“How long do you think it would take one of us to get to the deep end if Baylor fell in?”
That’s how this particular conversation began. Christie and I were sitting with our feet in the kiddie pool while Baylor roamed free on the dangerous side of the big pool (deep water, large waves, jellyfish, sharks, and ogres, etc). She’s never fallen into the pool before. And, although she’s pretty quick to leap into my arms from the side, she’s never jumped in the pool without one of us there waiting. But still, she’s a kid. And kids are clumsy (she’s currently suffering from chronically skinned knees, and has been for the last three months). So you never know.
But there’s a fence to prevent her from getting into the parking area, so we let her play wherever.
“I could get to her within five seconds,” I stated with confidence. “It’s impossible for a kid to drown that quickly.” And then I added this little nugget of wisdom: “Plus, if she never suffers the consequences of falling, what’s to convince her to be careful in the future?”
I find myself saying things like that all the time. Call me a bad father, but I think it’s good for Baylor to take the occasional spill. Swallow a little pool water. Skin her knees. Break a leg (not in the theatre sense of the word). And get stung by a nest of yellow jackets.* She’s got to learn what hurts and what doesn’t; and she needs to know the limits of her own abilities.
So she climbs stairs by herself. We don’t sit in the kiddie pool when she’s playing in it (there’s pee in there). Our little girl’s never worn “swimmies.” And I don’t hold her hand when she goes down slides. Sure she lays her body back while sliding and bumps her head when she gets to the bottom. But that little lump on the back of her noggin reminds her to sit up while sliding (and she’s probably improving her abs in the process). Baylor’s even learned to spit — though that has nothing to do with this post.
And then I came across this article: Can a Playground Be Too Safe? You know a lot of playground companies don’t install high monkey bars anymore? And they’re apparently no longer filling playgrounds with little shards of glass either (sand, that is**). It’s too dangerous. We need short monkey bars, so kids’ feet can always be on the ground — a ground which is sprayed-on rubber, mind you. Too dangerous?! Bah! Humbug!
Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.
So the next time your daughter’s falling out of the tree she’s climbing, don’t catch her. Instead let it be a valuable life lesson. And don’t yell for her to come back every time she heads for a diving board. Or… you could resign yourself to watching your little girl make water in her pants every time she sees a diving board. It’s up to you. Hey, maybe you WANT your kid to bite his nails nervously and make excuses why he can’t climb up to the treehouse while all the other kids are having so much fun. It’s your scared little kid; do what you want.
[For a bit of satire on this subject check out my proposed 6 laws for a safer tomorrow: protect our children.]
* That last one’s not true.
** Thanks, Chandler.