Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: childhood. Page 1 of 2

Weekly Column: The Antidote to Internet Challenges Is Presence (The Real Kind)

Like all parents with school-age children, I received the district heads-up letter about the Momo challenge. By now most have are familiar with the strange, creepy face of the Momo character and the internet storm it has created. My eldest had heard about it, while my youngest had not. I passed on the heads-up. They shrugged. There are just so many wacky things out there, my eldest said.

True. The many things that lurk in the virtual darkness of the internet are not reduced to Momo or another challenge. It’s an ongoing thing. There are controversial videos and memes that are inappropriate for kids but they access anyway because they are there; there is pornography (see Katie Neustaeder’s column from last week); there are violent or troublesome-imagery games parents sometimes approve as OK because ‘so many people are doing it so it must be fine’ – which only confuses things.

We can all agree that whoever created Momo has a sick, twisted mind, but then again, that is the category we can (almost) place so many of today’s online happenings, including the addicting features of apps and games. As we know, children respond scarily well to that and get hooked easily.

The reality is, the internet murkiness and disturbing at times content will not go away. I say this with profound sadness. I grew up without the internet and loved it, and I love it even more now, retrospectively. It had all the magic in it a kid could want.

One of the reasons for it was nature: I was outside a lot. Aside from time spent reading, doing homework, or helping my parents with various chores around the house and garden, time was spent outside, rain or shine, with or without other kids, but to be fair, lots of it with kids because that’s what was considered the norm for children.

The challenges of those days had to do with climbing trees, riding bikes up crazy hills, being delegated to do dares as we were all sitting around a fire on a given late summer evening (when you live near a cemetery and the theme of the night is ghosts, you have to conjure a decent amount of courage to overcome the ‘no way I am doing this.’)

Now mind you, we weren’t instructed by my parents on every aspect of safety but given the occasional advice on what is safe and what not, and why. Nor did they have to sign a waiver if we were at somebody’s house climbing trees and building forts (with real tools, by ourselves) because it was part of the picture: kids did real things, and they did a lot of problem solving through various activities. Running into mischief added its own educational quotient.

What made it so darn good? For one, when you are around your significant adults and do various things alongside them, you learn as you go. They’ll stop you from doing this or that, until you learned the safe way to do it, but they would let you try things that were not deadly so you could make mistakes too. Hence the ongoing challenge of learning things. The best two things about that was that you really strived to learn how to do it right, and then it felt pretty good when you could put your skills to work when the situation called for it.

We went up on the hills near my house and we went to the local swimming pool in the summer. Being out and about and learning so many of those ‘invisible’ like skills by osmosis really, was the best and most valuable gift that I was given.

The times have changed and there was nothing any of us could do to stop the evolution. With the good (and the internet has brought a lot of that, everyone agrees,) came the bad, and this, again, no amount of vigilance from parents or responsible adults can stop.

The one thing we can do, and no one can change that, save for our own decision to not do it, is to spend enough time with our kids and teach about balance and healthy challenges, not by preaching to them but by exposing them to situations where they can experience that. Indoors and out.

If adults take time away from the internet and screens in general and instead dedicate it to spending it together with our kids, there is a chance they will get to experience some of that magic that the ‘no internet’ kids once experienced.

Any time spent together inside or outside, be it hard work that brings in both frustration and a sense of accomplishment, or fun times spent having adventures of all kinds, such as camping, hiking, and exploring any given corner or nature – there is a wealth of goodness and magic there waiting to grow. We have the means to challenge our children in a way that helps them grow confident and able to discern. It’s no perfect solution, but it’s something that no one loses anything by trying; on the contrary.

It’s been said many times: you cannot change the world around you but you can change how you react to it.

Now that’s a challenge worth taking.

Peter Pan Lives Here. Times Two

boy and grass‘Can you see me?’

‘No Peter…’

But I do. I see a tuft of wild hair, I see the smile sparkling like a golden butterfly from behind stalks of bunchgrass. Little boy is at it again. Peter Pan indeed.

We’ve read the books, abridged and unabridged, yet again, and we will do it one more time, and two, and three times more until little boy will say ‘now let’s read about Ivanhoe.’

We take Peter Pan from books to the hills where boys get lost among dry grasses and hide behind scraggly ponderosa pines that are still standing… Playing. There is a mystery to it all. Grass speaks to boys in wild ways. ‘Do it!’ it says to them… Run to catch the sun! Can you balance on the see-saw stump? Do it!

