I was thinking a lot about my kids today. I let them do most of the chores needed to get ready for our weekend. This meant instead of me feeling stressed out and hustling my sweet ass on tons of work while the kids aimlessly tore through the house playing, we all pitched in – and I even got to play a bit myself afterward (sewinz). Together the kids and I cleaned the bathroom, the front porch, the guest rooms, and the kitchen; Sophie, as per usual, did laundry, and Nels vacuumed the living room (for about an hour – he likes to do the whole floor with the long, skinny attachment). Later in the day we ran to the grocery store real quick-like in between errands and getting Sophie to swim team practice. My kids darted through the grocery store and I observed and was once again impressed with their boundless energy. It seems ideal for them to have some real work during the day and then get to do whatever else they want to do – within reason – and most of all, be allowed to run, run, run.
And speaking of that: in the parking lot as I put the groceries in the backseat my five year old somehow – like the T-1000 – vaulted up on the back trunk of my car and ran up the canopy, down the windshield, and back to the trunk. He might have done it about eight times as I opened the driver’s-side back door and closed it again, he was moving so fast. Keep in mind, I don’t mind this “abuse” of our car at all. Probably persons shouldn’t run on windshields, I think (I will have to look into that), but otherwise I was rather impressed with his athleticism and coordination. My good mood was cut short, abruptly, as I looked up and saw not one, but at least two parties including three people giving my son THE GLARE. Big, sour-faced, head-shaking stink-eye. And here I’d been expecting smiles! Silly me.
OH EXCUSE ME DO YOU NOT LIKE MY KID RUNNING ON TOP OF – WAIT, WHOSE CAR IS THIS / OH YEAH, IT’S MINE!
AND WHOSE BUSINESS IS THIS? OH I FORGOT NOT YOURS SO ARSE OFF
It’s kind of crazy just how extensive the cultural expectations are that kids are not allowed to do this, that, this and that – usually things they know full well they can handle and there is no good reason not to allow them to do so. Often things adults no longer have the desire or balls to try themselves (and this is kind of sad in and of itself). It’s a separate kind of crazy that most people I know pretty steadily participate in this kind of suppression without much of a thought. And it’s my unique brand of Kelly-fail that for many years I assumed there was a reason my kid was not allowed to pick up something in the shop, or run along the sidewalk, or speak up in a mixed group, or whatever thing [everyone else is allowed to do yet] they roundly get public disfavor for doing – I more often than not defaulted there was a reason my child wasn’t allowed to walk barefoot in town or pick up a lightbulb in the hardware store or as in this case climb on top of their own family car.
And now I’m seeing that the sort of objections that are cited as “safety” objections (like some apologists in response to this little story) have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with, if I may take a guess, fear and resentment. Yes, fear when beholding the nature of a child – a nature open, and daring, and able to accurately and often loudly voice feelings, and almost always completely aware of their own limitations and completely aware of the risks they run. How is it a creature is allowed to have such boundless energy and at any moment see material objects differently than the way everyone else (besides those brilliantly gifted) sees them? Because, see, this is where the resentment comes in – deep-seated resentment. Resentment because that’s just Not The Way Things Are Done and if we were all allowed to jump on top of our own car, well… some kind of Bad Thing would happen.
It makes me sad, really. It makes me sad I am 32 years old and just now seeing through the eyes of a child – and there is much we adults could learn from this view. It’s my thought that all adults – not just parents – would do well to examine the squelching they received as children, to mourn this unnecessary and sad series of events, leave it behind forever, and to spend more time with children – advocating for the children themselves and re-learning their own authentic natures. I have no doubt we could all reclaim some of the joy, energy, and wonder that our young ones so effortlessly exhibit (until we vigorously and with small or large abuses train it out of them as much as possible). I know that for me I have benefited in many ways by being brave enough to believe in my kids.
Later, on our way to our film, Sophie rides ahead on her bike and Nels runs, as swiftly as he can, along the sidewalk. They stop at road-crossings and wait for my friend Cynthia and I to catch up. Nels’ breakneck speed on the sidewalks unnerves me. But when examined I find my feelings are not because I fear an injury to him – he runs full-tilt as much as possible, despite banged-up knees and spilled ice cream and all the accidents running has afforded him in his young life. No: I’m afraid, I’m tense, because I know I myself could not today, at 32, run that fast in the gloaming; I watch his fierce, brave, strong little body and I feel it as my own – yet with my adult fears and limitations. I am astounded by him, and surprised at myself. Maybe some day I’ll join him in the run.