Oct 13 2008

Camping In The Great Indoors – Child Safety And Tooth Fairy Visitations

Published by under Parenting

The past two weeks have been a rollercoaster ride. My kids have been on school holidays and Corporate Babe ended up in hospital for three days with a massive boil on her back that had to be surgically removed under general anaesthetic. She will be working from home for the next couple of weeks until her shoulder heals.

Having spent the greater part of this decade (at least the first 8 years) being significantly short of money, I had nothing planned for the family to do during the kids holidays. So, we set up a tent in our own backyard and the kids loved it. They even camped out for the first two nights, until my wife became so anxious and worried about them spending the whole night outside on their own, that we decided to bring them back indoors.

I completely understand her fears. During the past couple of weeks there have been several incidents around our local area of predators trying to snatch unsupervised children from playgrounds, or accosting kids on their way home from school. It’s sad that as parents, we just can’t feel safe letting our children camp out in our own backyard.

I recall putting myself in some potentially extremely dangerous situations when I was younger, single and traveling around the world, but now that I’m older, married and have kids of my own, I’m not taking any chances risking the safety of my family.

As a househusband, I get to mingle a lot more with other “moms” around parks and playgrounds after school. This allows me to not only observe and learn many useful things about parenting (like what kind of snacks to prepare for outings in the park), but also to compare experiences with other parents.

It is a universally accepted fact, I am sure, that keeping an eye on kids, especially in open public areas, requires an intense amount of energy and attention. Something that I have found to be quite surprising and a little disturbing, however, is that not all parents seem to be as overly protective of their kids as my wife and I are (my wife is certainly a lot more protective of the children than I am, but I still keep a fairly tight rein on where the kids can go and what they can do when we’re out.) We have been on several children’s birthday parties organized in parks and bushland areas, where some of the parents just get completely absorbed in social activity with other parents and let their kids wander off completely out of sight. I can’t do this. I have to be able to see them at all times, and my kids know that they are not allowed to go beyond where they can see either my wife or I.

For the past few days, I arranged for my kids to meet up with some of their friends, sometimes at a local park or reserve.

I have three children, so I tend to engage with other parents in very short and often interrupted bursts of conversation, while looking in all directions to make sure that my kids are being effectively supervised at all times.

To say that this is intense is an understatement. But it’s absolutely necessary, as I’m sure every parent understands. There is nothing worse than that feeling of having been caught up in deep conversation with someone else for an extended period of time, then looking around and not being able to immediately see where your child is at.

This happened to me last Friday. Filosofo was away having a sleep over at a friend’s place, so I decided to take Destructo and Exacto to a park to meet up with friends of theirs – a brother and sister who are in the same classes as my two youngest boys. Being the school holidays, the park was absolutely crowded with children and the different playground sections of this particular park were spread out over different areas in this wide, open and non-enclosed location. I got engrossed in conversation with the other children’s mom, and after a minute or so, I pulled away to look around and couldn’t see my four-year-old boy anywhere.

After scanning from a fixed position and not seeing him, I excused myself and went looking for him. I found him about five seconds later (it felt a lot longer than that at the time), standing behind some bushes away from the main playground area where we had parked out stuff, happily playing with another kid his own age. The two obviously had no idea that they had wandered away from the “ok zone”. They were deeply engrossed in their own little world, probably making plans to go off exploring new horizons even further away.

“Daddy, this is my friend’s really cool bike!” Destructo said to me when I caught up with him. “He said I could have a ride on his bike.”

“I have lots and lots of bikes” the other kid said to me, as I gently steered my boy and his new found little friend back to the main playground, where I’m sure his own mom or dad must have been wandering where he too had disappeared to.

As we were walking back, the little boy showed me three fingers and said “I own five bikes! And so does my brother!”

“Do you really?” I said. “That’s a lot of bikes …”

“Yep!” Destructo blurted out, proudly confirming what his friend had just said. “And he’s going to let me have a ride on this one, cause it’s really cool.”

Just then, an older kid who was not related to my son’s new friend, came running up and said “excuse me … you’re walking away with my bicycle!”

Neither of the two boys seemed phased by the fact that this bike belonged to someone else. The older boy was kind enough to let the young ones have a ride. After this, the bike was quickly forgotten as they became absorbed in some other activity that, thankfully, took place directly in my field of vision.

No prizes for guessing who came home exhausted that day and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

***

As a last, desperate attempt to extend their school holidays, my kids made us promise that, before going to bed on their final night, they could watch a YouTube video clip of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” being performed by Lego characters.

Being an avid Queen fan for most of my life (I went to see them perform for three night in a row when they toured my city), I thought this would be a great opportunity to put the music in its right context, so I played them the original video clip of the song being performed by the great band itself, before playing the animated “Lego” version. After watching the two versions on YouTube, my kids unanimously agreed that the “Lego” version was way better. Rock on dudes and let’s keep the great rock’n’roll dream alive!

***

Just one last thing before I log off …

Exacto, my 6-year old, is thrilled by the fact that some of his teeth are now wobbly and feeling a little loose. He now feels he is in the “bigger” league, like his older brother Filosofo, who has already lost many of his baby teeth (another one came off the night before yesterday and he was disappointed to wake up and discover that the tooth fairy had completely forgotten him. We told him the tooth fairy was probably “backlogged” with appointments and then we made sure not to forget to visit his room before going to bed yesteday night!).

I remember driving the kids back from school a few months ago, and Filoso said to me “Dad, you know what would be really cool?”

“Putting ice cubes in your underpants?” I replied, while trying to manoeuver my way out of the school car park and into the heavy traffic.

“Daaa-aaad! No … I think it would be really cool if all of my teeth fell out at the same time”.

I ignored the oncoming traffic and the other parents stuck behind me for a moment and turned to look at him. “Why would you want that to happen?” I asked with a puzzled frown on my face.

“Because then the tooth fairy would make me rich and I could use some of that money to help you and mommy pay off some of your debts!”

I was really touched by his wonderful generosity. “Thanks son, that’s really very kind and generous of you, but all that would really happen if you were to lose all of your teeth at once, is you’d end up looking like a toothless dork with a few measly extra bucks in your pocket, eating mashed bananas for lunch and dinner.”

My son understood and said nothing more. He is obviously paying attention when I listen to the news on the car radio, and so he too knows that nobody is immune from the current global economic crisis. Not even the tooth fairy, it seems.

The Lazy Househusband

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