To us it says the same but we’re grownups now and the sounds come out distorted. We say ‘Stop! Go slow, don’t run so fast…’. Boys snicker, throw silly looks over their shoulders as they do it anyway…

Be it so… Their feet and bodies listen to the tall grass only. As they should. The mystery itself.

yellowIt is midday Sunday and the sun is stingy with its warmth but we’re clad in wool sweaters and touques. We’re on the hiking trail we often take in the morning. It is no longer just a path snaking on the side of the hill. It is where we discover woodpeckers and blue jays and snow berries and yellow mushroom caps and talk about what makes smoke go up and how math is everywhere on any given morning before we head inside to learn more.

A trail that has become ‘the trail’ and then it has become ‘our trail’. We pin, as if with sticky notes, memories of us, of the mornings that see us hike here and talk about the things the boys learn in our school at home.

Soon we will know every turn and bush and stump.

Little boy pleas with his brother to be pirate Cecco. Say yes? He does. Taunting as the big brother words and gestures can be towards little boy at times, there’s a lot of love pouring out when he’s eagerly agreeing to play. He hops, runs, jumps and rolls as any pirate worth his salt would. Delight lives on both sides.

20151027_142332_001There’s barely any space around us that’s left unfilled with laughter – sounds so round you’d think it’s raining plump giggling droplets. I like it when that happens. Sun showers of sorts. Like silly weather, boys’ moods go from sunshine to snow to sun again in a merry-go-round grownups so inelegantly and harshly judge at times.

Boys can turn playful tumbles into war-like matches. The world of boys is a magic one. Sweet smiles and twinkling eyes one second, darts and fists flying wild the next. Like now. We stop and listen.

Peace again. ‘It’s OK, mom, we’re going to play some more.’

Max and I walk slowly behind them, gazing at shreds of clouds scattered over cinnamon hills. Quiet meets quiet, eyes meet, and the air feels warmer.

TumbleThere are giggles and rustling noises coming from behind Saskatoon berry bushes. Peter Pan’s wooden knife plunges next to Cecco’s feet and the next seconds become a tumble of two bodies down a sandy slope. Laughter so loud it makes dogs bark. Just like in the book with Nana the dog on the night of the great adventure.

Too much sand fills Pan’s boots so they come off. Little boy runs barefoot with big brother in hot pursuit. What? No, put them on, it’s cold.

‘I’ll keep the socks on!’ Pitter patter, feet get away from being questioned. Play is what they want to do.

More tumbles, more screams. I don’t know why Max and I are laughing but how else can this become a memory? An imprint of this and now? Faces get dirty and hair turns wispy after the sand tumbles and wild lost boys they are, lost from anything but playing. Lost and found, up and down, a world of their own which we have the privilege to see.

Exhaustion comes in like a nagging aunt. They lean against us as we walk home. You walk on your own, pirate, let those legs carry you home. Peter can fly…

applesThey laugh and walk alongside grabbing crab apples off the trees and picking brown leaves off the ground.

‘Can I sew leaves onto my shirt like Peter Pan’s?’

Perhaps use fabric? He did. The dining table is now a sea of green with leaf-shaped bits of fabric peeking from just about everywhere. This is learning. They both learn by touching and doing and daring. They learn by living.

Little boy cuts and prepares, he will sew them on one by one. He’ll wear the shirt and pants for a day, or two or three, bury them under new ideas and dig them out on a sunny morning when the sunshine will remind him of Peter Pan.

grass songsLet’s read some Peter Pan he’ll say, and I will say yes, and we’ll read once, twice, three times… and time will stay still. Lost boys will resurface, pirates too, and the tall grass will call to them again. Whispers and songs they’ll still hear for many moons to come, for childhood will still be here, sewn to their smiles and mischief still stuck to their hair like glittering sand and dandelion seeds are today.

We’ll follow them boys as they’ll run and tumble, we’ll be quiet and hopeful that the whispers of the tall grass will be loud enough for us to hear too…

20151101_133901 20151021_072818We’ll follow them to the edge of reason and back, again and again, we’ll walk a few steps behind, and when all silliness is done for the day we’ll all breathe in the sunset and keep that breath in long enough to remember.

Everything. The steps to here. The leap from here…


Advice To My Sons: Live With Joy

All of itLive with joy, no matter what comes your way, because joy is never to be lost, I’ll tell you why. You were once given to the world, to feel it all, to add to it, to stub your toes against thick knobbly roots and not feel anger but joy that trees exist and you can walk near them. You were given to the world to feel alive as you let your hand caress tall slim grass, smooth sands and waters that come from sky and ground alike, enclosing you in a circle where you cannot lie or pretend as you learn about what life tastes like.

