“Higher daddy, higher!” My kids yell this phrase relentlessly at me every time we visit the local park, and like a fool I push them higher and higher. Naturally most of the time I get a hearty scream or giggle from the swinger. But every so often the enthusiastic vigour that I use to propel the child higher causes them to erupt in tears, tantrums, and/or their immediate ejection from the swing to pursue other “More fun” things in the park, like the community exercise equipment, Woo!
Other, less typical times, the swing inverts itself to leave the child to hang halfway between the stars and gutter (not as fun as it sounds nor as fun as the Fatboy Slim song). This always results in me doing something Heroic as a result of doing something Idiotic.
#DadRule No.36 You’ll do things that in the non parent world would seem heroic.
#DadRule No.37 You’ll do things that in the non parent world would seem idiotic.
Of the Idiotic things we do as parents there are many, and more often than not they result in us doing somethings that could only be described as truly Heroic. Not necessarily in the literal sense of Heroic, so far I’ve not; Busted into a burning building to rescue my loved ones, three dozen cats and the collection of Elvis Costello memorabilia. Nor have I dangled from a thin tether attached to an flaming helicopter while trying to disarm a nuclear bomb that could crumble the fabric of civilisation.
However I have; Spun my kids to the point of throwing up and sat beside them till their constitution returns. Driven their pram like a race car on the set of Mad Max until they scream in both fear and joy (a fine example of heroism disguised as idiocy if I ever saw one).
As dads we sometimes take things too far and this results in scornful looks from passersby and the missus, but it also allows you to do something heroic, something that in normal circumstances you may not be able to achieve. For instance leaping to catch your plunging child who’s over estimated their reach on the jungle gym, or simply comforting them after you’ve tumbled them from their bike.
Naturally we could wait till a truly epic situation presents itself: saving your child from running onto the road while a 30 tonne truck loaded with red wood bears down on them, or in front of a moving freight train.
Those wacky kids and their risk taking.
We all do risky things in our lives, like; standing up to our overbearing boss, or charging for the train across three platforms only to get our arms stuck in the closing door while holding our open wallet to the whole train (experience), or jumping from high rocks into deep pools of water. The reason we can do these things and come out with a positive experience (more often than not, and this is of course personality driven) is because at some point our dads drove us like mad idiots in prams and billy carts, or encouraged us to leap from the fence with our cape on.
Risk drive people to be better, higher functioning adults, who can face the world and not be crushed by every little setback. Risk has enabled us to climb back onto the fence and try again, even if last time we twisted our ankle.
Risk helps us and our kids:
- Develop life skills to negotiate environmental hazards.
- Learn how to do things: climbing, building, even rudimentary things like eating and bathing.
- Kids (and adults) need to take risks to discover the consequences (these can both be positive and negative, and both of these outcomes can be used as learning experiences)
- Risk and failure help us develop our coordination and orientation skills, as well as coping skills.
Before introducing your child to risk you should always try to negate the idiotic aspect, idiotic can be simply entering into something in a fool hardy manner, or just plan irresponsible. Look at the likelihood of your child coming to harm, the lessons they will get from the endeavors.
Once you’ve assessed the risks and outcomes, allowed them to partake, watched them succeed, you can gradually increase the complexity of their risk taking as they become more advanced, and openly encourage them to be more adventurous. This is a great space for them to apply their imagination and grow as little well rounded human beings.
It’s also important that you discuss the activity before and after with your child this will give them a chance to understand what they have accomplished and also what they’ve learnt from the activity. You can then discuss ways of making the task more challenging and ultimately more fun.
While working in sales I sometimes found myself easing off the gas only to find my boss was pushing the peddle down harder behind me. He’d always come in with an emphasis on pushing boundaries with our clients and challenging their views of the devices that we were selling. This did several things; It introduced risk into my daily activities (often I didn’t know what the outcome would be) and often it would result in a sale, and where it didn’t I’d have learnt some new techniques. On the client end it pushed them into the risky area of trying something new that would often result in a positive outcome to their health.
Another aspect of this “rough house play” or “risky play” is a thing called situational awareness. This simply breaks down as Know your surroundings and establish a plan. As part of the risky play both you and your child will develop situational awareness and this will present itself as a kind of foresight into what might happen and how you/they should act when that event or circumstance happens.
Simply by exposing each other to risks you will start to see what can and will happen, each of you’ll start to develop a set of tools for dealing with these instances, each time you run the gauntlet you’ll be honing those skills into sharper tools.
Skip on over to one of my favourite websites The Art of Manliness to get a full rundown of situational awareness.
As the article states when talking about Situational Awareness and comparing it to Jason Bourne:
That superhuman ability to observe his surroundings and make detailed assessments about his environment? It’s not just a trait of top secret operatives; it’s a skill known as situational awareness, and you can possess it too.
Idiotic behavior doesn’t have to be stupid, it just has to identify the risk, apply some common sense add some fun and make sure you and your child learn from the experience. Once you do this you’ll be truly a heroic dad.