A Foot on Both Paths

Last Tuesday Jason and I staged a Boomerang Rescue. This came about after Jacob had been playing up at the school yard with his friend Josh with the boomerang that he got as a souvenir from Disneyworld last year. Yes, I was also a little worried about them throwing a boomerang around, but fortunately they foresaw this danger and wrapped it in a bandanna for protection. Actually, we all know that this would be no protection at all, but considering how hard it is to throw a boomerang correctly, I wasn't too worried about it.
The unfortunate news was that the boomerang, powered by the strong arm of an 11-year old and aided by a very gusty wind, flew up into a tall tree and became stuck. The boys attempted to throw other things at it to get it down, but the end result was that Jacob came home very disconsolate that his prize souvenir was now stuck in a tree.

As always in these situations, a parent has several choices. You can always take the "Teach Them That Sometimes Boomerangs Get Stuck in Trees" path. My mom always summed this up with her "Balloons break, only the best players get to play, and you're too old to cry" speech. The other alternative as a parent is to take the "Try to Make Things Better Because Sometimes That's What Families Do" path. Whichever one you choose, there seem to be some kind of positive effects on the long-term development of the children, as they learn lots of important things from both.

Of course, with the first road, you get to stay in your warm house and watch TV. On the second road, you get to go out into a dark, blustery October evening with your flashlights and long, long ladder.

Standing in the schoolyard with my sweatshirt hood tied tightly around my face, watching Jacob and Jason up in the tree, I got to thinking: Will this be the night that Jacob will remember his parents going above and beyond to help him recover something that was important to him? Of course, then came the next thought: Or, will this be the night that Jacob remembers his father falling out of a tree and breaking some important body part? Then this thought: Or, will this be the night that Jacob remembers the police coming out to question his parents, as they in their hooded sweatshirts climbed up a long ladder in the dark into a tree right next to the school library where people were still meeting?

As it turns out, he won't remember the evening in any of those ways. We were not able to even locate the boomerang, much less climb up through the branches to get it down. However, as we headed back across the school grounds with our ladder and flashlights, Jacob seemed quite content with the situation. In a way, we were traveling down both roads. He learned that sometimes things get stuck, and life manages to continue on just fine - the sting of losing something good does eventually fade. But at the same time, he learned that sometimes families do go above and beyond to try to make it right. Even if they fail, they do try.

Perhaps sometimes having a foot on both paths is the best path of all.

photo by Luis Beltrán (Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial)

Rob  – (3 November 2009 at 09:27)  

Wow! Fantastic post. I have wrestled with your dilemma and with children who are "only" 3 and 8, I suspect I have only just begun.

And, I think you made a great choice, even at the risk of injury and arrest and maybe especially at the risk of a "missed lesson." Trust me, I think he got the best lesson of all.

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