high-risk decision maker

How can we balance our children developing boundaries while also encouraging and acknowledging their needs and drives?  It’s a balancing act any parent faces.

Gabe and the agave.  For reference, this agave gets the name “Spanish Bayonet.”  Indeed.  We ended up having to leave the outdoor eating area this plant was landscaping because Gabe wouldn’t leave it alone…like a moth to the flame….sharp and pointy….must…touch…

Mister Mischievous, Gabey Knievel, Tenacious G, the “high risk decision maker” as my Dad calls him…the theme continues to recur…Gabe is into, and on, everything.  The great majority of terrifying stunts have no accompanying photo due to the simple reality that our bodies are lunging through the air hoping to be available for rescue.  I thought I’d toss out a little photo montage with this post of compromised places Mr. Knievel has found himself that we have managed to capture.

Exasperated one day by the lack of respect for the pool and gravity, we thought to allay our fears of drowning somewhat by putting a life vest on.  Though the added bulk only made him *more* clumsy (which necessitated its removal), we did get our dose of humor for the day.

A recent discussion with a friend gave me pause to think about what traits like these are BOY.

I’m not sure if BOY as a label is deserved.  My older son is cautious and observant while being mechanical, but certainly not precarious.  Labeling things as BOY can seem to some like another way to justify risky or exuberant behavior.  Maybe it’s a coping strategy from mothers who weren’t often privy to boy mischief growing up, and are in awe of their capacity and appetite for it.  The uninitiated are unsure how much of this is ‘normal’.

Regardless of gender though, willingness to physical risk is a defining personality trait, and many boys possess it.

Testing where the breaking point will be, trying to slip and fall off.  12 months.

Some drives are more subtle, and perhaps less exasperating.  It’s no big deal if a child is driven to line up cars.  What relief we feel when the excitement of the day comes from discovering one can line up the cars “half on and half off!!” of the rug, as was my fortune one winter afternoon.  What could be the harm in that?

Responding to my question of what might he be doing, my 12mo old looks to me absently, picking at the freshly hardened wax.

But is the compulsion to climb any less valid?  Certainly higher risk.  IS it to be taken less seriously as an indication of how our child is wired?  How can we positively frame those exasperating characteristics with the intention of relaying these to them later while they are struggling with identity?  Can we phrase them as encouragement of their inherent strengths, that this good thing is part of who they have always been?

Moments of discovery, watching ash sweep into the wind when slowly released from a small fist.  The fire-pit was totally “cleaned” out this way, and then was designated climbing material, despite being unsecured from the base.

I’ve often thought that a person’s truest self can be seen at a young age.  Before peer pressure is realized, before society and family begins to up the expectations of what a child is capable of “properly” being able to handle, things are different…simpler and truer.

So maybe today we can consider re-labeling a character trait that is causing us to wonder what will ever become of this child and give it a positive twist..something they can live up to rather than be labeled with.  My son is not careless, he is a high-risk decision maker.  My son is not hard-headed, he is tenacious.  And yes, that is him purposefully trying to tip the wagon 😉

Gabe’s 1st birthday


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7 responses to “high-risk decision maker

  1. Your blog was recommended to me by Heather Cogswell.. And I can see why. 🙂 As a mom to three boys, ages six, five, and three and a half, (and a baby girl, two) I am LOVING IT.

    And I agree… maybe “boy” isn’t always a good description.. But I grew up, the only girl of a dozen grandchildren… And I think a LOT of the time “boy” is the perfect word.

  2. Great photos! I don’t label this trait as BOY — I call it “monkey energy” instead. It’s hard to describe to people who have never experienced it: the constant alertness that is required to prevent injury, the futility of so-called “babyproofing,” the complete lack of fear in dangerous situations and the total panic when a toy is misplaced. But I’ve come to trust my boys when it comes to safety — only one trip to the emergency room in almost 10 years, and that was an accident at school when the gym teacher was at fault! I’ve spent a lot of time at the primate exhibits at the zoo, and I’ve discovered that I have a lot in common with the monkey mothers!

  3. Thank you for the comments! Karen, I appreciate that your intuition to trust your boys has been positive. I try to find as many opportunities for safe “monkey energy” expense but like you said, 100% vigilance is an unrealistic expectation for a parent.

  4. I’m really enjoying your blog.
    Especially the pictures of your dare-devil 1-yr-old! Oh how he reminds me of my son at that age. Nice to know other people’s kids are doing that to, I never seem to see them.

    • Thank you for your encouragement! If it’s any consolation, since having Gabe nearly every mother I meet with grown children recalls some child they knew, often their own, who ended up on top of the fridge, climbing the playground equipment before they could walk, etc. I admit finding relief knowing their children survived and didn’t go on to become the next Evil Knievel too 😉

  5. You said: “I’ve often thought that a person’s truest self can be seen at a young age. Before peer pressure is realized, before society and family begins to up the expectations of what a child is capable of “properly” being able to handle, things are different…simpler and truer.”

    Ginger, the ‘expecations’ you speak of are more important than all the lectures you can give a young child. Preach all you want and the message is delivered to a empty bucket. Hold up expecations and you will see challenge. I dare you to tell them it is difficult and cannot be done! They will prove you wrong. The technique is so powerful, be careful of the challenge you place before them. The world may not be prepared to seeing a 5 year old flying a plane or climbing a tall building. But when presented with a challenge, you may see both in short order.

    Uncle Ford

    • That’s going to be something else! I’m anxiously awaiting the day challenge becomes a motivator like that. Seems like, as the mother, it’s not my place to say “that’s not something you’re capable of.” My role is to be their greatest cheerleader when someone else says that and they decide they’re wrong!

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