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.