"Kindled in earth, of a kind with all animals, kin to kittens, cubs and chicks, children are not aliens to wildness but akin to it, wild at the raw core. Their original fire is sparked by the embers of a world flame which also lights the peacock and the stars. Intimates of wildness, all of them." ~ Jay Griffiths, Kith
Yesterday was one of those days that arrives with it's own plan, an inkling the day before becomes a quiet certainty upon waking in the blue dark before dawn. Before my eyes were even open I knew I would be changing what I had planned to do that day, and so, instead of taking off without them for the two days I decided to go with my younger two boys on the adventure that had been planned for them for my absence.
We gathered a little gang and we drove up into the mountains, marvelling as always that we have this right here on our doorstep, a mere 40 minute drive away. Every single day I love these mountains from afar, I see them each morning and afternoon as I travel to school, framed as they are now by glorious autumn maples that line the roads like merry medieval flags leading the way towards them. Some days it's hard not to bypass the turn for school and just keep going. These great tellurian mother's arms that encircle this town of ours here on the edge of the sea, I love them from afar each day, and some days I just have to go to them.
We arrived and we walked down the mountain into the valley to the lake, a winding road that found the children racing, roaring, tearing onwards ferociously as though trying to outrun all those indoor, sedentary hours of school and darkening evenings; that October-knowing in our blood and bones that the light is fading from our year, hastening us towards the dark point, turning our thoughts inwards, deeper, and we just have to inhale as much of it as we possibly can to keep us buoyant in the dark months ahead.
There's something about all that wide open space that allowed them to just let out their inner Wild Things, yelling like demented moose across the valley to hear their voices yell back, (to the bemusement of the herd of deer grazing peacefully below), chasing, running, tumbling, like the pack of cubs they are.
In all the tumult and joyous riot of the getting there, I found myself thinking of a conversation earlier in the week with our youngest, aged 8, and his unexpected response to something I was sure he'd love: a lovely video of a child his age doing parkour in a purpose built learning gym, something he dreams about doing. Instead of being sparked and inspired by it, and running out the door to climb a wall or a tree or my car, as he would have just a few months ago, his first response was 'What if you fail?' Can you imagine my shock? Those words have never been uttered in this house before and I have to say it kind of broke my heart a little. When we talked a bit more and agreed that to get as good as the boy in the video you'd have to 'fail' (fall) quite a few times, he then told me that the people who owned the gym would be 'blamed' if the kids fall and hurt themselves, and it all came out then that this is what they are told in school. All the time.
Let's just say I am quite impressed with how I managed to not react as I wanted to...
(There may have been steam coming out of my ears as I smiled at him.)
It brought to mind the many articles I have been reading on Another Way of late, which talk about the mollycoddling that we are guilty of, and the affect this will have on our children as they grow up. Of how insane things are getting in the US around the issue of children being free to walk around by themselves, (seriously, just consider that for a moment).
I've always considered myself defiantly permissive about letting my children roam, play on their own away from us and out of sight, light and tend fires, make decisions, rely on themselves...I could go on. But I do realise it's pretty much impossible today for our children to be as free as we want them to be, as they would want to be. It's so difficult to live in such a fearful society and not be tainted by it in some way, despite our best intentions. Every day I have to ignore that faint but squawking, hysterical mother-voice in my ear as my boys play out in the fairly busy street, cycling, chasing one another, and trust that they will be safe. It's not easy. But we have to do it, in spite of the neighbours grumblings (yes they do, on occasion).
And I have even fallen prey to it myself.
As we made our way back up the mountainside, their energy still, somehow, boundless, I actually heard myself warning them to stop; stop flinging themselves into the ferns, look there's big boulders hidden there; no, not on the other side either, there's a cliff!
Honestly, they were in no real danger, yet I jumped in as though they were. Preempting a possibility. Just in case. Within minutes I heard myself and I was dismayed and I shut up, but following as it did so soon after my chat with my wee lad it really brought me up short. Am I doing this a lot? When did it start to creep in? Surely I would have noticed. And I am sure I am not the only one out there who thinks the title of 'helicopter parent' doesn't apply, (and of course it really doesn't in so many ways), and yet....for all our best intentions perhaps we really are all getting caught up in this? It permeates our culture so thoroughly, how on earth can we remain immune?
We have a responsibility to these small folk in our care, to trust them, and to trust ourselves. To know when to stand back and let them figure it all out, and eventually fly away on wings that are robust enough to take them where they need to go, for we know we do them no favours by hovering to make sure they are doing it right, do we?
There is no doubt that they are well capable and willing, if we let them.
We need to be those tellurian mothers, solid as the earth, arms out to shield and hold our charges but from a distance.
And as they grow, some days we will be hidden by rain or mist or cloud, but always here for those days when they need to go to us, to be reassured.
And even when we are not in sight, the knowledge that we are there is all the surety needed.