Breathe In, Breathe Out

by Stefani on 14-October-2008

I was looking just now at some of our photos over the past few weeks, and I've concluded that I have photographic evidence that I must come from very good stock… the sort of people with tickers of steel. 

Otherwise, I would surely be on blood pressure medication by now. 

Seriously, little boys and their ever-long desiring after danger.

The boy sees: an amazing personal accomplishment – real tool use. 
The mama sees: fingers very near to those sharp metal teeth. 


He sees: lovely fall day and opportunity to be big and do something nice for his granny. 
Mama sees: open-toed shoes. 

See those little piggies down there? Just look at how that big one is arching toward the flame!


He sees: A new way to express himself and to make something nice for someone he loves. He is fascinated by the very idea of controlled burning of wood for artistic purposes. He shakes his head, grinning at the unexpected wonder of that. 

I see: sharp points made worse by heating them to 600 freaking degrees. I see florescent lights , gauze bandages and pushy emergency room nurses with clip boards saying, "you let him do what?"


He sees: "The bestest climbing tree of the day… a lookout, a fire tower, a castle, a ship…" an endless source of joy, a height reached, a thing conquered. 

Mama sees – splinters in bare feet and that little golden head hanging precariously over very hard ground. 


He sees: Berkley's Adventure Playground. Bits of this and that, that were nothing special, but now are a royal kingdom, a gleaming city on a hill… "We made a whole town by ourselves!"

Mama sees: broken ankles waiting to happen and maybe a tetanus shot or two for good measure.

Backyard Building 

Sometimes I feel like my days are a constant balancing act – trying to see things from their perspective, to grasp the excitement and magic of the thing at hand, and to say, "yes, just please be careful (put on your shoes, step back a little, watch your fingers, not so close)." when "no" would be so much easier.  

Somehow, (prepare to knock on every wood surface in a 10 mile radius) believe it or not, they have scaled it all, burned it all, cut it all, built it all with not a single trip to the emergency room. 

Not one. 

Clearly they're just not trying hard enough. 
Sarah Jackson October 14, 2008 at 7:56 pm

You’re an amazing mama for keeping the “no” to yourself. It’s a tough tough thing to do.

emily October 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm

we went for a favorite walk in the woods this afternoon. the kids were climbing crazy rocks (which they do, always – but d. is always there, and today he wasn’t) and i was kind of freaking out, with visions of fluorescent lights and emergency room nurses, just like you said. my palms were so sweaty, i finally had to have them come down. sigh.

Mary Smith October 14, 2008 at 8:39 pm

When we lived in Uganda, toddlers would stroll dirt roads where huge matooke trucks raced by and boys your age and younger would swing a machete like it was a part of their arm. Don’t you think kids in our culture are over-protected and uncertain of themselves at times because of all the “warnings”? I often wonder when to speak and when to step back too. Very thought-provoking, Stefani!

Maya October 14, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Oh, it’s so hard not to keep saying “No.” Especially with 3 boys, now. When it was just one, we never said No. We didn’t even say “Shhhh!” And now, it’s constantly, “No,” “Stop,” “Don’t,” & “Watch out!” It really is such a practice, now, to undo all the bad habits that snuck up on us during those first few months, now almost 9, since the 3rd boy came. I tell my myself when I slip up that it’s okay, that it’s they’re karma & even though I may not always be saying what I want, at least I’m letting them do all this crazy stuff. PS- has amazing child-sized REAL woodworking tools that might make you feel a bit better. We’re investing in our woodshop right now. And, oh, we can’t wait for your guys to see all the stuff the boys have been gathering for their boyswap!

jenny October 14, 2008 at 9:50 pm

You think 3 girls are any better??? Oh yes, they do just what your boys do. We have a concrete block wall they love to walk up and down on and it’s all I can do to tell them to get off. It’s not a very far fall if they fell, maybe 5 feet, but landing the wrong way could break a bone or at the very least, a cut on the head. And my Oldest loves fire, just like her daddy does. I have to constantly get after the girls to “puh-leeze” put shoes on when they go outside, but I’m a poor example, I’m always barefoot, too.

I’ll watch them play in the mud and dirt and I see mud in the bathtub and muddy clothes to wash, but I also remember when I played in the dirt and mud, so I bite my tongue and let them play. I’d rather they play outdoors than sit in front of the TV.

