Last night, the wind whipped through the trees, flailing against the house. Each new gust stronger than the last. For a moment, I get a little anxious. Will my youngest three (8-12) be safe, camping out in the shed with their dog, Jesse?
Then I have to smile at myself . . .
If your parents are pioneers at heart, it can hardly be surprising when they take you to a remote corner of Canada, trading the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon for the relative wilderness of the interior of British Columbia.
I was 10 when our red and white Volkswagen Bus pushed its way through Fraser River canyon in 1970, my mind aflame with the prospect (necessity!) of wearing a six-shooter to school. A sharp lookout was kept on the surrounding cliffs as the violent, impassable river threatened from below. Would Indians attack before we met up with Dad who had gone on ahead, 3 months before, to begin building our house?
Such were the dreams of this young adventurer when a few short days later, the pinched quarters of the Conestoga were left behind for the limitless expanse that was my new back yard. What was that huge mountain towering over our property, there in Tete Jaune Cache, little more than a wide spot in the road?
There was lots of work to do, wrestling 20 acres from the wilderness. We cleared trees, planted a massive garden, and split cedar shakes by hand (for the roofing material of our house). And then there was “B.C. Beef”. . . what everyone called moose meat. Hunting and processing an animal that large is a major undertaking, but one that became as common to us, year in/year out, as the sunrise.
It was a dream come true, made more complete the day Dad and Mom gave me a horse to call my own. A saddle was included but I wanted to ride bareback, like the Indians. I hunted, fished, rode, whittled on sticks, built forts, ate wild strawberries, Saskatoon berries, and huckleberries, camped overnight with friends . . . there wasn’t a valley left unexplored, a creek that wasn’t crossed, or a trail I didn’t follow in those years of wild freedom.
And that’s something my parents did so well. You want to take off on your horse ‘till dark? Go for it. We weren’t raised with the fear of the unknown and a schedule that ordered and controlled every moment of our lives with risk-averse activities. Freedom was given to explore, imagine, and try new things . . . to just be kids.
Certainly, my childhood was atypical in many ways and I’d never give my young kids the extreme freedom I grew up with. That the world has changed for the worse is a reality we all live with. But, the principles of encouraging kids to explore and enjoy where their fertile minds take them can be employed no matter where you live.
And, that’s why I have to smile . . . at myself . . . at how uptight I can be. Time to lighten up, Dad. The kids are going to be fine – just like you were. Smile.
It’s so easy to forget those moments of our own upbringing that have left us with the best memories and inculcated important character qualities. Encourage your kids to explore, dream, play and build forts, even if they look like giant burn piles!
Do your kids like building “hideouts” in the living room? Camping in the back yard? “building” a cabin with whatever they can find in the garage (what many short-sighted parents refer to as making a mess)? Encourage them to “go for it”. The encouragement, approval, and freedom you give – and yes, those “messes” – make fantastic memories that will surely return to you with interest one day, like it did for this mom: 9 Things I’d Say My Mom Got Right
Messes and scheduled activities come and go. Fond memories of encouragement, approval, imagination, creativity, and freedom (where appropriate) last a lifetime.
I need to be reminded to “lighten up” from time to time. How about you, Dad & Mom?
What memories are you building today?