My kids are eight, barely 60 pounds and still have a baby tooth or two to lose, but I’ve decided that it’s time to let them loose in the world. Give them each a pocket knife, eight ounces of water and wish them luck in their endeavors. We spend a lot of time in the woods, but the key word there is “we.” As in, my kids and me. The munchkins are rarely out in the great big world on their own and it’s become increasingly clear that I’ve been stunting their growth as human beings by constantly monitoring their behavior and batting away any potential dangers with my mighty dad fists.
Here’s how it hit me that it’s time to let the kids explore the world on their own: they’ve never whittled a stick. I learned recently that several of their friends have been whittling sharp poking devices basically since birth, and I’ve never once given my kids a pocket knife and let them loose in the world to carve mini bear figures out of broken red wood limbs.
I probably should’ve cut the cord a while ago, but I’m a firm believer in the micro-managing style of parenting. If I’m not standing over them at all times, how will they know when they’re doing something wrong? What if a creepy clown comes out of the woods and tries to give my kids some candy? What if the salamander they’re chasing is actually a copperhead?
These are the scenarios that run through my head when my kids are out of my line of sight, but I have to take a step back at some point and let them make their own mistakes. I have to let them play chase with poisonous snakes and cut off their fingertips while carving their initials into old growth hardwoods. I have to let them try candy from strangers. If my kids are going to grow into capable, confident individuals I have to let them go at some point. And apparently, that some point is now. While they still have fragile baby teeth.
At least, that’s what everyone keeps telling me. That’s what all of the parenting articles say. The experts. Let your children play. On their own. In the woods. Close to that homeless camp. Alone. With no supervision. Alone.
And these experts are probably right. My kids probably are ready to explore the vast frontier that is the neighborhood woods on their own. They’re smart kids who stick together and look out for each other. They’ll probably be just fine. Probably. An hour or two alone in the woods will probably do wonders for their character.
They’re ready. I’m definitely not ready, but they are.