Saturday, July 16, 2011

Raising Cain?

As parents we all struggle with assessing how we are doing as parents, is little johnny going to be a noble prize winner or a serial killer?  Fears about raising our children leads many of us to do some strange things from forcibly cramming vegetables down our kids throats to refusing sympathy because it might make them soft.  My mother did her best to employ a laissez-faire, unconditional love approach which some will say borders on child abuse...

The year was 1983, I had just graduated from high school a week ago and 3 days ago I turned 18.  I was off to see the wide world and make something of myself.  As can only be true of the hubris that comes from the ignorance of only living 18 years I jumped in the driver's seat of my dad's 1953 Chevy pickup to head off on my life's adventures.  My fearless 15 year old brother jumped in the passenger seat and off we went.  Well off is a relative term, you see we had just gotten the truck in what could laughingly be called running condition yesterday, as in, got it started and drove it around the block.  The back of the truck stuffed with all of my belongings, a drafting table, 18 pairs of skis, a duffel bag of clothing, a water bed which created a wing like effect, and my brother's dirt bike tied on top like a cherry.  Inside was at least as comical, food, our clothes for the trip, a boom box (my graduation present), a bunch of D batteries, and cassette tapes stored in every nook and cranny available.  That and the $200 I had to my name to drive 1500 miles.  I stomped on the started but nothing happened so I released the emergency break and we coast started it down the driveway.  I popped the clutch and the engine roared to life like the first gasps of life from a new born.  We are waving to mom who is standing in the doorway waving and crying, I am sure asking, "what have I done" and now off we went.

We were headed to Portland, OR where an old friend of our dad's Skyler Smick was going to give us summer jobs then in the fall I was going to go to school and Grant would head back to Colorado.  This trip is filled with story's and the trip itself is the inspiration for my wanting to write.  I will write about various adventures on this trip often but suffice to say when that first night Grant and I got picked up as runaways in Wyoming where the police called out mom to verify legitimacy.  She was asking herself, "was I right to let us go or completely insane?"

3 days later in the final stages of our trip driving down I80 in the Columbia river gorge the truck just quits.  The battery still is not holding a charge though so we have to push start it.  Looks like the highway has a little down hill slope to it so we should be fine.  We get out to start pushing and the truck starts rolling up hill.  Seriously.  If you have never experienced the wind in the gorge well there is a reason it is the wind surfing capital of the world.  I am not sure how fast it was blowing but lets say fast, like 60mph.  Well in the infinite wisdom of youth I figure we will just turn the truck around and push start it going with the wind the wrong way down the freeway.  You might see a pattern of bad judgement with the tee pee episode a while back... so we make a 3 point turn across 2 lanes of traffic avoiding certain death because of our deep skill at Frogger.  Well no love the truck would not start and never ran again under my watch:-(  It was one of the last possessions from my father and to this day I regret selling it and not simply learning enough about cars to know it was just a timing chain, super easy to change on those old straight 6 Chevrolet's.  I learned how to work on cars later, useful skill it turns out.

This is one of those balances we each have to find for ourselves as parents but when we were young, long before Dad died we were playing on the Oregon coast in the great sand dunes and as Grant and I tottered around the corner out of site, Mom jumped up to go and fetch us.  My dad pulled her back and said, "they will never learn anything if we never let them out of our site."

I have been forever grateful for my upbringing.  It was tough at times living on welfare.  It sucked moving around a bunch, usually every 6 months or so but the freedom and trust our parents gave us is the foundation on which we have built our amazing lives.  I am not afraid to take on any big challenge or confront great change to me these are all part of living life to the fullest.  Can I raise my kids the same way?  Only time will tell but I am not going to just accept the words of the masses, "we live in a different world today, kids just are not safe"  Well, last time I checked, kids endowed with knowledge, smarts, and the power of observation will be safe and helicopter parenting merely strips those skills from our children.  My kids may turn out to win the Nobel prize or be serial killers but I rest easy in the knowledge I am being the best parent I can be and who they turn out to be is up to them.