Live with joy and catch raindrops in the nest of your palms at least once because rain was never meant to cause you grief but give life around you and for you. It does that, regardless of whether you see it or not, but if you do, you’ll stand astounded by the miracle of it all.

You were given to the world with joy, thus you must live in ways that will let joy be seen in you wherever you go. Live with joy so you have nothing to hide. It’s with you. Joy. It’s in how you start the day. Or how you end the day before. Remember that yesterday and today become the ground your soul feels before your feet trace the first steps and your eyes are peeled open by morning light.

Be joyful for the slimmest sliver of daylight that tickles your eyelids and for the furtive glimpse of shadowed stars as sleep steals you away for a bit. Make joy a constant thought you braid with gratefulness; they feed on each other. Do it every day, because every day brings gifts. Not all come with ribbons and beauty. Some will make you cry, some will hurt as you open them, but please, hang on to joy, you’ll understand why later on.

WorldsLive with joy. It gives you reason to forgive when forgiveness is what you have to give, find joy in the humble act of understanding it. Live with joy; it’s what will help you build boundaries that will keep you safe and your dreams too. Be joyful so you can understand what matters in life. Start learning it early. It’ll keep you grounded when the going gets tough, because it will. Joy will be the moonlit path that will lead out of the darkest scariest woods.

Take yourselves places where joy grows wild. Don’t ask where that is, you’ll find them. There is a place like that for everyone. You’ll be overwhelmed by the mirrors in which you will see yourself, your naked soul, reflected in ways that will make you understand life and your own place in it. You’ll understand how joy and tears are never too far from each other. It’s where you will find me. It’s where I’ve been plotting all along to meet you, since the first day I knew of your existence. It’s yet another place where we learn of each other’s depths and dreams.

Live with joy, because when you do, you grow wings that will take you high enough to never taste bitterness, resentment and unkindness. Joy leaves no room for that. Live with joy and you’ll find the right people to share that with. Simplicity

Simplify your life so you can see all the colours your were meant to see and hear the whispers of even the quietest of hearts. Make joy the key that will open doors you were meant to open. Remember that people’s hearts are doors too. Never force your way in. If you live with joy, you’ll be safe from that.

You will know that it is not perpetual smiles I wish for you when I urge you to give in to joy, but the ability to understand that as you should feed on it, your wings will grow strong and ready into stormy skies and cloudy grey mornings, just like they will soften and give in to the warm glaze of many sunrises and sunsets. Joy will see to that. You’ll grow tired of flying at times, of coldness and bleak horizons, and then, just the same, you’ll blush with the realization that your heart expands with every day you tell yourself ‘I have what I need to keep on going.’ That is joy; because you chose to live with it. So keep at it, it’s the right way to live. It’s what I wished for each of you the day you struggled to open your eyes to the world for the first time. You don’t remember it, but what you first saw was joy. All there could be. I thought you ought to know that. Now you do.

In Praise Of Slowness

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, July 4, 2014.

Slow...We were on a mission to get a couple of laneway wild poppies, my youngest son and I. We were inspired by one of the vendors at Art in the Park on Canada Day. In case you missed it, make sure you go next year. It’s not something you should be OK with missing out on…

We have always pressed wildflowers and used them for various art projects but this would be a step up, where the whole plant minus the roots gets pressed and mounted in a frame, as we saw at the fair. Talk about slowing down time.

It was 11am or so, and we were to cross Columbia Street. We stood on the sidewalk by the crossing, my son’s small hand in mine and we waited. Three rushed cars later, we were still waiting. I dared to put a foot on the wide white stripe. Open Sesame?

A fourth car stopped, screech included. A thank-you wave did not melt the driver’s face into a smile. He was in a rush and that crossing was clearly not a happy addition.

We crossed and walked a few blocks to get the two lone poppies. They were just about ready to drop their petals, which will only make it better in the final display.

We made our way back, talking about wild plants and how they grow, with no one to take care of them. Then we talked about fruit trees, why you need to graft them and how long it takes for them to bear fruit. We saw cherry trees loaded with fruit, cherries on the ground and bugs giving in to their sweetness.

On a back street life slows down and there many bits of life to see; our slow steps matched the rhythm of it.

Crossing Columbia Street reminded us what fast is, again. Even residential streets become fast lanes occasionally, which makes both walking and cycling with or without children a challenge many times. Rushed can turn dangerous in a split second; I’ve seen it happen enough times to fear it.

