When it comes to parenting, there are basically two competing schools of thought: One reckons children are resilient and adaptable, and that the myriad minor tribulations of childhood serve to build character. The other maintains children are fragile and in constant mortal danger, and must be hovered over, catered to and sheltered from the cold realities of the world until precisely the age of eighteen, whereupon they magically sprout life skills, coping mechanisms and a work ethic and are ready to be set free upon the world, having made it through those perilous first years alive.
I generally consider myself a proponent of the first theory, but as I watched my eight-year-old rocket herself into the street today on her bicycle with her helmet askew and nary a glance for oncoming vehicles, I had one of those life-shortening surges of adrenaline that causes you to beat your child with a stick for being so fucking stupid, while simultaneously weeping with gratitude that s/he is not roadkill.
How *whack* many *whack* times *whack* do I have to tell you *whack* to look *whack* for cars *whack* before you run into the road!?! *whack* *whack* *whack*
Once I was done beating some sense into the little idiot, I got to drinking. Er, thinking. I would guess that most of us marvel at the fact we're still alive after all the ridiculous crap we pulled as kids: going off cliffs on our sleds; riding our bikes down those excellent 70's-era death traps of slides; running with our hands in our pockets; launching our younger siblings off of recreational vehicles; the list is virtually endless, and I'm not even going to touch on the teenage years.
Let's face it - kids do not necessarily act in their own best interests. They play in traffic. They eat dirt. They lemming themselves off the deck. When they get older, they exhibit poor fashion sense and jump off bridges with their friends. Or whatever.
However. Despite having no apparent interest in self-preservation, I really don't think the little gaffers need or benefit from helicopter parenting, and they certainly don't want it. If we could all take a deep breath and look past our collective hysteria for a few minutes, maybe we'd recall just how frigging awesome it was to run wild in Lord of the Flies-style packs and come home filthy - and occasionally blood-stained or smelling like a skunk or a swamp or whatever we'd been in that day - when the street lights came on.
That's it, deep breath... now remember... revel in the memories... yep, it's a miracle you lived through that one... or the beating you got when your parents found out... ahh, good times!
Now that you've taken a nice little trip down Memory Lane, look around you for a second. Walls? A good start. Food in the fridge? Also nice. Some cash in the bank? Hey, you don't need much to be happy. Maybe a diploma or degree or two? Someone you don't mind being around? Couple of kids? Jeez, I hate to suggest it, but you seem to have turned out alright. Good on ya!
And with this bit of perspective firmly in hand, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give your young'uns a chance at having the sort of fun you did. Stock up on Band-Aids and laundry detergent, say a little prayer or ten, and - this is the tricky part - cut them some slack.
Say it with me now: "Be home for supper!"
(Good luck, Phelps.)