Our family is very politically incorrect. I don’t make my kids wear bike helmets, I didn’t wear one, so I’m pretty sure they’ll survive. My daughter has candles and various lighting implements for them in her room. My son likes to carve Chinese Dragons with soap and a very sharp knife. I let him. He’s nine. They drink soda and eat things containing sugar and salt. I let them eat fast food now and then. We go to drive-ins and I let them swim in dirty lake and ocean water. We have dogs and cats. They clean the litter boxes and haven’t contracted anything yet. I fed them peanut butter and strawberries before the age of five and they were both given extrememly thin rice cereal at seven days of age because the getting up at night was shaping up to be a real pain in the butt and based on their appetites, I figured they’d be dead of starvation if I made them wait til they were six months old for solid food like the crazy Doctor wanted me to. You try living and growing on a liquid diet, it’s not fun. Oh, and a couple of years ago, they went out in the back yard and dug a hole and repeatedly filled the hole with water and played in it for a while. Their underwear was so dirty I had to throw it away, but they had fun, and they survived. They are not allergic to any foods, their intestines work fine in spite of the early food, and they are generally healthy, except for my son’s tonsils, but that is another story. After this litany of modern parenting “missteps” it should come as no surprise to you that my kids have a few small survival implements and that is what makes this story so interesting.
A year ago, my father-in-law passed away from gallbladder cancer. He was an old-fashioned, idependent soul from the country. He hunted and fished and built things and carved stuff up. In order to carve stuff up, one must have knives. Before he died, he gave my kids some of the pocket knives from his collection. They were pretty little things with lovely carvings of wild animals on the bone handles. I didn’t mind at all; they weren’t any longer than my index finger and my kids are/were both Scouts, so they already had some knives and anyway, how can one do lovely soap carvings without a knife? So I stopped paying attention. I was happy that they had something of their grandpa’s that he actually used and they loved having them.
Skip ahead one year. Picture it, the St. Louis Arch. I’ve been by it on the highway a million times, but I’ve never been there. St. Louis was a place we sped through as a child on our way “OUT WEST” for vacation. My husband and I and the two kids went there last week with every intention of going inside the arch, or at least to the free museum underneath it. As we waited in line to go inside, we realized that since it is a FEDERAL SITE, we had to go through what amounted to airport security. We had to put all of our stuff in a bin and go through metal detectors. “Oh!” I said, “No wonder we have to stand in this very long line. I was wondering why it took so long to get tickets?!” Instantly, my beautiful fourteen year old daughter’s nose turned red and her eyes filled up with tears. In response to my queries about what was wrong, she said, “I can’t go in there Mom, I have a pocketknife! It’s one of Grandpa’s and I don’t want them to take it from me” “What?” I said, “A pocketknife, well, that shouldn’t be any big deal, they’ll probably hold it for you till we come out, give it to Daddy and let him explain.” I turned back around and watched the Amish family ahead of me prepare to go inside and a few seconds later, my husband gently poked me in the back and said, “Holl, (my name is Holly) look at the pocketknife. Seriously, look at it.” The “pocketknife” that I thought was one of the little pretty things I knew about, was a seven inch long pig sticker. The blade is about six inches long and slightly curved. “Oh my GOD Lydia! We can’t go in there!! Why in the world are you carrying THAT around in your purse?” “Well, Mom, I keep it with me most of the time, cause you never know when your gonna need it. I have matches too.”
Some of you may be horrified. I am not. I’m actually proud of her. All that independence I’ve tried to instill and the type of freedom I’ve tried to give them has made her a thinker. I’ll bet she has elastic, paper clips, a granola bar and bandaids in there too. My girl could put McGyver to shame and if she is faced with an emergency situation, she’d be a couple steps ahead of the game. Now I just need to teach her when to leave the “pocket knives” in the car.