By: Martianne Stanger
Although being safe is paramount in my parenting, I have never been one to limit my children’s opportunity to try “dangerous things”.
This may seem paradoxical to some, but I truly believe that children need time to learn how to experiment and manipulate much of what our modern society eschews as dangerous – knives, axes, fire, and more.
As I have written about before, I believe that when children are given clear guidance and taught how to use “dangerous” items safely, they benefit. “Dangers” become tools for living, practical life skills increase, and success comes with a smile.
I was reminded of this again when my daughter surprised me by making a dish in a solar oven—a burning hot oven.
We had been given the solar oven some years back by another Signature Moms blogger who is a pro at outdoor cooking due to her BBQ adventures. She had noted my family’s love for the outdoors and, generously, decided to gift forward a solar oven that she had been given.
We were so excited by her gift, but the excitement waned, when, after trying to get the oven working well in our somewhat shady yard, we had met with little success.
So, I packed the oven back up, brought it to our garage to wait for a time when we could experiment with it again, and, then, as life rolled along, sadly forgot about it.
Fast forward a couple years.
We were in the midst of a heat wave that had us all sweating inside our home and my children acting out in ways that made me wonder if I should have ever become a parent. You know, the kind of days when your children act up in some sort of crazy relay, with one having a behavioral issue and, then, as that child calms, another taking the bad behavior baton, and, then, another until you wonder if you’ve gone totally wrong as a parent.
In the midst of that madness, while one child came down from an issue that had me drained, another embraced a reset by asking if she could bake.
My not-so-great-mum answer was, “I’m sorry, my love. No baking until the heat breaks. The oven will add too much heat to our already hot house. I just cannot deal with that.”
“What about the solar oven?” she asked then, surprising me by remembering we have it.
“Oh, I am not sure, honey…” I frowned, picturing the disaster our garage was and lacking all will to go down into it to uncover the oven. “I could not get that working before and am just not sure I could even find the oven right now.”
My child flashed an ingratiating smile, “Can I?”
“No.” I was emotionally and physically drained and completely overheated. “Not now.”
“Tomorrow?” She smiled again.
“Okay.” I sighed, grateful for her smile after her sibling’s outburst, but not looking forward to the hoopla that uncovering the oven might cause.
The next day, remembering the conversation, I went down to the garage to at least see where the oven was. “Hey, I saw the oven on the right side of the garage under a lot of other things,” I reported to my daughter when I came upstairs.
Undeterred, my daughter then made it her focus to uncover the solar oven, enlist her brother’s help to carry it up to the front yard, figure out how to make it work all on her own, and—much to my surprise—cook something in it with success on her first try.
As she proudly donned oven mitts and took a piping hot pan out of the solar oven, I marveled.
Later that night, I asked, “How were we not able to get the oven working before and now you’ve done it so easily?
“Because I’m me.” She smiled with self-efficacy. “I do these things.”
Yes, she does. Indeed, she does. In fact, she does them so well.
I believe it is, in part, because she has been given the opportunity to try difficult and dangerous things since she was a wee one. In doing so, she has gained confidence and life skills.
Even when things have been nutty, my daughter has been able find joy and meet success.
Creative, persistent with problem solving skills and hands-on prowess, my daughter made her solar-cooked rice and shared it, too.
Encouraged, delighted with a sigh of gratitude and a look up to thank God, I was reminded that I am not as off course with my parenting as I had been feeling during that heat wave. In fact, with some things, I seemed to be on the absolute right course: growing productive and independent young people who, I pray, will put their skills to work as amazing adults.
What little moment in your life affirmed you’re on the right track?