My 13 year old son said he wanted to go live in the woods for 24 hours. He built a fort he plans to sleep in. The temperature is 43 degrees and it is pouring down rain. You can imagine mom had a few questions and concerns about this adventure. I did too. But I also understand it. We told him that in a few days it would be sunny and warm. Why not do it then? But he had his heart set on it and he wanted the “extreme experience.” He packed his books in ziplock bags, made some sandwiches, got his sleeping bag and went on his way. His self enforced rule is that he can’t come back to the house for 24 hours.
At one point I realized that he was asking me for permission to take this adventure. In one sense, that is appropriate because he has home and school responsibilities that he’s got to meet. On the other hand, no matter how fool-hardy I think the plan is, he needs to have the freedom to make his own decision. In the end, I did not give him permission to go or not. I told him to make sure he meets his responsibilities. Otherwise, he can make his own decision about going.
I think this is an important distinction. Nathaniel is my middle child and I can’t say that I made this transition smoothly with some of my older children. I am referring to the transition to adulthood. In this transition, it is important for them to begin to make their own decisions . . . and suffer the consequences. There are decisions that would severely harm my children that I would not let them make. I also help them understand that when they demonstrate maturity and responsibility, they earn more trust and freedom. At the same time, children must be given the opportunity to develop wisdom and discernment from the experience of making choices.
I laughed out loud to myself when, a few minutes after Nathaniel left the house, torrents of sideways rain arrived. He may or may not regret going on this adventure. He will definitely be very cold and wet. But I’m pretty sure he won’t come back for 24 hours, because that’s the point. It’s not supposed to be easy. I’m proud of him.