A Family Project:
Recently, my wife and I enjoyed the warmth of the spring sun while digging up our front yard. We braved the wrath of the May Flies as we removed the remaining leaves from the fall and cleaned up the aftermath of another harsh winter. Last year, we started building a trail that winds lazily across the front of our property. Anxious to continue our project, we rushed to our yard this past Saturday to expand last-years trail. We added a beautiful stone fire-pit that I dug into the ground. We leveled the area around it with sand and expanded the reach of our walking path in front of the house. We have a tiny hill at the top of our driveway, and our path continued across it. In addition, I proudly built two sets of small stairs for my son and daughter to use so they can enjoy the full trail experience.
As we worked, our children played in the dirt. Sebastian, my son, helped dig up big rocks and placed them in his wheelbarrow while Penny, my daughter, kept trying to eat the small sticks and stones she grasped as she crawled through the sand. It was a beautiful weekend for our family, and we all took great pride in forging our own path to create the environment we wanted for our home and family.
Since the creation of our path and the steps, we’ve gone out each night to walk the trail after dinner. It is calming for us, and we just keep staring at all of our hard work with a sense of love and pride. We love the little stairs built into the hillside, and all take turns walking up and down them as we plan the next phases of our project.
The other night, however, Sebastian decided to run up the small hill instead of using the stairs. At the top of the hill is a row of rocks that we used to line the trail. He carefully climbed over the rocks, making sure not to disturb them, stepped onto the trail and then ran back down the steps. After watching him climb the hill, run down the steps, and attempt to repeat the cycle, I scolded him. I told him I didn’t want him going off the trail because I was afraid he was going to ruin the tiny row of rocks my wife had laid. Tears filled his eyes and he began to sob hysterically. Patiently, my wife gave me a look and then went to comfort our son.
As my son stood there crying, I paused for a moment. Why was I telling him not to run up the hill? I thought. What message am I sending to my son? As a teacher and an author, I regularly advocate for change; for going against the grain and trying new things. As a homeowner, I took great pride in forging this new trail along the front of our home. But as a father, I panicked when my son tried to find his own way. I grew anxious and upset when he tried to create his own experience and relationship to our trail. My son sobbed harder, and I watched the frustration build in him since I had crushed his creativity and free will. With a change in perspective, I walked over to my son and gave him a hug. I took his hand and asked him to show Daddy his new trail, and together we followed Sebastian’s path up the hill, and down the steps.
Being a parent is hard. We want the best for our children and we want to keep them safe at all times. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but we need to embrace our children’s uniqueness. We need to provide them with the opportunities to find their own paths in life with the hope that they will find just as much enjoyment in building their own trails as we did in creating ours.
What are your thoughts and/or experiences? How do you balance the support of a child’s independence with our need to ensure their safety or maintain control? Please comment below!
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