We swore we would be fun parents... What happened?
I’ve journaled all my life, and I very distinctly remember writing things that sounded somewhat like this: When I’m a mom I will NEVER make my kids eat vegetables or have bed times or go to school. I’ll let them have soda whenever they want, stay up until Johnny Carson is over and stay home from school to play Atari, Mr. Mouth and Parcheesi at least once a week.
As I hit high school, my verbiage had changed, but I think the message remained unscathed: Remind your older self never to be as overprotective as Dad. Don’t make your kids beep you (who new beepers would become obsolete?) five times a night to check in, give them a break if they skip school or drink at a party, and let them sleep at boys’ houses if they promise to be good.
Well, as it turns out, I am EXACTLY the person I swore I would never be. I’m the most un-fun parent, like, ever! I just returned from a trip to Vermont and watching the other parents cheer their kids on as they rock and cliff dived (dove?) (jump to their possible deaths?), simply reiterated my status.
On the downhill rocky hike to Bingham Falls (a natural swimming hole where no swimming hole keepers come to file the edges down on the sharp rocks, or scrub off the moss that makes them slippery):
“Jake, Ryan, stop running! Wait for us.”
“Mark, they shouldn’t be taking this hike in flip flops, what was I thinking?”
Mark: “Jenny, they’re fine.” (But he always says that, so what does he know?)
At least five children then run past us in flip flops to mock me and make me seem more over-protective than I truly am. Their parents leisurely lollygag behind, talking and enjoying each other. Never screaming for their little ones to slow down or put on some hiking shoes or look straight ahead.
Who are these people? How are they so calm?
Must be “back woods” kinda folk who have tons of kids that are both siblings and cousins, who are clearly superfluous enough that they wouldn’t mind losing one or two in the course of an afternoon.
“JAKE – wait up, I’ve seen you trip twice. Slow down, the falls aren’t going anywhere.”
Finally, we arrive at the bottom of this rocky, jutty, sharp, path, which declines at about 70 degrees, and find that we must navigate over and under fallen trees and around crags, just to get to the rapids and falls below. As my 7-year-old and I opt to slither under a tree that others are using as a seat, I overhear a women telling her friend about a child that landed in the hospital (so they assumed) about an hour earlier because he tried to jump the falls and slipped.
“People were screaming to locate his parents,” she went on.
My heart skipped a beat. What were his parents doing that took precedence over watching their son jump from a cliff? I guess, you’ve seen one kid jump from a cliff, you’ve seen em all? That’s what they say.
I’d also been told by a lady on my zip-line tour that kids had died here in the past. Yep, the day before, as I hung 70 feet in the air affixed to a tree by two of those clicking things climbers use, I was warned about the dangers of the falls.
Irononic? I don’t know. I’d taken my son on a three-hour canopy tour without a worry. In fact, I encouraged him to lean back with his heals half off the platform, as the guide suggested. Why? Who knows? I guess I have more trust in tours that are developed by humans. With safety precautions considered, safety harnesses, safety testing done, back-up hooks and back up safety for their back up hooks.
But diving off rocks? Climbing down mountains in flip flops? Walking rapids on slippery rocks with no helmets or other safety gear? That stuff was not created for people to do it was simply created by nature. But, some person, like my son, saw it and thought, that looks fun. And by the crowd of over 100 people at the falls, clearly he wasn’t the only one. (By the way, my younger self would have thought this would be a ball. Frankly, my current self would have enjoyed it as well, if my kids weren’t involved.)
I allowed Jake first onto a low rock and watched him slip a couple times getting there. Each time, nervously pretending to find this whole activity acceptable, which was followed by frustration at myself for allowing the fear to mount regardless of my attempts at nonchalance, and for not being as awesome as the other parents, who cheered and hooted.
The other parents looked to be perfectly calm and not at all searching for rocks in the water that their kids could hit, or mossy patches on the rocks that their kid would need help navigating.
It occurred to me that ALL of those parents can’t be “back woods” folk with an excessive amount of disposable offspring. And so, I was forced to consider the more obvious explanation: They were all totally high on wild-growing pot that was emitting an odor and osmosis-ing into their systems. Yes, yes, and I was somehow immune to it, and therefore, the only reasonable person in the bunch.
That in mind, I reluctantly allowed my boy to jump from a rock a bit higher (peer pressure) and when he asked to jump from a of the mountain ledge that required you to sidle up with your back against it, I faked a heart attack.
Which was not as excellent of a ploy as it would seem!
Even as I laid on the ground clutching my chest and yelling, “Elizabeth, I’m comin’ to join you,” my son begged. “Just one more time, please mom! PLEASE! You’re so UN-FUN.”
“Your mom is having a freakin’ heart attack here,” I exclaimed. “Could we not head back to the hotel and do something a little less dangerous, like the Alpine Slide?”
Sheesh, kids today. You tell them they can’t jump from a 50-foot waterfall and have a slightly dramatic faux heart attack, and the next thing you know, you’re “un-fun?”
So, we left. My daughter was proud she made the hike down. My son was sulking and annoyed, and I was giddily, clawing my way back up to our car, as relieved and UN-FUN as ever.