Treasure chest of goodies
Last weekend we had a local family come over to our house to meet some of our Standard Schnauzer puppies and discuss purchasing one. My wife, Ann, was working at our cafe and I had our sons Otto (5) and Theo (2) with me.
My boys adore the puppies and love to overwhelm people with far too much information about them. Nicknames, every identifying feature, a list of every clever – and naughty — thing each pup has ever done. It goes on and on.
The family brought their son with them, he must have been 4. Otto’s eyes lit up when he saw this young boy step into our hallway.
It was raining out and I had the 2 puppies in question in our living room. After an initial energetic welcoming and the calamity of new attention settling down, Otto vanished to his bedroom.
The mother instantly connected with ‘Purple Collar’, who Otto has affectionately named ‘Pointy Face’, and I was discussing with the father how sales worked and our general dos and don’ts regarding a new schnauzer pup.
Before I knew it Otto had tipped out his entire treasure chest onto the dining room table and was combing through the contents with a somewhat delightful 4-year-old guest who was sitting on his perplexed mother’s lap.
Fox den flashback
When Otto was 3 he came down the back paddock with me to try and catch a fox that had been giving our hens mischief. We found the fox’s den and I reached down it and pulled out the fox’s bounty –a couple of my hens, half eaten, and loads of feathers and bones. One of the bones was a rabbit skull and I handed it to Otto who jealously clung onto his new treasure. On the way home I pulled into a camping store and purchased a plastic ammunition box, explaining to Otto that this was his new treasure chest and he could keep all of his favourite things nice and safe in it. He was delighted.
2 years later and the entire contents were spilled over our dining room table in front of our guests and their wide-eyed child. Most are pretty mild and playful. Seashells, feathers, big leaves, seeds, and rocks. Then comes the ‘Wolki Boy’ stuff. Bones, horns, animal teeth, bits of hide, bullet casings, a pocket knife, a wombat jaw, etc.
When I noticed what was happening I was very pleased for Otto to be sharing a viewing of his prized possessions with his guests, and I turned to the father who had a rather curious and almost slightly shocked grin on his face.
“Quite different upbringings”, he said, nodding towards his son, who was on mum’s lap inspecting a feather. Mum seemed a bit concerned about the bullets — maybe she thought they were live. I’m sure the pocket knife was enough for them to question my judgement. I’m just glad Otto has put his Bic lighter back in there since last night’s pit fire was lit!
One of the reasons we decided to homeschool is that it’s extremely important to us that our children have certain traits, experiences, and values instilled. I want competent, handy, well-exposed young men for sons. A 5-year-old that can butcher a chicken, prep the fruit and veg for meals, and light a fire seems well on his way to that. Sure, there are elements of risk and danger sprinkled in there, but nothing worthwhile comes without a cost.
When my sons got to use a knife for the first time, or helped daddy hold the lighter to start a fire, it was a heavily supervised affair. As competence grew, the supervised nanny-state quickly dissolved in lockstep. Now, it is of the utmost importance to me that my sons can exercise their earned privileges, such as a pocket knife, without constant permissions, negotiations, and hovering supervision.
That doesn’t mean we don’t watch — we do, from a distance. Supervising your child working a tool without them realising is a sure fine skill and helps build tremendous independence and character. I’d recommend all parents try their hardest to give their kids enough space to flourish.
I sure do hope our 4-year-old visitor gets a pocket knife for his next birthday. Or if nothing else, a treasure chest for his goodies.