Overly Cautious Kids

While preparing to attend my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, it hit me. My kids don’t have much sense of adventure, at least in the, “Could we get in trouble doing this?” variety. In some aspects (like: safety), I should celebrate that. But it also makes me think they’re missing out on an important part of childhood.

My parents’ big anniversary bash was held at a golf club that had been built on the grounds that my brother, sister and I had simply known as “Franklin’s Field” growing up. Way back then, it comprised a few hundred acres of pastures, dozens of heads of cattle, a babbling brook, and a pond perfect for fishing. What more could three elementary school-aged kids want? That the property, located just a few miles from our home, was private, with signs posted frequently alerting us to the fact, didn’t deter us in our pursuit of adventure. A few times we were chased by an angry cow; other times we were chased by an angry farmer. It all just added to the excitement.

Our mother seemed none the wiser, till one day the owner called to ask that we “limit” our catch to just one fish each, as he was tired of having to restock his pond. She was embarrassed, and we no longer took so much pride in our fishing prowess.

My children were appalled as I recounted the story. “Weren’t you afraid you’d get arrested?! You ignored the NO TRESPASSING signs!”

It was a wake-up call. Time to let them break out of their safety net, the one I inadvertently cast as a protective mom beginning the day of my son’s birth. Today is President’s Day, and an unusually warm day in mid-February. My son has a friend over and they were looking for something to do. There are 100-plus acres of woods across the street screaming to be explored. And lots of “No Trespassing” signs. I made a casual suggestion that they wander on over to see what trees the new owners had cut down.

“But Mom. We’d be trespassing. We might be… prosecuted.”

“You’re kids. You’re not poaching. You’re not cutting down trees. You’re not dumping trash. If you run into the owners, tell them you’re neighbors. Tell them for three years you’ve been dying to explore the woods. I think it’ll be okay.”

So they went, and returned safely two hours later, after building a fort and completing a thorough (yet surprisingly unsuccessful) search for Big Foot. And as far as I know, no one called the police on them.