Children on the Roof

Yesterday evening our boys came down from playing up in their bedroom with some startling revelations about what they had been doing.

“P didn’t get any outside time today,” stated A, “so I let him go out on the roof.”

It was one of those parenting moments that left me and my wife staring at each other utterly speechless. You know the kind. But I wanted to be absolutely sure I understood them right, so I asked them to demonstrate for me.

We all three went up, the 6-year-old calmly opened the window and the screen, and without hesitation his 4-year-old brother climbed out the window and onto the three foot wide patch of roof that overhangs the front of our house. With my heart going into overdrive and my palms starting to sweat I quickly reached out, urged him back to the window, and helped him come inside. And closed the screen and window as fast as I could.

I want to encourage a sense of adventure and exploration in my sons. I believe it is very good for them to learn their own limitations, and to feel set free to be brave and try new and somewhat scary things. But I think I have to draw the line at my pre-schooler walking around unaccompanied on the roof.

There are certain conversations with your children that I don’t think you’re ever prepared for as a parent. This was one of those. I could have taken it a few different directions:

  • Yelled and screamed and made them scared to ever do it again – because they would be scared of me!
  • Given them the lecture of the century on all the fatal dangers, so that even in their 30s they’d still be scared of going out on the roof
  • Invented some kind of clever discipline that would teach them a lesson and make them think twice about ever doing it again
  • Ignored the issue and just reason to myself that “boys will be boys” and that they’ll learn – by falling off the roof!
  • Patiently counsel them through the situation and come up with a better solution

Perhaps you can come up with some other ideas for how to handle it, maybe better ones than those. If so, by all means, please share!

There are some moments where I am just a touch proud of my parenting skills, and I’ll confess to some pride in the way I handled this one. I went with the last option in my list there. I told them that while being a little courageous is good, going out on the roof alone is not, and that if they ever want to go out on the roof again, they must talk with mom or dad first.

And in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Hah! We’ll see if we ever say yes to that request!”

What I didn’t want was for them to think that I don’t want them to explore. I really do. I cannot squash that desire in them. But I also want to set limits and help them to see how far is too far in that exploration.

In the future I know I’m going to be dealing with many more situations like this. They are going to explore, ignorant of the dangers at hand or the limits they need to set. Maybe it will be physical, or maybe it will emotional, social, or spiritual. I’m going to need to face those as well. I hope that I’ll be able to face them as well as I did with yesterday’s escapade, but I’ll probably make some mistakes. After all, I’m just learning too.

I am thankful that our God allows us to explore so much in this great big world he’s given us. We can explore relationships, use of our talents and gifts and interests. Thankfully, he’s also given us his Word, to help us know the dangers and the limits. And sometimes he even steps in and pulls us off the roof.

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