My mum (forgive me, I’m half- Brit) sent me a great article recently. It was all about idle parenting. Parents around here always seem to be in a fervor; busy orchestrating every second of their kids’ lives. Ballet, soccer, drama, karate, still-life painting. The kids are whisked from school with barely a moment to gulp down a snack before they’re learning how to dribble or project to the back of the theatre. I’m sorry but didn’t we move to the country so that our kids could get out in it and do whatever it is kids do? It’s been a long time since I was young enough to get excited about a pair of frog rain-boots but I think I recall (somewhere in the fogginess of my mind) just how much fun it was to throw rocks in the stream, or look for bugs, build forts, slosh through mud. Where’s the time for ruminating, for day-dreaming, for doing absolutely nothing at all on one of those perfect, warm cloudless skies days, or just lying in the snow and watching it fall?
So the article was basically about hands-off parenting as I like to call it. I’m all about attachment parenting- early on in the child’s development- wearing the baby in a bjorn or some other kind of carrier, breast-feeding, co-sleeping. These things all (in my humble opinion) contribute to confidence and independence precisely so that now Milo is almost six he can play quite happily by himself. Kids just need to be kids without so much adult interference. I mean, who do we think we are anyway? Haven’t we read the books? Don’t we remember that the last thing a bunch of kids wants is a grown-up hanging around casting a large shadow and telling them not to play with sticks as they’ll poke someone’s eye out?
Milo is not quite old enough to take off by himself but soon he’ll have the whole woods to play in. When older kids come to stay I let him go with them and you should see the fantastic fort they built last summer just by tying down some saplings and then leaning sticks and logs against the sides. And this occupied them quite happily for days and days.
We go out together now and I try to keep my mouth shut and let him take the lead. ‘Cause it’s his trip, right?! We’ve gone looking for pirates, and Moomintrolls, the lost Valley of the Kings and the Sphinx. (He’s really in love with Egypt right now and fortunately I’ve been there so I can fill in some of the gaps. But mostly it’s whatever he imagines.)
Picture me ambling happily behind Milo as he traipses through the woods. I’ll be the one wearing a straw hat, holding the baby and a nice glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo while Milo points out all the neat things around us and chatters away at the top of his voice. He won’t need me to tell him that this is the Spooky wood, or the Hangman’s tree or the path where the trolls race from house to house in the moonlight because he’ll be telling me. I’m just along for the ride.
And when he’s older I can recline on a deck chair with another glass of, hmm let’s say a smoky Chardonnay, and he can bring me things -a shiny rock, a pine cone, the molted husk of a cicada and tell me all about it. Or not.