No Children Were Harmed in the Making of this Post!


You’re not going to believe this.

Yesterday I’m in my den, folding laundry, and 11-year-old Jake runs in from the backyard yelling, “Mom! You’ve got to see this! It’s awesome!!!”

Knowing that the clock is ticking on comments like these (which will soon be replaced by comments like, “Mom, I told you make sure my bedroom door clicks when you shut it—jeeez!”), I abandoned the underwear and went out back. There, standing around a makeshift teepee which is draped in sheets from my linen closet and supported by an elaborate network of strings tied to my garden furniture, are the neighborhood kids, one of whom has brought a guest. Jake says, “Mom! This is so cool! Watch!!”

One of the boys (I kid you not!) takes a HATCHET and WHALES THE NEW KID IN THE CHEST WITH IT!!!!! I can’t tell you how wrong this is on how many levels, but, thankfully, the boy-victim was unhurt, proud, and anxious to show off the secret of his survival: a homemade suit of armor that his blacksmith brother cobbled together out of an antique snow shovel and some repurposed cookie tins.

The kid’s post-slam grandstanding was a good thing, as it gave me the perfect opportunity to spirit the (decidedly dull-edged) hatchet away into a little place I like to call “under the laundry baskets” (where, I’m sure, no one is ever going to find it).

Even as I write this, though, thoughts are coursing through my head. What kind of mother, I wonder, gives her children access to wood/bone-splitting hardware? What kind of mother sits idly by, folding facecloths and watching catfight #112 on The Real Housewives of New York City, while four eleven-year-old boys clobber another kid just because he says he can take it? What kind of mother isn’t aware that Fight Club is real, and it’s happening right in her backyard?!

While I talked myself down from my “the authorities are coming to get you” ledge, I tried to remind myself that accidents—spectacular accidents—happen all the time, even in environments where basic standards of safety are maintained and perfectly responsible individuals are standing by. Yes, the hatchet is prohibited from future kid use, but what can I do about a kid who wants to test his mettle (or in this case, metal) against an 11-year-old’s arsenal of stuff you just find in the backyard? And, more importantly, what can I do about the Y chromosome that makes cars, fires, Stratego, toilets, all things ninja, and just about everything dangerous so darn enticing?

What can I do? Not much, I think.

Or maybe this: I can set my children up in a protective plastic bubble, until they’re 20 (make that 40). I’ll stock the bubble with wholesome, enriching, non-warlike books and pipe in pastoral classical music. There will be no sharp, blunt, skull- or sternum-cracking instruments in reach. No toxic cleaning products, no TV or video games, and definitely no trans-fats either.

Then again, hatchet or no hatchet, a life without risk is guaranteed to make Jack (or in this case, Jake) a dull boy. I think that, within reason, I’m willing to take my chances.



  1. Monica said,

    May 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I can’t help but giggle a little at that story. 🙂 I would have been horrified though if I was out there watching the kid with the hatchet. I think imaginatory play is a wonderful thing, how else would one learn about the properties of metal? 🙂 Glad no one was hurt and you didn’t turn yourself in to child protective services. 🙂

    • scheirmad said,

      May 13, 2009 at 7:09 pm

      You know, if I was worried about child protective coming after me, I probably shouldn’t have posted on the worldwide web. Note to self for next time…

  2. Andie said,

    May 13, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Bob says the post was totally awesome, so violent! 😉

    • scheirmad said,

      May 14, 2009 at 7:05 am

      Tell him I’ve optioned the story for a Jason Bourne Origins screenplay!

  3. Lorraine said,

    May 14, 2009 at 4:52 am

    “Boy number 20” was in a war ravaged place only a couple of years ago and he is a gentle, polite little 10 year old who would never consider the hatchet. On the other hand I am confident that some of the other 19 who have grown up in relative peace and security would be standing by waiting for their turn with the axe!
    I love the imagination and resourcefulness of small boys. They have so much energy and enthusiasm and so little thought for “cause and effect” outcomes!

    • scheirmad said,

      May 14, 2009 at 7:08 am

      I presume you speak of your class. Am I right? A war-ravaged place–how tragic!! Play war and the real thing are certainly not the same.

      I’m just glad they didn’t go all “Lord of the Flies” on me!

  4. Lorraine said,

    May 14, 2009 at 4:53 am

    P.S. I just have to add -“I love the photo!”

    • scheirmad said,

      May 14, 2009 at 7:08 am

      Thanks! Me too!

  5. Lorraine said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Yes, definitely the class although my own two boys and one girl got up to some amazing “adventures” when they were kids. I’m sure I don’t know half of what they did for which I give thanks every day! Our daughter is currently on a 30 day tour/trek in Asia and via the magic of email we are receiving reports of her journey. Once again I’m sure we’re getting the edited version of her journey along the Mekong River, elephant treks and swims in waterfall pools. My logic is that I don’t need to know everything because as long as the highlights keep coming I know she’s okay!

  6. scheirmad said,

    May 16, 2009 at 8:39 am

    It sounds like an amazing trip–I’m jealous!

    Do you have this saying in Australia–“No news is good news.” If you don’t, it kind of means that if you don’t hear anything at all–including anything bad–then there’s nothing to worry about.

    On the other hand, I think that your daughter’s trip would definitely be an example of “No news is scary for the mother, who wants a semi-regular check-in from her travelling child, and if highlights come, then that’s really good news.” I’m with you on that!

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