Maria October 14, 2008 at 10:19 pm

I love it! What a laugh and at the same time so wonderful that you stop to see things from their perspective.

kate October 14, 2008 at 11:24 pm

I am a firm believer of giving some space and allowing the adventures. It sure is hard some days! We also have yet to make an emergency room trip, although we have certainly pulled out the band-aids and seen some amazing bruises.

Lynn October 15, 2008 at 12:19 am

I was thinking these same kind of thoughts just the other day with my 3 boys. Wondering how we make it through when I swear they are such great explorers. My oldest loves to take things apart and build with real tools as well. The funny thing is both times we’ve been to the urgent care center our boys got hurt at grandma’s house and at church. I love reading your blog and it makes me want to explore more with my boys. Thanks!

Eren October 15, 2008 at 3:35 am

Must be all those “mama of all boys” prayers we’re saying. It has to be…or none of us would survive. Love this post sweet friend.

natasha s October 15, 2008 at 3:37 am

This is exactly the point that I try to get across when other people try and do my mothering for me (i.e oh,your son is going falll from that tree,get down young man!!!)when we are in the midst of something new. curiosity and exploration is part and parcel of being a child and it is our job to let them try new things and find new pleasures.Like you said,seeing it through their eyes is very important.
Great post!!

Laura October 15, 2008 at 3:44 am

My first is a daughter. She is 12 now and didn’t really push a lot of those limits. But now we have a 4 year old son! And boy am I having heart attacks every day. I’m trying to let him do his thing because I know he needs it. It’s sad to hear a little one say they don’t know how to climb a tree. Right now he is really into archery….my little robin hood! 🙂

PS I didn’t know you guys were in CA! I know that adventure playground well. It’s nice to see pictures from our old area. We miss it so much but we are loving where we are at now – Rochester, NY. Now ask me that in February and we’ll see if the answer is the same. 😉

erin October 15, 2008 at 5:11 am

you are made of steel, lady. i am pretty sure that i could not handle it!

elissa Finger October 15, 2008 at 5:25 am

being a mother of boys is certainly a balancing act, if nothing else. i love that you let them be adventurous, even if it means biting your tongue and crossing your fingers with only a few admonitions of “be careful!” they will SO appreciate some day that you didn’t always say “no, that’s too dangerous!”

Mama Urchin October 15, 2008 at 5:27 am

Oh goodness, I have some crazy adventurers here too but unfortunately we have made a few trips to the emergency room.

Aunt LoLo October 15, 2008 at 5:28 am

You’re doing a good job, Mama. 🙂 You must have taught them, along the way, to be just a LITTLE bit safe!

Miranda October 15, 2008 at 5:35 am

I couldn’t agree more with this post! My oldest DS spent Sunday afternoon building his own ladder… I spent Sunday afternoon reminding myself to breathe! LOL!

Stefani October 15, 2008 at 5:47 am

Laura – nope, we’re actually in Texas. We’ve never been to the Adventure Playground, we’ve just gazed upon it fondly and hoped that someday we’d see it in person. They boys were trying to create their version in our backyard. 🙂

Gretchen Skovron October 15, 2008 at 6:57 am

Oh I just love this entry! My second son has pushed me to that point of feeling like I might be holding my breath for the next 18 years. It’s an adventure, eh?

Linn October 15, 2008 at 7:12 am

such a good reminder to us mothers of adventurous boys…let them explore!

Baba October 15, 2008 at 7:20 am

I look at these pictures and I understand just what mom sees. I made one emergency room trip when my son was eight.

Paper Dolls for Boys October 15, 2008 at 9:55 am

As soon as I unstrap my kiddos from their helmets and unhook them from their safety leashes, I might let me try some of this stuff.

🙂 Great post! Lucky boys!

Sarah October 15, 2008 at 10:38 am

Oh, you are such a sweet momma. I’ve just stopped watching! What I don’t see doesn’t bother me.

miss chris October 15, 2008 at 10:59 am

I’m pretty sure this is why I don’t have boys. Not sure I could leave the hall monitor belt in the coat closet…

Katie October 15, 2008 at 11:46 am

Ugh! As the mother of 4 danger mites I can only offer my sympathies. I am right there with ya!

