I am not saying that all city kids are soft. I’m saying that MY city kids would have been. If they had been raised in a wholly suburban, enclosed backyard with a thick cushion of soft sand and mulch under everything, I’m not sure I would have the same children. I had every propensity to be a Smother Mother.
From the moment my children were thought of I loved them with my whole heart and a blinding devotion to protecting them from all harm — and me from the heartbreak that would ensue.
Before they were born my bedside table burgeoned under piles of books about keeping kids safe. I baby proofed so effectively that my mother-in-law all but gave up on ever using the bathroom in our home. She figured out the cabinet catches but she never did crack the toilet lid lock.
I padded, covered, clipped and secured. I had them in carseats, then booster seats so long that you would have thought sure they would ride in them to Prom.
I pulled BoyWonder out of child care due to repeated exposure to illness (those other kids were germy!). I made sure that he only had access to childproof items and safety scissors. I was a very careful parent. Of course, with all this dedication wrapping them in bubble wrap I ended up raising two capable, hard working and hard playing children almost in spite of myself.
Our son spent his babyhood trying always to move forward. Unlike the majority of babies, he didn’t pull himself up to standing at the coffee table (probably because I had it so padded he couldn’t get a grip). He pulled himself up on the windowsill to stand teetering on tiptoes. The better to look outside.
When Mr. Wonderful wanted to work outdoors without toddler helper he had to sneak out. He still regrets the times our son slumped, sobbing, on the floor inside the door, coat half on, bereft at having been left behind. Outdoors was his favorite place to be. Indoors he slung himself upside and sideways all over the house. In all his photos it looks like I raised Mowgli from Jungle Book. Tan, barefoot and probably climbing on or swinging from something.
I think he was four when I gave up trying to entirely contain him. He climbed everything, crawled through what he couldn’t climb and did everything barefoot whenever possible. When he was eight I retired the safety scissors when I realized he could and did repair pasture fence with an actual sharp knife. He once streaked past me, barefoot, sandwich in one hand, sharp tool in another to rescue one of our goats I hadn’t even realized was in distress. He wrangled the goat and returned, sandwich still in hand.
At 10 he could drive a tractor, at 11 he hunted. I sent him to sleepaway camp to live like a hobo (he loved it). I let him hike out to the woods with only a tarp and set of matches to “rough it” with his friends. He loved it. He played with fire at age 8. At 12 he extinguished a kitchen fire (while I stood by with my mouth hanging open).
Watching him grow, learn and do, I still have my mouth hanging open a lot of the time. He loves to kneeboard and waterski, making “look mom no hands!” take on a whole different thrill set. I tamp down my inner smother mother (sometimes she needed a little help from her friends — and wine) and he powers through, coming up spitting dirt (and a harmless amount of blood on occasion).
The gleam in his eye says he loves it. All this aside, he honestly is not a risk taker. He tends to assess a situation, plan carefully and act in a way both fun and responsible. He has demonstrated all the best Eagle Scout values. He is generally prepared and capable of saving us.
All that aside, I am the parent and still feel it my sworn duty to say “Be safe and Make Good Choice.”
The truth is on any given day he makes better choices than many of the adults I know, including myself.
Remembering the past
Looking back, I could have been — and sometimes was — a smother mother. A little of that is certainly okay. I’m glad I raised a well protected, confident, capable and yes, somewhat “tough” kid.
Sure it pains me when his bumps and bruises happen. With life well lived and (careful) risk, he’s definitely a little rougher — and yet somehow smoother — around the edges for having learned, at least a little, to run (carefully) with scissors too.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!