Why rush? Life pushes us into the fast lane occasionally, or often. Yet no matter how often that happens, slow can still be fit in there somewhere.

In fact many things cannot be done in rushed manner or else they come out wrong. Learning takes times, growing food takes time, reading to a child better take time, creating or building anything that is to be durable and worthwhile takes time.

Slow is not robbing us of time but rather gifting us time.

Rushing has become a religion of some sort. We put rushed and busy together and we feel accomplished. Truth is, sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t. There should be room for both.

If you are an adult today you had the benefit of being born in a world that was likely less rushed than the one today. Children nowadays eat on the go, they get dressed on the go, they get to be driven places because there are many places to go for so many activities and so days tumble, one after another, year after year.

But they need slowness. That’s how they come out. The first walks I took with the boys were the epitome of slowness. Picking up leaves, rocks, staring at how rain drops made puddles jiggle, listening to bird songs, everything was taken in.

Most children rarely get the luxury of slow times these days. Time to get to know the world and make it worthwhile.

But summer is here. Children and summer are a good mix when it comes to discovering slowness. That includes getting bored. When they do, creativity kicks in.

With no agenda, they will discover a world of wonder where scheduled activity stops. Free playing for example. How many of your summers were spent playing whatever crossed your mind and having the time of your life, dirty from head to toe and never ready to stop?

In the age of restlessness and plunging attention spans, allowing children to experience slow times is a gift.

Celebrate slow times. As much as your work commitments allow you to, keep in the slow lanes. Encourage your children to know the pace of life as it is outside what we make it out to be.  Slowness makes room for deep conversations, and when we spend it with children, they get the worthiest gift of all: time with us.

So why not start with this summer?

Chasing Happiness

HappinessIf it’s past 9 o’clock kids should be in bed, or so the unwritten laws of good parenting dictate. But the breezy night just set in after a long hot day and we still dance our feet on the pavement on the way to the river.

We take the back alleys because they are unpretentious. No perfect lawns, no empty yards. There are signs of life in the back alleys, you see.

The boys hop and chat, one’s words stomping the other’s words because ‘oh, I had this thought and it’ll go away if I don’t say it now…’ and what do you do then… Word stomping has its place.

Today is not it. While one talks the other listens and finds something to do on the side. Kids’ hands and minds are such busy machines, they cannot sit still and they should not. That’s how they stay joyful. That’s how they learn the world.

‘I will call this happiness,’ big boy says, wrapping his palm around the big fluffy head of a Tragopogon.

This is happiness… the night breeze carries his words further. I smile. Indeed, nothing wrong with that.

‘I want happiness,’ little boy chirps in.

That’s when it gets better. They run to get the next happiness globe of fleeting stuff (literally) and their laughter hops along with them.

‘My happiness, I touched it first!’

‘Mom, you want some happiness?’ The best answer is the one my soul paints across my face; I smile because what else can match the state I’m in. I have some, look, it’s right here.

‘I want some!’ little boy says, realizing that the blob he was holding was taken away by the wind.

Big boy laughs and wickedly rubs ‘happiness’ onto his little brother shirt, throws me a big smile and does the same to my shirt. There are signs of happiness all over. Sticky, fluffy, goofy. Let the magic be…

We get home late, having bumped into every blob of happiness on the way. It shows, inside and outside.

Boys brush teeth, they ask for cuddles, and one more and then just one more… I am stuck in thinking of how simple it is to get some happiness.

It is. It’s what you make of it really. It can be as elusive as a blob of fluff that you have now and the wind takes away the next second. It could be that someone wrestles you to the ground and takes it away. Chances are you won’t be laughing but then again, why not? It’s already gone but there is more to get if you keep on going…

Happiness is there, but you won’t find it where the aim is perfection. Just ask the boys. The big fluffy happy blobs are all huddled in the back alleys, where it’s all real and some of the less elegant things show. ‘cause they do, life is like that.

As for that happiness? Open your eyes, stretch out your hand and grab it before the wind takes it away… and if it does, keep on going, there’s more.

And you know how I know the boys were right? Because this morning on my run, I took the back alleys as I usually do. There were big fluffy Tragopogon heads all along and though I did not pick them, they whispered their secret to me.

The boys’ dash hunting happiness during our late night walks, the laughing about all the happiness they can rub on each other or mine over the occasional ‘Don’t rub your happiness on me!’ – it was all there. And just like that, happiness was there too.

