True parenting revealed at lake

I don’t have children but I’ve spent all kinds of time with parents, so I think of myself as a guru in the specialized field of child-rearing and parent psychosis.
I even have a great lab to study my discipline: the cabin. It’s where parents are tested on their ability to handle fear, and over the years I’ve learned a lot.
For example, I’ve identified that some parents are calm while others are not. However, it’s always the parents’ job to envision death—gruesome and tortuous death.
Many parents imagine all kinds of catastrophes. Their kids are eaten alive by hungry animals or insects, suddenly end up at the bottom of the lake, slip off cliffs, consume hoards of poisonous plants, or they just fall into burning flames.
Sometimes I wonder why people bring their kids to the lake at all.
Then there’s the other side of the fear spectrum, which is solely occupied by my youngest brother. He believes it’s healthy for children to learn from their mistakes and to experience a certain amount of discomfort.
It prepares them for real life, he says.
However, he doesn’t seem to realize his philosophy shortens my life.
Let me give you some examples of his style, which occurred all during the course of one day. Although I’ll admit, on day two, I gave him a taste of his own don’t-be-such-a-worry-wart medicine.
It all started when he brought his two young sons and their friends for a visit to his cabin in the next bay. Interestingly, the parents of the visiting friends were a little leery to let my brother take their kids out of their sight, but consented under the condition that his “nearby” sister has a phone.
It wasn’t until after the four-hour car trip that the fun began. The oldest kid got a fishing hook–all three barbs–into the flesh of his right arm. One of the guests (not well-adjusted to calamity) then worsened matters by getting his foot tangled in the line as he ran for help.
Not pretty.
But all is well that ends well. After a three-hour visit to and from the hospital, my brother is happy he’s learned the trick to removing fishing hooks “for next time.”
Also, on the way back from the hospital, my brother (with his bandaged son who still didn’t have shoes) met up with the rest of us. We were heading to the dump, and my brother knew this would be a great place for the kids to visit bears.
For the adults, however, the dump is the local social gathering place. I chatted, trying not to let my vision of the kids exploring the bear-infested “playground” get to me.
Then there was the trip across the lake back to the cabin when the youngest took the driver’s seat. Well, actually, he can’t see over the steering wheel sitting down, so he stood up.
Not that it mattered. All I’ll say is that the father grabbed the wheel in the nick of time—and I’ll continue to have nightmares for the rest of my life.
But, safety is still my brother’s rule, which is why he decided to give the kids a lesson on how to manage a flipped canoe once they got back to their cabin. This was fine, but didn’t translate well in the phone call the kids made home to their parents from our place later.
One mother called back to inquire about the upset boat, the bear encounter, and the hospital trip.
I almost told her “you know my brother is a lunatic” but I didn’t. Instead, I told her that everything was going just fine and, in fact, we were planning a nice little hike for the next day.
The hike—a three-mile trek through thick bush—somehow involved me with the kids going one way, and my husband and brother going another way.
Two large bug spray cans later, my group finally got there. Meanwhile, the older men arrived to the lake and made it all the way back to the cabin again.
This, ironically, is when my brother started to panic about the kids’ safety. Why weren’t we back yet? What was he going to tell the parents?
Little did he know that we were just enjoying a leisurely rowboat ride around the breezy back lake.
The best part of the day, however, was the look of fatigue and relief on my brother’s face when we finally met up.
“I thought you were lost!” he hollered.
“No, I was just conditioning the kids for real life,” I replied joyfully.
The reply was blithe, but I’m happy to report that it proved a point.

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