Be Careful

The two words above are something I do must best to avoid. That is to say, there are plenty of times I take care over my activities and actions. Thing is, I try to care less when my kids are involved.

Pop down to any playground and you will hear those words ringing out, in a variety of intonations and accents. The sentiment is well meaning and invariably accidental. They just come out: When your adventurous little one elects to go up the slide and down the ladder. When your brave warrior engages in a stick battle with little James from around the corner. When your darling he or she is adamant they are a big boy/girl now and ready for the big swing. Invariably, they’re not. Your mouth opens and without thinking, out those two words come. Be careful. Fair enough, you have the health and safety of your little ones at heart. What of the confidence of those precious angels you are so desperate to protect.

Kids don’t realise the consequences of their actions. Only experience teaches that and sadly, there are many who will never learn every action has a reaction, even as they reach adulthood. Fine, those people are responsible for their own problems but we, as parents, have responsibility for and over our little ones. We need to guide them, we need to set limits and boundaries and we need to be there when they fall.

Sometimes that means nothing more than scooping them up after they have crashed over the handlebars. Chances are you saw them teetering, saw the eminent danger and were in the process of rushing over even before they hit the ground. A stumble, a trip, a tumble is all part of growing up, meaning bumps and scrapes and bruises and grazes and all the rest. By the rest, I mean screams and cries and yells and tears and sobbing and definitely, hugs.

We can accept our kids are going to get hurt now and then, through no fault of ours or theirs. All we can do at the point is encourage them to get up, dust themselves off, wipe away the tears and carry on, hoping all the while they have learnt a valuable lesson. Places like playgrounds or even in the great outdoors, it is inevitable. There is going to be a touch of pain and hurt that comes with all the fun and excitement. But what about in the home?

Is your place childproof? Does it have to be?

We are all aware of things like fire alarms and smoke detectors. Life savers and this country, compulsory in all rental properties and mandatory in commercial buildings etc. So, you would think, a bit of a basic step when it comes to ensuring the safety of your family in the home. But, especially when there are little ones in the frame, there are so many other things to consider. You have to prevent access to steps and stairs. You have to prevent contact with heat sources and block off power points and take care to affix tall furniture to the wall to prevent it toppling should your dear little one attempt to climb it. Or, you could do none of that.

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We haven’t. Not in one single house we have lived has myself or Wifey gone around as part of a concerted effort to identify and eliminate any and all hazards potential or real. We do have safety plugs in the wall sockets but it has to be said, not all of them. We did have one of those kiddie proof gates for the base of a particularly steep, winding and frankly quite cool spiral staircase at one property but generally, the other door which lead to the same area was left open. It was a house rule not to leave that door open. As with all rules and regulation, it was broken now and then, mostly by forgetful older kids in a hurry to do anything other than worry about the welfare of their younger siblings.

Having a boy in the mix now has made a huge difference. I don’t know if it has been just our girls, or girls in general, but the Wee-Man is far more inquisitive, far more assertive and far more adventurous than his sister siblings ever were. I am damned sure I can’t decide if this is a good or bad thing, but one thing it is, is different.

He climbs. Everything if he can. He will at least make the attempt. Once at the top, or as close as he can get, he is always keen to fling himself off, whether or not a soft landing can be guaranteed. Is it a male thing, for young ones at least, but he just has to know how things work? If that means putting his face too close to it or sticking his finger in it, whatever it is, then so be it. He runs, jumps, kicks and punches and throws and rolls a whole lot more than his sisters ever did. So far, I say with fingers firmly crossed, it hasn’t done him any harm.

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You often hear it said, ‘it can happen so quickly’. Believe it, because it is true. In the blink of an eye disaster can strike. It wasn’t that long ago I narrowly averted a family tragedy of our own. A simple stroll on the beach, kids paddling and playing, spread across the sand. Just a few paces from me the E-Bomb is in the water, no deeper than her thighs. I look up to see how the Wee-Man is travelling, further up the beach with his sisters. When I turn back to the water, only a handful of seconds later at the most, I can’t immediately see my youngest daughter. My heart leaped, my mind raced but before genuine panic came on, I spotted her.

I will never forget the serenity on her beautiful, uncomprehending face, arms outstretched, as she drifted with the tide, maybe a foot below the clear water.

Two paces and I had her in my arms, safe and splutteringly sound. If the water hadn’t been so clear that day…?

Sometimes, as a parent, you just don’t have control and while you can exert as many checks and balances as possible, shit is still going to happen. I try to look for the balance, make it ‘Be Aware’ as much, if not more, than ‘Be Careful’. Because when a kid is coming down the steps of the slide front on, smiling and concentrating hard on balance, it is done with a sense of adventure, with an experimental curiosity and a challenge. Care hasn’t been factored into it.

