By Laura Snyder
A parent's highest priority is to raise independent, contributing, law-abiding members of society. We are motivated to do so because anything less could cost us a lot of money.
During this process, we are obligated to keep them safe from harm, no matter how often they try to kill themselves.
It's a tough task. They make us feel brilliant and stupid at the same time. They ask unanswerable questions. They take unbelievable risks. They have unlimited energy until they are asked to rake, sweep, mop, or vacuum. And they are so darn cute!... which is why we have allowed them to live through their childhood. I'm certain that if there were such a thing as ugly children, there would be a fair percentage of them who wouldn't make it.
Every child is different as well. Well-meaning psychologists and others have tried to capture the essence of a child and write books to help parents understand them. Although they may successfully help one parent with one child, there is no single book that can help a parent with all of her children.
They don't come with a manual and, unfortunately, they are not equipped with an "OFF" switch. An "OFF" switch could provide parents with a break for a few hours. or months. If there was a switch hidden somewhere, I'm pretty sure it would be stuck in the "ON" position.
Because all kids are different, you cannot predict what will happen when you give them a small privilege. Of course, you always hope for the best.
For example, a can of spray paint. No parent in their right mind would simply hand this item to a child and tell them to "go have fun." However, if they came to you and asked permission to spray their Hot Wheels car a different color, you might weigh the facts age of the child, condition of the Hot Wheels, and the child's flight factor - and decide that it's okay to give it a try.
My fifteen-year old would turn down his shot at the spray paint activity. Creativity is not his cup of tea unless he could do it virtually, on his computer.
My daughter would lay down newspaper, read the instructions on the can, follow them to the letter and clean up the mess when she is done.
My youngest, at ten-years old, has a flight factor of 350 (out of 351). He needs some guidance.
"Don't do it in the driveway, in the garage, or on the front lawn," I said.
I told him to take his car to the far side of the house where we clean our paint brushes. That would limit the fallout.
The privilege of being able to use the spray paint without supervision was something in which I knew he would take pride. This was one of those loosening of the apron strings moments.
Thirty minutes later, when I went to check on his masterpiece, I found the products of his labors. First, I saw a large lump of red paint that used to be his Hot Wheels car. He apparently thought that if one or two coats looked so good, then a bazillion would be even better.
I looked around and saw that, when he had finished, or perhaps between coats, he decided that the car looked so cool, the rest of his world should match.
I should have seen this coming.
He polka-dotted the trees, striped the fences, and put several X marks on my vinyl siding. Even my trumpet vine did not escape his artistry.
Obviously, I had misjudged the timing of this particular privilege. I hate it when I do that!
It's a very good thing that he is so darn cute.
Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker. You can reach Laura at HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com Or visit her website HYPERLINK "www.lauraonlife.com" www.lauraonlife.com for more info.