Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Parenting Dilemma

We retreated to what is becoming our default retreat, Hickory Run State Park, and camped there this past weekend. Until a storm chased us away, we were having a wonderful time.

The campsite I like best is set against beautiful woods (site 1 is my favorite but this weekend we were at site 2, nearly as great). There are no other sites to our west, and if you're there at the right time, the only sounds you hear is the breeze in the trees and a gentle roar of Hickory Run flowing at the bottom of the hill near our campsite.

Upon arrival, the boys wanted to go down the hill and play. I thought nothing of it, having played in woods for most of my childhood. But our friends kept accompanying the boys down the hill. At one point, I thought there might be some overreaction: what supervision do two good-natured boys need alongside a Pennsylvania creek? But on one trip I tagged along, and I saw something both beautiful and terrifying.

As the creek meanders to the southwest, the terrain quickly rises. Following what you think is a bank, you find yourself suddenly atop a rock cliff cut by the creek, ten feet or so above the creek. In other words: there's a cliff down there. No warning. Just a potential fall high enough to be, well, fatal.

And this is one of the great challenges of fatherhood: Do I let him play down there? Do I allow him the wonder of exploring woods, of traipsing paths dirty, rocky, or rooted? Does loving him mean I allow him freedom, or does loving him mean hovering, and squelching a good part of the joy a boy finds exploring in the woods outside of the gaze of parents?

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