The Bear Went Over The Mountain

By Beck

Where I live is very, very rocky – not mountains, really, but just giant outcroppings of rocks and hills – and the other day my kids were outside and I was occupying myself my cleaning up the detrius of winter (its coffee cups and chip bags) when I realized that not one of my three kids were within view.

I found them quickly enough on a nearby rock, which they were climbing in their gripless rubber boots, ignoring the fact that it was icy slick with melting snow and that they were 25 feet above the ground and I dashed up the hill to grab The Baby (teetering precariously with each step, her hands held out like a tightrope walker) and marched the other two down, lecturing them furiously the whole way.

They were fine, they insisted. They had just wanted to see the town stretching out around them, to see cars and transports and trains passing through, to see the surrounding forests and wasn’t that worth a little danger?

I am not big on danger. My kids already complain bitterly about how much more sheltered they are than their friends, who are allowed to run around town on their own, allowed to drive around on ATVs, allowed to be wild and free. And parenting is hard for cautious types like me – having to trust my children in a world that I know is not trustworthy, having to bear the weight of their growing resentment.

I told my husband the other day about a conversation I’d had with someone who is not sure if she ever wants to have children – the world seems so dangerous and unkind and having kids seems more like an act of naive daring the older you get. And sometimes I lay awake at night and fret over the peril that we’ve brought our beloved children into, and imagine safer times and better worlds.

It’s worth it, regardless, my husband said, shrugging, and meanwhile in the next room, our children plotted their next dash up the rock, this dangerous climb, all of their town – their world! – below them, untrustworthy and perilous and beautiful.

20 Responses to The Bear Went Over The Mountain
  1. becky
    April 16, 2009 | 10:58 am

    My son used to climb the highest pine trees. So far up he could barely be seen. He would always come down and say, “I went out to see the world.”

  2. Subspace.beacon
    April 16, 2009 | 11:23 am

    Aaaaah! The downside of being an inventive/creative type: the ability to foresee danger EVERYWHERE! Excellent post.

  3. Kyla
    April 16, 2009 | 11:41 am

    It IS worth it, regardless. The burden of their safety and our worry is heavy, but not so much that it outweighs the gift of them and their wild innocence.

  4. Omaha Mama
    April 16, 2009 | 11:46 am

    I’m much like you. Protective and fretful. I’m happy to have fun and adventures…as long as it’s safe and under my control. So many things are dangerous and avoided now, that I enjoyed as a child but want nothing to do with as a mother.

  5. janet
    April 16, 2009 | 12:39 pm

    Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), as my children grow older, I find myself fretting MORE about the perils that face them. I think, for me, it’s a control thing. While my baby still holds my hands in parking lots and is only with me and people I trust, my older two are constantly pushing at the limits, inhaling freedom and growing and experiencing. It’s completey normal and appropriate but yet it scares the hell out of me. I think my 40s is going to be my decade of anxiety. Awesome.

  6. Heidi
    April 16, 2009 | 12:54 pm

    I have the same thoughts sometimes too. I forget who it was that reminded me that this is THEIR WORLD and they need to learn to live in it. Our childhood world is not their world.

  7. Nicole
    April 16, 2009 | 1:15 pm

    Lovely! And true. I’m always saying ridiculous motherly things like “GET DOWN FROM THERE! YOU’LL BREAK YOUR NECK!!!” But yet, it’s so important for them to develop independence. Just hopefully without breaking their necks.

  8. Alison
    April 16, 2009 | 2:58 pm

    It’s hard to find that balance between encouraging independence and keeping them alive. My mom was always afraid to let us try anything and I’ve had problems trying anything new ever since.

  9. edj
    April 16, 2009 | 3:15 pm

    Gorgeous post, Beck.

    My mother was extremely physically timid, and she passed that on to me. She would fuss when I crossed a simple brook on stepping stones! As a result, I grew up very physically timid myself and I HATE! it. It doesn’t fit my mental image of myself as fearless and determined. I’m determined to not pass it on to my own kids, and since it’s at least partly genetic, none of them are too risk-hardy. We’ve never even had a broken bone!

  10. Angela
    April 16, 2009 | 5:02 pm

    Love Heidi’s comment: “this is THEIR WORLD and they need to learn to live in it.” It’s a battle finding the balance between protecting them and allowing them some independence and room for discovery. And what is acceptable limits to me, may not be to others (as my children play in a roadside ditch on our VERY quiet road). Best reminder for me – I do not own them. My parents were pretty good about letting us loose and we never suffered any injuries because of it.

  11. Becky
    April 16, 2009 | 5:45 pm

    Yes danger is around every turn… even, as I am tragically experiencing locally, at your own church. You are right to be protective AND to occasionally be distracted by coffee cups and chip bags so that they (the kids) can see some of the world… or at least try to 😉

  12. Adventures In Babywearing
    April 16, 2009 | 8:16 pm

    Beck, I wish so much you were my neighbor and that my kids could play with your kids and we could sit and watch them from afar, or even with our backs turned, together.


  13. His Girl Amber
    April 16, 2009 | 9:13 pm

    ah yes, balance. I’m not sure I’ll ever get it…

  14. Jennifer
    April 16, 2009 | 10:53 pm


  15. Fairly Odd Mother
    April 16, 2009 | 11:04 pm

    You don’t know how much I fight against my instinct to hover and worry. But, my mother did it to an extreme—for example, no playing any sports b/c I might get hurt. When I went to college and got on my own, I went a bit wild for a while. I’m hoping by letting my kids be a bit wilder, they’ll get it out of their system. However, I’m still more cautious than most and probably seem to hover; but compared to my upbringing, my kids are free.

  16. Decadent Housewife
    April 17, 2009 | 10:14 am

    Parenthood is not for the faint of heart.

  17. Kelly
    April 17, 2009 | 1:34 pm

    Your husband is right, of course.

    But it doesn’t make it easier, does it?

  18. Alyssa Goodnight
    April 18, 2009 | 7:49 pm

    I definitely overprotective, but I can’t help it. I want to shield them from so much. Frankly I wish I was still being shielded. I already don’t watch the news (although I probably should), but the world is infringing on my peaceful little idyll anyway.

  19. Dawn
    April 18, 2009 | 10:46 pm

    Alas I am reminded of a cousin of mine who severely broker her arm at the tender age of 3. Poor thing. Her mother did all she could do to help prevent the looming danger as her youngest plunged, elbow first, from atop her perch, down onto the linoleum below. (Yes, she fell off her chair at lunch time.) No matter how much we think we protect them, and some protection is indeed needed, they’ll still come thru life with bumps and bruises and be all the better for it.

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    March 29, 2012 | 3:03 pm

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