You know what my kids did today? They took a net and three plastic cups to a beach near our house and caught two fish. Little ones, not sure of the type. Just the garden-variety little fish. Not that it matters. The point here is that as much as I wanted to stop them and ask them not to crawl on the slippery rocks and to please please please be careful because I didn’t want to have to call the emergency medicine folks for urgent attention, but I didn’t do that. Instead, I got on shoes that can get wet, too, and went with them. We were filthy and covered in sand. Amazing how many places sand can be found after an outing such as this. Sometimes, I’ve discovered, the best action as a parent is to bite your tongue. Why? Because kids need to be able to get in there, get wet, and possibly very very filthy, and they need to be able to catch the proverbial fish. Kids need to be kids.
As a parent, I want my kids to never be hurt. In a perfect world, I would want my kids to just learn the hard knocks through explanation instead of actually experiencing them. I want them to live in a plastic bubble where no germs will get to them and no one will get them sick. Except that then they would be utterly miserable and crabby because they wouldn’t get to get in there and live life. So. You know what I’m going to say. I can sugar-coat it, but the underlying message is the same: Back off. Let your kid be a kid. They will love you for it. They will love the learning and living they do, and they will benefit so enormously from just being a kid. You know what would be even better? If you took the time to get dirty with them and experience the experience (however filthy it may be) with them.
Why let your kids be kids? Sorry to tell you, but there are lessons that you cannot teach them. There are lessons that they need to learn for themselves. There are lessons that they need to learn with their peers and then they can go to school the next day and brag about it to all of their other friends. They grow from this. They develop new skills and learn from their mistakes. They will have bragging rights to something very cool, perhaps, or will be able to show off whatever wound/scar/bandaid they have earned. This is big big status on the playground.
And you, as a parent, will grow too, because you will see your child capable of yet another skill. You will be able to add another layer to your relationship with your child as you share the memory. Think about 20 years from now, talking about that day when he or she was a kid and you caught that fish together? Remember how great it was?
So go ahead, let them get filthy. And get in the stream with them.