Really, it’s what you make of it. So we made it a Tragopogon fluffy head. In fact, I am ready to change the plant’s status: from invasive species to reason to smile and keep going. Wouldn’t you?

Which Legoland Is More Real After All?

Because I live in Lego land. Truly so. The living room is home to a half-built castle which is home to a half-built garage which is, temporarily, just temporarily they say, home to some lost Lego souls (plasticky yes, but in Lego land that is norm) that have lost their hats, hair and an arm here and there. Yes, it’s all small parts. Very.

As you make your way into the kitchen – small open spaces allow for little if any delimitation of such areas, but please allow me – there is a box of Lego which I cover out of respect for myself. It’s a bit too much to see. The remains (if you are a pessimist) or the building blocks (if you’re an optimist) of an airport, plus some aircraft bits.

I am a realist, which is why I choose to put a lid on it. Literally. I know it’ll be a while until any Lego aircraft will be on takeoff status. It’ll come, just not yet. There are only that many hours in one day you see.

Just as you veer into the hallway leading to the boys’ room, a nice pine dresser almost invites the unawares to pull open the drawers. The bottom one I suggest you leave be. Yes, it’s the Lego of many sets, grouped under that impossible to describe category that shall not be named.

LostThat’s the drawer where I throw pieces as I find them, when I clean up or, in a more unfortunate turn of events, in the middle of the night. Which I do, more often that a human should be allowed to. I am not at my most gracious when that happens, but there’s nothing like a square little bugger like that to remind you about living in the moment.

If you’re still with me, we are now in the boys’ room. Under one of the beds there are two bins of … Yep, Lego. The Hobbit series came in strong because you see, when the kid has Lego on his Christmas or birthday wish list, you oblige, because, and only because… Lego is a game of building, thinking and well, growing up in a most harmonious way. Thinking, while staying out of trouble. For now. And not every day, but that’s a story for another day.

There are three more bins, a recent and lovingly passed on inheritance from my partner’s busy Lego past. Lots of exciting, now long extinct sets that need but busy hands to exist again in all their glory. Busy hands are here, I see them every day.

They do get busy. Every now and then, a fever runs through the house and I am never sure whether to bask in the fresh breeze of that enthusiasm or pack some quick bags and run out the door to hide until the fever passes.

Why, you may ask? Creativity is my most favourite ally in day to day life, so should I not encourage it when it hits home? Yes. And I do. But here’s the darker side, if you will allow me to call it that. As the fever carries on, great ideas materialize into half-built this and that. Like mushrooms after a copious rain, they sprout all over, especially on the kitchen floor because ‘Mom, I love sitting here while you cook and build Lego.’ Hence the kitchen becoming a mine zone. I am, in many ways, a survivor; a good thing.

Now when we call it a day, nothing really disappears. This plastic new species that inhabits our abode is work-in-progress for days to come, so I have to let the various contraptions be wherever they find some living space. On the dining table is tops. Location, location, location! Then there’s the floor, under the chair in the corner, on the old chest-turned-coffee table-turned ‘don’t you dare brush by it or everything falls off’ and so on.

A mere 800 square feet of living space can only allow for that much storage space though. So once the Lego cavalcade sets itself comfortably all over our living quarters, we politely retreat to dine outside. Al fresco as they say, with complimentary bugs. The bright side is that we get to see growing structures not made of Lego for a change.

Bad weather sends us back inside every now and then but then again, bad weather is a rare occurrence.

LotsSo yes, we live in Lego land.

I’d like to keep on doing so, because you know what? At the end of the day, no matter how many stray pieces attempt to tear my plantar ligaments, and yes, they do, the pain passes like a fleeting cloud and the happy glow of seeing the boys create and getting excited over building ‘something I’ve always wanted to build’ is a sight to behold.

The latest development is that any leftovers are picked off the floors as opposed to being shoved under the bed. Most days anyways…

As for the real Legoland (real is in the eye of the beholder)… well, for now I will choose to maintain the same attitude I have towards zoos. I prefer seeing the wild stuff, if I happen upon it by any chance. As you can easily infer from what you’ve read so far, chance favours me quite a bit. I get to see lots of wild stuff, hence my polite decline to seeing more. For now anyways…

So you see, although challenging at times, life in Lego land means a few things:

  •  That the boys learn patience (ever tried to search for the tiniest, say, white piece, in a big mound of many white pieces? It’s a skill.)
  •  That they learn to be bold in how they create…’It’s a barn’/’No, it’s not!/’Yes it is, because I am the one building it!’ Feel free to replace barn with anything that crosses your mind.
  • That they don’t care much about an orderly house and that allows them to just be. Clear of anything that might hinder spur-of-the-moment creativity, they learn to follow the impulse that allows them to transform ideas into palpable things.

