You know what the hardest thing about being a father is? Remembering that, sometimes, you need to bite your tongue and let your child do things that look stupid and dangerous. Especially when that stupid, dangerous-looking thing isn’t really all that dangerous.
My son and I went for an hour-long walk after dinner yesterday, about a mile and a half in total distance. I could have done it faster on my own, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that we were going for a walk. He treated it like a grand adventure, insisting on strapping on his sword belt (some rope that ties around his waist and shoulders, with a couple of d-rings tied on) and taking his wooden sword and his wooden axe. He fought imaginary monsters as we walked, and chopped at grass, and generally had a good time declaring himself to be a knight.
The “dangerous” part was when we were walking past some recent road construction. There’s one spot where the ground drops about three feet, along a fairly steep slope that’s all bare earth and some rocks. That, of course, was a magnificent cliff wall to my son – he slid down it, then climbed back up it, then slid down again, and so on and so forth. My “dad” reaction to it was to imagine him slipping and skinning his knee, which then escalated into him twisting his ankle or breaking a leg or something along those lines.
Again, bear in mind that this was a three foot slope. He wasn’t free-climbing cliffs or anything like.
After a moment’s hesitation, in which I indulged all of these nightmare scenarios, I very nearly told him to stop. But then I made myself stop. Let him have fun. Let him climb a little, and risk scraping a knee or stubbing a toe. We’re outside for a reason, after all. And that reason is, as he said, to have an adventure. If I’m not going to let him play and run and climb, why bother coming outside at all? We may as well stay home on the couch.
So I watched him climb. And I watched him slide. And I held his toys for him, so he could climb and slide more. And you know what didn’t happen? He didn’t hurt himself. But he did have a great time, and he learned once again that going outside and walking around is fun.
So did I.