My favourite radio station this morning posed a caller question: What did your dad let you do when you were a kid? Some people rang in and said Dad was in the army, he let me fire a cannon when I was 10. One said they were allowed to drive the car when I was very young, etc.
It occurred to me that my Dad and my mum too were pretty "loosey goosey". Considering we grew up on a farm, they really let us do some dangerous things. But then again, perhaps they was teaching us stuff. And they knew that an adult, be it our aunt or uncle, or our nanna or poppa, were never far away.
From an early age we (being my brother, my cousins and I) were allowed to wander pretty much where ever we liked, with the exception of the barn and in the hay bales, due to the danger of snakes. That did however leave a large amount of places to get in trouble, including the dairy, the cattle yards, the pigsties, the grain silo and the tennis shed. All perfect hideouts for poisonous animals of various kinds, and, upon reflection, all pretty much custom-made kiddy death-traps. There was a lot of potential for accidents but I guess our parents knew we had enough common sense not to hurt ourselves. In fact, the only accident I remember that predates our teen years was when my cousin fell out of a tree (we were playing "Ghostbusters, which should enable you to date the incident) and broke his arm.
One of my first memories is sitting on dad's lap being allowed to "drive" the tractor while he was ploughing. Of course, I did little more than turn the steering wheel about in a random fashion but at the time, I was amazed. I was driving! Go me! I couldn't have been more than 4 or 5.
I also vividly recall at around the same age racing along, perched precariously on the back of the motorbike. Gripping his waist tightly, we'd go almost sideways when he changed direction mustering some flightly cows. Later, he tried to teach me how to ride it, without much success. Riding it solo was scary. Then again, I was only 12 and my feet barely touched the ground on either side.
We were also allowed to give directions when he was handling heavy machinery. He owned a tip truck and a loader, and my brother and I would help him load it the latter onto the tray of the former. He probably didn't pay much attention to our authoritative calls of "A little to the right! Now straight! Ok, left!" but he made us feel involved. He even let us drive it around the quarry on occasion. I loved making the bucket go up and down.
And then when I was entering my teens, he decided to teach us to use the shotgun. In case we had to deal with a snake on our own, I guess. I remember he took us up on the hill and lined up some soft drink cans for us to shoot at. How heavy that gun was. Right now I cannot recall if I even hit anything but at least from then on I knew the mechanics of putting in a cartridge and firing. Useful stuff to know, though I never fired a weapon again until recently when my boyfriend and I started sporting shooting.
C's childhood was filled with cool army stuff, because both his parents were enlisted at the time. He spent a few years when very young in Western Australia, and has some pretty vivid memories of the heat, using army jeeps as a jungle gym, and listening to stories about the regiment. I'll have to ask him when I get home what crazy stuff his parents let him get up to.
So what will I let my kids do when I have them? Probably nothing. I'll probably be a molly-coddler of championship proportions. Before I learn to relax, that is.