Which in turn allows me to know they are still boys. In no hurry to grow, in no hurry to dismantle their castles, trains, train tracks, barns and people, in no hurry to stop playing.

Which is something we often forget. We start favouring orderly houses and having everything where it belongs at the end of the day, forgetting that children belong in that place where they can play at their hearts content to the point of having to be peeled off at bedtime and waking up early because they have to build further. From one day to the next, life is Lego land is as real as it gets. And seamless.

Continuity… The strongest argument to let Lego land be… A reminder of now and of all the tomorrows to come. Feet hurting or not, it’s a great place to be. Really. Age-proof too.

Bubble-wrapping Our Children Doesn’t Work

Originally published as a column in The Armchair Mayor’s News on March 7, 2014. 

It is snowing as I write this. Shoveling (in replay) notwithstanding, new snow always promises fun.

It is almost noon; lunch break for school kids, most of which is spent playing outside.
But, the snow has to stay on the ground, they are told. For safety reasons. I had first become acquainted with this safety measure when my oldest was in grade 1. Things have tumbled since.

Snowman building is allowed as long as you are a primary student and your hands stay close to the ground while rolling the snow. For everyone’s (un-fun) safety.
Kids don’t see it that way. They want to play with snow, and snowballs fights are a fact of life.

The risks associated with the occasional misguided snowball are an accepted, worthy downside. Still, can’t do it.

Sure they can find something else to entertain themselves with. On non-snowy days, tag sounds like a good option. Except that some BC schools have now adopted a no-touch rule, due to a few injuries caused by hands-on playing. The kind of games you and I played when we were little and fear was not a decision factor.

Children are encouraged to say ‘hand off’ to each other whenever they are being touched – friendly shoulder taps included. Or an adult will remind them.

Where to from here?

Children explore the world using all their sense and touch is a big one. They need to play, and years of research showed that playing is not just playing, but learning, developing, and understanding. We can state the general rules and help them understand what’s acceptable and what’s not, but they need to figure out the rest, like all generations of kids have.

How safe can we make the bubble wrapping around our children before they lose contact with reality? We are already witnessing communication misfires among children, young and old.

No-touch rules will never prevent bullying or its new vile form, cyberbullying. Nor will it help keep children safe from getting injured on the school grounds.

Children get hurt. They fall or they play in ways that may just see one of them hurt sometimes. Things are pushed too far occasionally and lessons are learned. Scraped knees are part of growing up, so are squabbles among peers.

Things can get confusing for the youngest ones with too many of these safety rules in place. What’s appropriate and what’s not? They might wonder about bullying and boundaries, and see everyone as a potential aggressor.

Safety redefined.

The first time another mom caught a glimpse of my youngest son, six at the time, carving a stick with his pocket knife while sitting on the porch, she raised a brow. I explained that he has to sit while carving, or else the knife goes, and there is no playing with it as a toy.

She did not buy it. Knives are dangerous. True. So are bows and arrows. But if we teach children how to use them safely and be firm about it, they will. Somehow children know when we mean it. Or learn soon enough.

There is a high chance that a child who has been taught about sharp objects and was allowed to use them only under certain conditions – carving marshmallow roasting sticks perhaps? – will hold onto that knowledge for life and even teach others too.

Instilling a sense of responsibility is part of parenting. And appreciated by children. That’s how it has always been. Bubble wrapping never worked to protect children from getting in trouble after all.

Same goes for playing. Rough housing is important for a child’s development. That it sometimes becomes rougher than it should be is true, but that’s how boundaries are learned and rules are set in place by parents.

Interestingly enough, children left to solve their own issues – basic rules in place – may just learn important life skills. Negotiation, reinforcing of boundaries, fairness, forgiveness and learning to stand up for themselves or for someone else who is being mistreated, these skills are all learned during hands-on playing.

They’ll also be useful later on when children sail into the often dubious waters of online socializing.

If kept too tightly wrapped and helicoptered by adults, children will either assume that the world is a cushiony place where as long as you don’t touch something or somebody you will not get in trouble, or that everyone intends to hurt them, or they’ll learn to be sneaky about hurting others. Or all three. No one wins.

Keeping children safe should involve allowing them to play, make mistakes, have adults teach them about rules, learn about boundaries, honesty, and most of all, reminding them about the old rule that has kept many alive and thriving: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

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