Then…. he took the lizard for a ride.
We put him in a jar with a couple ants, some grass, and mud. We left him there overnight, outside in the jar, while I tried to figure out what we would do with him. I wouldn’t mind a lizard pet, but was unsure about feeding and maintaining it properly.
A few times I suggested we release him into the grass, and Jax said, “But I want to pway wif him! I want him to be my fwend!” So we kept lizard friend overnight, and the next morning, went outside and let him go.
I told Jax the lizard missed his Mommy and Daddy, and we needed to put him back in the grass so he could run away to go find them. He decided this was acceptable, held the lizard a bit longer, then tossed him into the grass to find his freedom. The lizard, now dry, and nervous after being stuck in a glass cage all night, scampered away as quick as anything, and Jax said goodbye…..
These adventures are some of the ones that bring me a breath of life as a Mommy. I love the outdoors, discovering, exploring, as much as Jax does. I love these little adventures that I think all kids should get to enjoy, if they choose to.
Although I want my kids to be safe, I also don’t want to over-protect them right out of enjoying God’s creation. I have always been pretty relaxed when Jax plays outside. He’s eaten dirt, leaves, and licked plenty of rocks. The only thing that’s made him truly sick is other sick children, so I’m just not that worried about bugs and dirt.
Sometimes when we are at the park or other places, I feel like some parents tell their kids “no” at every possible junction…. don’t touch that stick. Don’t jump off that rock. Don’t climb that bench.
I want my children to learn to respect nature, to learn to respect other people, and items that are not meant for childlike-destruction. We definitely parent with those boundaries.
But if we are at the tire shop waiting for new tires to be put on the car, and he wants to run up and down outside, in an area safe from cars, I’m going to let him run. If we are at a swimming pool, he doesn’t get to run around the pool area.
If he wants to climb on rocks and jump off, and I think he’s too little to do it safely, I will hold his hand or help him. If I think he might fall but is unlikely to break any bones, there’s a good chance I will let him try.
If he wants to grab a stick, I will make sure he isn’t swinging it at humans. But he is allowed to bang it on the ground. He is allowed to break it. He is allowed to poke at a bug with it.
I’m willing to risk him getting mildly hurt, in the interest of allowing him to discover the world. Certainly when his life is in danger, or broken bones seem imminent, these activities are off limit. And if the activity is questionable, I try to do it with him or helping him, so he can still discover it, while remaining a bit safer.
My mom told me when I was a little girl, that someone once told her some parenting advice….. If you can say “yes”, say it.
Obviously there are people that are permissive to the point of neglect, and that’s not what we’re talking about here.
For me, this means when my twelve month-old wants to climb on the merry go round, I keep him safe by making sure there aren’t any big kids spinning it frantically, but I say yes by letting him crawl across it. Even if he could possibly crawl off one edge. There’s a good chance he won’t. And if he gets too close, I’m fast enough to run and catch him, and I’m doing my best to keep close in the event he does. But I don’t keep him off the merry go round altogether….
I was more worried with this lizard, that Jax would squish it and kill it, which would just be sad. I think I told him to be gentle about a thousand times. Each time he reminded me that he WAS being gentle, and he was doing a good job too. I took the risk of the mess of cleaning up a squished lizard, so Jax could enjoy the creature and learn a lesson in gentle touch.
I was also worried he would get attached to it, and by crying when it was time to let it go. I debated how long we would keep it, and in what manner we would keep it (indoor / outdoor), how and when I was going to explain it was time for the lizard to go home… when Jax would need to say goodbye to the creature he decided to call, “Friend.”
But he was fine with that too. We kept him overnight by mistake really, and the next morning, Jax was ready to release him, without any tears.
This is one of the ways in which parenting is a journey of discovery for the parent, just as much as the child….. How do we keep them safe? And how do we set them free? How do we protect them from serious pain, because we love them so much? Yet how do we also love them enough, to allow them “safe failures” so they can learn their own limits and discover how to manage the world on their own, little by little, in age-appropriate ways and times.
When and how do we hold them close… When and how do we let go….
And we try to balance protection with freedom, holding tight with letting go, along the journey of two years old and ten years old and sixteen years old, so they hopefully learn how to make wise choices when they aren’t under our thumb or in our presence.
I don’t have this thing all figured out! But these are some of the values and thoughts I wrestle with… try to discover…. and slowly learn how to implement in the very delightful lesson of the lizard.