The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 14

Power Tools and
Power to the Kids
They can solve their own problems, if we step
back and let them try.
IT'S AMAZING how quickly you can get used to things.
Homeschooling, wearing a mask at the grocery store-things that
were unimaginable only weeks ago now seem routine, though we're a
long ways away from normal. In all of this COVID chaos, I see a thin
silver lining from the parenting realm, and here's why.
Like many of you, I spent a lot of time chauffeuring my kids to the
activity du jour. With four of them, we have more trips to make than
some, but I would say most families I know are rowing along beside us
in the same boat-burning up the roads, keeping complicated colorcoded calendars on the fridge, and generally burning out.
In the 1950s and '60s, when my parents were growing up, things
were very different. My father's mother, my grandma Joyce, would
chase her five boys out of the house and say, " See you at dinnertime. "

14

JULY/AUGUST 2020

CHRISTY RIPPEL is an award-winning freelance writer, covering lifestyle, design,
health and parenting. A VT graduate, she likes to bike and walk local trails. When
she and husband Chris aren't watching the Hokies, they watch their four kids
compete in sports. Christy is a Maryland native and lives in Roanoke County.

Their adventures were the stuff of family legend, and made for
some great bedtime stories. Lighting cattails on fire, and traipsing
through the sewers, popping up manhole covers on streets they didn't
know (streets they didn't know!) and finding the way home. My dad
and my uncles gained independence in that time away, solving their
own problems. My mom's stories are different, but she was allowed
enough freedom in her West Virginia mining town to get into a bit
of good-natured trouble.
As parenting evolved from the hands-off-hand-me-another-cocktail
mode, it became an endeavor that moms and dads poured their time
and resources into, convinced it would grant their offspring an edge. As
each generation of parents upped the ante (Mandarin lessons, kids?)
we've now landed in a vicious cycle-overscheduling, mitigating risk,
mowing down discomfort and obstacles at every turn for our precious
babes.
In the book " How To Raise an Adult, " Julie Lythcott-Haims
talks about how the over-scheduled, over-parented kids drifting into
college are ill-prepared for the curve balls that life away from mom
and dad throws at them. Lythcott-Haims should know-she was
Stanford University's dean of freshmen for a decade. Her book feels
eerily familiar, even though I've tried to keep my kids accountable and
independent. The societal pull to manage and shape and overreach is
strong, and the reigning parenting belief is that if you're lucky enough
to be middle class or beyond, you should be doing all you can for your
offspring. It's just that doing all we can for them might actually mean
doing less than we're doing. Doing less than I'm doing, if I'm honest.
Less oversight, less " no! " , less rescuing.
This time at home has given me space to ponder, and I've let my
kids do things the old me never would have done, like take a pile of
scrap wood into the trees behind our house to build a fort (Nails! A
10-year-old wielding a drill!). But my husband taught our kids how to
use these things safely, in the many projects they've tackled together.
I tried to remind myself of this while I watched from the upstairs
window, thinking about how I'd explain myself in the ER. " Well, yes
doctor, I did let them borrow the drill, " sounds...insane.
But no one got hurt. My kids nailed and screwed some wood to a
tree, and built their " fort. " As usual, my imagined worst case scenario
didn't come true, but something good happened-they learned that
they were capable of doing things alone, without an adult peering
over their shoulders. They emerged from the woods like men, and a
woman, returning from battle. That moment was worth the risk, which
I sometimes forget is necessary for reward.
How will we be different, in a world that will no doubt be different
living with and through COVID-19? We're all re-evaluating priorities,
expenses, goals-and parenting. I'm thinking about how we can find
more white space on the calendar. And how I can back off more, and
give my kids a longer leash to solve their own problems.
I'll try to resist hiding the drill. -CHRISTY RIPPEL

TheRoanoker.com

CHRISTY RIPPEL

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The Roanoker - July/August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - July/August 2020

The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - Cover1
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - Cover2
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 3
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 4
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 5
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 6
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 7
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The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - Cover3
The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - Cover4
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