A hockey stick might hit you in the mouth and split your lip. Does that mean you shouldn’t be letting your kids play the sport? I’ve seen guitar strings cut open the players fingers…ban your little beloved from learning music?
More often than not, your kid is going to bounce. Sometimes it might hurt and occasionally it might be serious and each time a lesson learned, for them and you. This is the way we find our limits, establish our boundaries.
All you have to do in the interim is hold pick them up, wipe away the tears and hold their hand. Sometimes, just every now and then, you might want to give them a push too..