Not too long ago, just a few months in fact, a horse and young rider appeared through the woods in front of my house. The boy, just 10 years old, in his worn chaps, boots, and cowboy hat, tied the horse and played for an hour or two with my kids. I fed him good in case he might faint, offered water to the horse lest it fail, and warned him about the coming storm. The cowboy, who’d grown a few inches in the short span of that afternoon, laughed at my handwringing and rode the twelve miles (10 as the crow flies) back home, crossing one major road, then through fields and sagebrush and wild terrain.
As he left, I’d made him promise to call me when he got home, and it was clear I was the only one afraid of the looming thunderclouds, I could see it in his plucky blue eyes. The call came a few hours later, “Mrs. T, you don’t have to worry, I’m in the fields near my house now, I made it.”
I cringed for just a moment, wondering if I’d ever have the courage and steady mind of this boy’s mother, sending my babies off into the wilderness like that — Bears, cougars, snakes! Mostly, I was just in awe at the common-sense no-fear parenting in action. The lack of a parent tagging along in this little narrative only means, let me assure you, that this family has raised a confident and skilled young man. (Mom called me later to see how the whole thing unfolded and I praised her fortitude!) Yes, the boy comes from a long line of rugged pioneer stock and rides a horse as well as he walks — and had a cell phone and a hunting knife on him. And he’s been trained in survival skills practically since he was born — there is the balance.
Me? I send my kids to school with their own personal hand-sanitizers and force them to wear coats because I am cold. What kind of moral virtue and perseverance is that teaching?
In the meantime, I’ll be working toward not over-sanitizing my kids’ childhoods. Watch out, they may not gallop ten miles to a friend’s house, but maybe I’ll let them go bird hunting by themselves on the back 10 acres.