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Hawk Watching

Twice in the past week, Simon has done something he shouldn’t. In both instances, I could have easily gotten angry and thrown a fit. In both instances, I chose not to because while the specific action was not OK, the motivation or thinking behind it was actually kind of awesome.

I’ll start with the little thing. One day last week, Simon was playing soccer in the living room when the ball hit a glass of orange juice (his) and knocked it over. So, about now you might be thinking, “Why is Simon playing soccer in the living room?”, to which the answer is, “because I decided to give up on what was looking increasingly like a losing battle.” Simon plays soccer all the time. If he’s not eating or sleeping, he’s playing soccer. This includes times when he is watching a show and playing soccer, playing basketball while playing soccer, and playing tennis while playing soccer. Did you know you can kick a ball into a basket and/or over the net?  You totally can! It’s a compulsion with him. I’m pretty sure sometimes he doesn’t even know he’s kicking a ball. Ergo, I’ve surrendered.

Anyway, pop goes the ball. Crash comes the ball on the way down. And over goes the orange juice. I’m in the kitchen at the time, unsure as to what the most recent soccer ball casualty might be. I only learned when I watched Simon run to the bathroom off the kitchen, grab a hand towel, and then come back a few minutes later to hang the orange-bedripping towel back up. Now, the towel obviously wasn’t the best tool of choice, putting it back is out of the question, and my floor is going to be ticky-tacky sticky. But I loved that he took the initiative to clean up on his own without asking for help. So instead of reprimanding him, I showed him where to put the wet towel and waited to do the real clean-up later when he wasn’t around.

Now here comes the biggie. Saturday night we headed over to Caroline’s house for dinner. While the guys went to pick up our meal at Cafe Lou Lou, the kids played outside and Carrie and I chatted and enjoyed some wine indoors. At one point, Carrie and I realized that we hadn’t heard the usual squealing and laughing for a few minutes. So we went outside to investigate, whereupon we found . . . nothing.

“Simon?” I called out, confused. “Simon and Caroline, where are you two playing?” I yelled a bit louder, this time with a voice tinged with fear. And then I saw it. Or Carrie did–I’m not sure which: Simon and Caroline heading up the street towards the house, with Caroline’s Dad immediately behind them and Matt following closely in the car. The two of them had decided to walk to Cafe Lou Lou to meet the dads. Matt and Barry saw them as they drove back from the restaurant, roughly half a block from the house, heading towards Bardstown Rd. (a busy street) Now might be a good time to note that their street, like ours, has lots of parked cars on it and no sidewalks.

So, yikes! We all know the myriad ways their grand adventure could have ended in tragedy. We asked Caroline if she knew where she was going, to which she replied, “I had a map in my head.” Carrie nodded and said she probably did. We also both agreed that neither child would do this on his or her own; partnership emboldened them.

At another time and possibly with another child, I would have blown a gasket. But honestly, I just couldn’t. In the first place, losing my temper would have gotten Simon so riled up that I’m not sure he would have heard what I had to say about safety. And in the second place, even though he went about it all wrong, I had to be pleased to see my once timid child try to do something so independent. And thirdly, I’m pretty sure I decided at a similar age to leave my house, walk up to Breckenridge Lane (a busy street), and sit in the ditch that doubled as the shoulder to watch the cars go buy. Smart kids can still pull some awfully stupid stunts.

Instead of yelling, I sat him down and calmly and succinctly explained that while I love to see him want to do things on his  own, this is something he must never, ever do again. He could have gotten lost, gotten grabbed, or gotten flattened. Anytime he wants to leave a yard for any reason, he must go talk to a grown-up first.

He got the message, as did I. For the first three to four years of his life, I had to watch Simon like a hawk because he couldn’t do much for himself and didn’t understand danger. Now the hawk-watching era has returned, with the twist that it’s precisely because Simon can do a lot on his own, even as he still doesn’t fully understand the danger.

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