THANK Goodness for good blood pressure!

heather October 15, 2008 at 11:52 am

stefani, i think you should print out this post and keep a copy in your purse just in case you ever do have to meet one of those pushy emergency room nurses. that’ll hush her up.

keep going mama, your boys are so lucky!

Heather October 15, 2008 at 12:26 pm

I WAS one of those kids, so you’d think nothing would phase me… Being a mom totally changes things and I know that with three little boys of my own, I’ll have plenty of chances to hold my breath! 🙂

Tammy October 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm

My son is turning 3 on saturday… I am already seeing some of these same signs. I will need to fight my natural urge to stop all “fun” activities in the name of boy fun I guess.

Lisa Clarke October 15, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Yes, you must come from very good stock! I know, given many of those situations, I’d have just said “no.” I’m working to be more of an “ok, but be careful!” kind of Mom, but I’m not quite there yet…

brown robin October 15, 2008 at 4:47 pm

You are raising them so right!!! (in my humble opinion.) For the record, it’s entirely Montessori… this approach to hands on responsibility and exploration. And you didn’t end the post with “we spent hours in the emergency room as a result.” So I’m looking for your advice… what do you think about giving a boy his own hammer for his 3 year old birthday… it’s a small one and he loves his daddy’s wrench. Is that asking for too much trouble, or just meeting him where he’s at? Did I mention that most people can barely see him as he is a blur running by?! I’m from a family of all girls and struggling a bit with this one.

brit October 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm

yeah. pretty much. I don’t know how I’m going to do it myself. Between explaining why I can’t make a real live flying pet (preferably a bat) with my sewing machine discussing Santa’s attire, ‘yes he certainly does like his beard’ I’m not sure where to fit in, just because he rode his bike down the porch steps doesn’t mean you should. Because oy. Boys will be boys, but mama’s will be mamas and there must be a happy middle right?

MadWomanMeg October 15, 2008 at 5:57 pm

My girl tends to be just as adventurous and I find it to be a daily battle to keep that “no” to myself.

I love the freedom that you DO allow your boys, and seeing the pictures that go along with that.

Stephanie October 15, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I’m thinking mama will be the one on the guerney, not one of the boys.

If it makes you feel any better, as an 8-yr-old girl, I broke my left ankle playing circus in the front yard. No, I wasn’t climbing trees, or swinging from a rope or walking any high beams–I merely did a handstand and landed wrong.

See, there’s no rhyme or reason. And I obviously lived through it just fine. Mother, on the other hand….

Stephanie October 15, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Sorry, not ankle–left wrist.

I swear I didn’t bump my head, too. Just having a senior moment.

Louise October 15, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Yoo-hoo Stefani!

I’ve just spent a dreamy hour catching up with your world and what a delight it has been! Kudos on the homeschooling – what a truly inspirational journey it is! Your boys are beautiful – absolutely beautiful! I wish the girls and I could pop over for a cup of earl grey and a slice of that apple pie! Pixie would be right there with the sawing and hammering and fire-making! And Scarlet could make mud pies and flower salads for afternoon tea! One of the things that shines out so brightly from your words, my dear friend, is your absolute reverence for family life! It is a beautiful thing Stefani, and mothering from that “blessed center” will change the world my friend…generation by blessed generation.
Blessings to you and your beautiful family ~ across the oceans and continents that lie between us ~ Louise.

Kristi October 15, 2008 at 6:35 pm

another great post, Stefani, can’t wait for the book! Have you seen the website where they turn your blog into a book for you?

tara pollard pakosta October 16, 2008 at 10:52 am

I can see now why God gave me onLY girls! i would be in the hospital for a heart condition if i had boys doing all that stuff LOL!!!!!!
i don’t know how you do it! and i have 5 brothers, so I KNOW how boys are HA HA!
great pictures!

Maura October 16, 2008 at 6:27 pm

The disaster film version of whatever my children are doing is always playing in the back of my mind as I smile and nod and encourage, too. I try, try, try not to warn and caution, and I’m often rewarded by finding that, no, they won’t burn or cut or bash themselves. And they are rewarded, too, by feeling so competent and grown up. Good to know others are allowing things, too.

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