There are a few things about growing up that I wouldn’t change for love nor money. Getting to spend time at my grandparent’s ranch in Central Texas is one of them. Surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins, it was a place a kid could be free and safe with little supervision. A place where everyone seemed to be related to me in one way or another and everyone loved me.
My aunts and uncles had places nearby as well. You could play or gig for frogs in the river, fish, feed pigs, chase guinea fowl, and play cowboys & Indians in the bar ditch. I could ride four-wheelers with my cousins, and it’s where I learned to shoot and clean birds with my dad.
I couldn’t wait for my older cousins to come pick me up, racing around in their pick-up trucks. We could explore and play “Windmill,” the country kid version of “Slug Bug.” My Daddo took my brother and me all over the country, and we learned to count cows and watch for their babies while we fed them. Whichever one of us sat by the door had the honor of being the gate keeper, and I still think it was the damnedest thing to come rolling through a gate, horn a-honking, and see a bunch of cows come running. I guess we are all Pavlovian on some level. I spent one very exciting – and itchy! – day riding on a combine. I don’t remember ever being afraid, I never met a stranger.
But my kids won’t grow up this way. They’ll learn to drive at a driving school, not on a country road with a cringing dad telling them to GIVE IT MORE GAS around the corners! And, I don’t know if they will ever hunt anything besides snipe. City living is a lot more restrictive. And reading the news makes it plain scary.
Into the Woods
So when my brother-in-law bought some cabins in the mountains, the Hubs and I saw it as a real gift for our children. There they can hike and fish, learn to drive four-wheelers. They can stay up and sleep in and get diiiirrrty! They see endless stars and trees, hear the birds. There is no traffic.
Last week, we took the kids to the cabin for four days. My sister-in-law, her three boys, my beau-in-law, his daughter and their friend Brad and his kids met us there. You might think that five adults, eight kids, two dogs and three cars might get to be a little much. You would be wrong.
We had so much fun! It was also nice to watch parents unwind with their children, see their approaches to wilderness parenting. My sister-in-law has only a few cabin rules. Her boys have to brush their teeth, can’t shoot guns without an adult, and have to wipe their feet before coming inside. But I thought Brad was especially intriguing to watch. His parenting philosophy seemed to be based on “pick your battles” and “is that *really* a big deal?”
Mountains & Molehills
I spent an entire day chasing Bodacious about because she flat out refused to stay dressed. And it was cold! No shoes, no socks, no britches. On Friday, we had a surprise front blow in with lots of snow. Guess who didn’t pack jackets or mittens or sweaters? This mom! They had hats and hiking boots and hoodies. Not that it mattered because neither of my children wanted to wear a bit of it.
As I watched Bodacious swing in her underwear and pajama top after dinner, I started to get my hackles up. Seriously? Get your clothes on, Daughter. The other kids are in various states of ill-preparedness, too. Dogs are loose and stalking imaginary prey in the snow. Snow balls are being hurled – without gloves! Laughter everywhere. I am just about to start nagging her when I hear Brad say, ever-so-quietly, “See? Does it really matter? It’s nice to see them having fun.”
I looked up into the sky to watch the snow come down, big and fluffy. I was ready to mention the cough she can’t shake, flu season and other woes, when suddenly the light from the cabin hit just right. I swear, the snow started to glitter – GLITTER people – as it fell to the ground, dusting every child with a sparkling crown.
I hope you know what night skies are like on a mountain, inky blueblack. It felt a little surreal, like we had fallen into Narnia. That we had somehow been magic-ed and I was surrounded by prepubescent royalty.
And I decided that Brad was right. They were having so much fun. Where was the harm in letting them be kids, wild and free, for a few days?
Little Son’s oldest cousin Cole spent the next day teaching him to sled. He dreamily told me that night that he had the best time of his whole life – his WHOLE life – at the cabin. And that his cousins were THE BEST cousins in the whole world. I can totally identify.
They were sick for three weeks after we got home. But you know what Brad? I think you were right – it was totally worth it.