I want my kids to be adventurous and experimental and I want them to challenge themselves and I want them to understand that sometimes, it’s gonna hurt. I don’t want a little one to put his hand on the fire place because the flames are mesmerising. Do we have a fire-guard? No. Because we use that word…no. We say Hot, we say Ouchie, we say all sorts of silly little things to discourage and attempt to educate. We also supervise, stay aware and alert and I do my best to dispel any mystique around things.

If a two year old boy is curious about the toaster, show him how it works, tell him it is hot and will hurt, demonstrate if you have to. (Fake it as best you can, just like all those awful health and safety videos we have all seen). Such is the attention span of little ones he will have moved on long before you finish talking.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Fun

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

I’m not so sure about Nat King Cole’s take..he can keep the soda and pretzels. A cold beer never goes amiss though.

Summer is here officially. The calendar has told us so, even if the sun and the sticky heat which comes with it, has been with us for a while.

Apart from a well earned cool, crisp brew on a warm evening and summery Christmas treats, there is a whole lot else to look forward to. Here, the garden is cranking. A little effort will hopefully bring a great deal of reward. So much easier up here in the sunny and warm North, our veggie growing season well advanced on what we are used to down South. Even though water restrictions have kicked in already!

The other side of the coin is some of the extra care required, now the longer, hotter days are upon us. Especially for our blonde, blue-eyed, fair kiddies.

Already they are kissed by the rays of the sun, browner than I have ever seen them, particularly for this early in December. So that means reinforcing the good old mantra Slip, Slop Slap.

Getting girls to slip on a shirt is easy enough, as long as you keep it fashionable. Hardly princesses anymore, they still know what they like. So nothing daggy, even if practicality is the priority.

Slapping on a hat isn’t a part of the fashion equation unfortunately. Even if their Mother is lucky enough to track down something the girls think is cool, getting them to actually put it on their heads is a different story. The same goes for sunscreen.

Slopping on sunscreen is a necessity in this part of the word. Simply, you have to do it and then do it again and a little while later, do it again.

One and Two are useless at it. The E-Bomb and Wee-Man are supervised and therefore it gets applied, whether they like it or not. Luckily getting smeared in the stuff is still a novelty to them, so no arguments there. In fact, the Wee-Man is an awesome volunteer.

He is the one setting the summer sun smart example. He will put his hat on, his sunscreen and wears a sensible top to keep the burning rays at bay. E-Bomb might put up a fight every now and then when it comes to her attire but generally we are on a winner with her too. It is One and Two proving themselves dumb and dumber.

Maybe they are too cool to be seen being sun smart. Maybe they are preoccupied. Obviously they need urging and reminding, the behaviour to become a habit. It is a lot to ask of a teacher, who probably has enough on their plate at any given time during the school day. But at what age does self responsibility really kick in?

The same question pops up when you think of all the wonderful summer holiday experiences the Hokianga and Far North has to offer. Mostly, especially if this heat keeps up, in and on the water.

Number One is a confident swimmer and loves it. Number Two is capable but lacks the confidence, a work in progress. The two little ‘uns are strictly learners, but if you plonk them down on the beach and don’t get to them quick enough, you better have bought a dry change for them.

The thing is, you can’t have eyes on all of them, all of the time. When the wife and are a together, and we are a whole crew, no worries. We divvie up who is doing what with whom and it all works. More or less. How easy I make it sound.

Despite their confidence, their undoubted abilities and our own faith in our kids as sensible, intelligent, brave and able, the barriers can’t come down too far, just because the sun is shining and everyone is relaxed and happy.

I want to let the kids lose. I have rose tinted memories, of wading out,O way passed my depth. I’m still here.

Roaming the sand-hills, digging forts and tunnels, that by all rights should have collapsed. I’m still here.

Climbing the cliffs behind Seconds Beach, leaping into the surf and swimming all the way back. I’m still here.

Bikes without helmets, jungle gyms made of galvanized steel on the concrete, trees I could get up and struggled to get down, hills too steep for the brakes on my bike to be able to arrest my momentum. Poha’s and Tom Thumbs and slingshots and BB guns and withering gazes from a watchful Mum and I’m still here.

We have spent years putting boundaries in place. We are blessed with kids that push and test the settings no real harm will come from if there is a bend, or a break, in the rules. Riding the outgoing tide on the Hokianga might not be the best time to test the limits set in place by parents.

Our little crew will wear their helmets, their sunscreen, their life-jackets and all the rest of it, whatever is required. So that they can do whatever they are doing safely.

So Mum and Dad can relax with a cold one of choice.

Bring on the summer sun and fun!

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