I get this thing I call ‘THE fear’. It’s not a specific fear, it’s just brought on by my imagination and it seems to happen spontaneously, it’s the kind of fear that hits your stomach. At the holiday programme I work at we allow kids to use ropes, climb trees, make swings, zip lines, use tools, play war, wrestle and all with the kind of supervision 3 adults can give 30 kids in a large space with patches of bush. Not only is it physically impossible for us to see all the children all of the time we don’t even try. Occasionally, when I’m not in my main role as a go fletcher, or master bow maker, I will “patrol the perimeters” or “case the joint” which just means I walk around the boundary cones. I am not looking for risky behavior. I will mention the consequences of any rubbish being left in the bush (children won’t be allowed to eat in the bush), I will stroke the trees and talk to kids about what the trees are called, their climbing or slack line qualities, how much a tree has grown all just to encourage the kids to look after them.. mostly the kids think I am a bit funny. I have said that peeling bark off trees is so terrible that if I catch them at it they will not get any marshmallows (bark peeling went around like a cold and had to be eradicated) so I guess I do have “rules”. But I never ever ever say “be careful”…. I don’t tell them to stop when they are making something that looks dangerous. I don’t do their knots for them (except the fiddly bows and the odd 5 year old). I choose not to look at children up trees as I am scared of heights.
I have always had a long leash, in that I allow children to be further away, higher up and unseen by me for longer than others do. When Helena was little she climbed before she could walk. One day I left her in the bathroom to get something and came back mere minutes later to find her in the sink..
So many hazards! I’m not even sure if she was walking then. However not only is she ok she is soooo very very pleased with herself. Looking at the photo I feel THE fear but I know that it is me, it is my feeling. When I get the fear at the holiday programme I go make a cup of instant coffee then pretend I don’t have the fear. It takes real work to suppress my natural active catastrophising. Fortunately it’s not THE fear that powers me as I have an antidote: I have trust in the children. I know they don’t know as much as me but I truly trust them to make assessments on their own safety. It is true kids develop differently, recently I watched a tiny 5 year old girl climb and throw her body about on the end of a bike tyre contraption in a confined space, scary but at the same time awe inspiring about her degree of control. Control gained I suspect because she has been given opportunity to develop it. It’s like a muscle, you have to practice risk… you have to see what you can do by doing it!! Risk taking is important. Private, un-supervised, practicing is so important.
This Principal must have big time fear, he’s responsible for so many kids and is in a very official role (he is the buck stopper) but he knows how good it is for the kids and has turned his playground into kid heaven. There are no playground rules. There are planks of wood. Things to climb. Risks to be taken, and of course way less injuries and happier kids.
Helena is physically confident and I know she only takes risks she can manage.
I find it harder with learning, having that trust. How to find ways for Helena to take learning risks, and challenges that she wants to take… I am more influenced by expectations from outside. Some of the stuff she learns by observation, the non intentional stuff, does scare me. This is she ‘learning’? fear is more of a niggling worry, some kind of low level constant concern then she’ll surprise me like today where she is doing active research on something she cares about which just shows me this is just another of my imaginative catastrophising.