While in Ucluelet, Kaya came across a tree. A big, gnarly, twisted up tree begging to be climbed. Her gap-toothed grin ducked in and out of those branches while she climbed higher and farther. From me. Making me nervous. Even though I was trying really hard not to show it. In that, I failed.
I only realize I failed upon getting home and watching the video we took of her climbing. 44 seconds of me in a bipolar state of cheers then warnings.
“Woah, so cool!” while I hold her bum to prevent a fall then letting go realizing she wanted to go it alone.
Then I direct her play, suggesting she stop there and ride it like a horse. Ignoring me, she climbs higher instead.
Nervous voice suggests “Ok, that’s as far…”
Followed up with a “Oh, looks like a swing. Fun!”
And finally, an insistent, “No more. You can’t go over cuz I don’t know what those branches are like over there.”
Some of the sparkle has dimmed from her face. She wanted to go higher. And she totally could have. Would have, had I not been there.
Shortly before watching this video, I had applauded an article called The Need for “Wild” Play: Let Children Be the Animals They Need to Be. In it, author Marc Bekoff champions Bob Hughes book Evolutionary Playwork as work that shows play is not only important to a child’s development, but crucial to it. Kids need freedom to play on their own terms, no direction necessary thank you very much. Only here I was, evidence on video, trying to direct, then prevent her play when I deemed it too risky.
The thing is, of course, that as her mother, it is my job to keep her safe.
But mothering need not be smothering.
Around the same time I read an article called Finding Our Way as Parents, Kids by a local mom who talked about letting her 6-year-old walk 4 blocks, by herself, to a friend’s house.
My initial reaction? “No way in HELL!”
But as I read on, I got it. Letting go so our kids can soar. That’s our job too.
Keeping safe, letting soar. Sometimes it’s a fine line.
Bekoff ends his article with this quote,
“Better a broken bone
than a broken spirit”
~Lady Allen of Hurtwood (1897 – 1976)
When I look at Kaya’s face climbing that tree, then look again once I say ‘No’, it is clear I broke her spirit that day. This is not something I shall dwell on or harbour guilt about, rather learn from.
Next time, she shall climb! And perhaps I shall join her. Seems I still have some developing to do also.