Saturday, October 17, 2009

Raising Small Children Redux

There is an old and somewhat dark story about a very wealthy couple obsessed with the safety of their soon to be born first child.  The daily newspapers were filled with reports of accidents and horrible reports of the dangers that awaited their new child.

Realizing that the chance of their child surviving and reaching adulthood was simply a gamble, the couple decided to spare no expense to insure the absolute safety of their newborn.  They purchased a remote property where a massive bunker was dug into the side of a hill.  The bunker was a combination of hospital and home where an infant could be born and raised in absolute safety.  When the child was born, he breathed purified air, ate a perfectly balanced diet, and was daily attended by nurses, teachers, dieticians, and doctors in a home as free from all dangers as could possibly be arranged.  He lived in rubber rooms, never saw a sharp object, or experienced the slightest risk.

The child lived, grew, and thrived in this perfect world until finally his twenty-first birthday arrived, the day when he was to finally step out into the real world.  The young man stood in front of the giant double steel doors as they slowly creaked open, revealing a new world where the young man was to enter for the first time.

And when the doors finally opened, the young man promptly died as his heart gave out from the excitement.

Raising children is always like this.   No matter what you try, you cannot keep the little monsters safe.  When our first son, What’s-His-Name, was born, we certainly tried.  I think I boiled everything in the house except the cat.  By the time the second one was born, The-Other-One, I’d let the boys play with power tools.  I had learned you can’t keep children safe.

It was a lesson that I had to learn, and relearn every few months.  Perhaps the best lesson was the tree-climbing incident. 

Our back yard was built on the edge of a small cliff, and while the rock wall surrounding the yard is several feet high, if you were to manage to go over the wall, it’s about a 20-foot drop.  One day, when the boys were about 6 and 8, they had been playing quietly in the back yard for about 15 minutes.  This is always a bad sign: boys are not naturally quiet.  So I looked out, and there they were, about a dozen feet up a tree and out on a limb that stretched out over the wall.  Say, roughly about 30 feet down to the neighbor’s concrete driveway.

I admit it, I chickened out.  I convinced them to come inside and play in their room.  Not an hour earlier, I had told them to go outside and play; now I wanted them to come in.  This is not terribly consistent, but as I explained in my earlier post on raising children, the true secret of raising children is to be larger and meaner than them.  Both boys went to their room and played.

They played for about 15 minutes before I heard a loud thud followed by, “Ow!”

If you carefully link several belts together and throw it over the top shelf of the closet and hook it on a nail in the back wall of the closet…   Yeah, you can climb onto the top shelf.  At least until The-Other-One pushed What’s-His-Name off.  He fell five feet onto a thick carpet and broke both bones in his wrist. 

Should have left the little bastards up in the tree.

There were many, many refresher courses on this subject.  What’s-His-Name totaled my truck 25 feet past the railroad tracks while giving a young lady a ride home from school.  This makes perfect sense when you learn she had a large chest and no bra.  I couldn’t even get mad at him, as 30 years ago I used to speed up for railroad tracks when his mother rode in my car.

One day, coming home from work, I saw The-Other-One on the roof of the house.  With my lawn mower.  I just drove right by and kept on going.  Didn’t come back for over an hour.  To this day, I don’t know what he was doing and I don’t want to know.

My wife and kids and I went camping at Carlsbad.  We had two tents, Karen and I in one, while the boys shared the other.  In the middle of the night, I woke up when I heard The-Other-One say, “Nice Kitty.”  I looked out; he was petting a skunk.  I went back to sleep.

I once got a phone call from the local police at 3:00 in the morning.  It was raining heavily and while the policeman personally thought it was really cool, would I please stop my sons before any more people complained?  Seems the boys were waterskiing behind my pickup as it drove up and down a flooded street.

I’ll boil it down for you; Milliorn’s Rule of Child Raising:  Children have a right to be eaten by bears. 

As surely as missionaries should be eaten by natives.


  1. Very nice illustration. I think the best we can do is raise up our kids to believe and trust God, and pray daily for their protection. It isn't easy, and no one is immune from the dangers of a sinful, fallen world, but who else can you trust more than God to do what is best for your family?

  2. The corollary to "Children have a right to be eaten by bears." is, " Leave them in the tree!"