I would like to say that this theory of mine, which applies, I think, most especially to raising boys, developed because of how deeply moved I was by Charlotte Mason’s ideas on masterly inactivity. Unfortunately, that would be disingenuous. This little theory of mine sprung up almost entirely as a way to protect my children from myself.
Listen to this post as a podcast:
Well, maybe we can at least tip our hats at Miss Mason and say that it was she who told me that they needed protecting from me in the first place.
After all, it was she who wrote:
Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make. They must be content to know that they do not understand, and, what is more, that they carry with them a chill breath of reality which sweeps away illusions. Think what it must mean to a general in command of his forces to be told by some intruder into the play-world to tie his shoe-strings!Vol. 3, p. 37
I circumvent that problem by providing my children with Velcro shoes, as a general rule.
The truth is that, at some point in their short lives, my children have made me nervous. And I don’t mean in a stop-talking-to-that-scary-man sort of way. I mean in the way of all children throughout history — climbing higher than I think is safe or some other such thing.
I’m not saying that there is never a time to tell a child to stop and be sensible, but still, I’ve no desire to teach my children through the special revelation coming out of my mouth what they might learn well through the bumps and bruises of general revelation.
I mean, yes, he was going too fast on his bike when he took that turn, but he’ll never do that again, right? Not after that fall.
Unless, of course, he is my youngest, who is convinced that his failure was temporary and next time, surely, it’ll work out differently.
But even daredevils have their place in society.
My theory has become: don’t look.
If we look, we will want to stop them. We’ll want to intervene. Get down from that tree! Pull up your pants! Why in the world are you spitting right now?
It matters not that the times I least believe my genuinely honest older son are the times he begins to orate on how “safe” his new idea is. I let him do it anyhow, with perhaps a reminder that Dad will be very upset if he accidentally kills his sisters.
There is a fort in my backyard. Some children are good at building things, but not mine. It looks like something out of a bad Halloween movie. Parts of it are too high up to be safe. I have it on good authority that Daughter A. has already injured herself.
They want me to come look at it. They beg and plead. I? I demurely decline. I finally explained to one of them the other day that they really don’t want me to look at it because I may be overcome with the desire to tell them to take it down and build something nice and lower to the ground.
There are times to look, and there are times not to look, and it takes wisdom to know the difference.
I was once amused at the park when a group of mothers freaked out because of how high my son had climbed. Their conversation had made me aware that they had no scruples about what their children were watching and listening to. They didn’t seem to care if their little minds were filled with garbage, so long as no broken arms or legs came about.
I invented my Don’t Look Theory of Parenting shortly thereafter. There are worse things than a broken leg.
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