Summertime brought hordes of kids to the bush. We'd gather up our lunches, hammers, nails, saws and scraps of wood , cross the railroad tracks on the edge of town and seek refuge from the scalding prairie sun under the cool shade of the trees. on a good day someone's dad would come help us build something really cool. But usually a parent was the last thing you would see . My three year old brother would be tagging along behind us with the other little brothers and sisters.
Like a website a Fort is never actually finished. Always growing , little hands building and building. The fort was actually pretty high tech. Once a few dads came out and laid the framework for us. Six large poles sunk into the ground to support the siding. My dad draped a tarp over the double slanted roof to make it water proof and secured it tightly. From their it was up to us. We got our hands on someone's old 70's style wood paneling for the inside. the outside was made of scrap plywood. We made a window with no glass. Built a table into the wall. fashioned benches and a crude floor with green shag carpet. Outside was a fire pit. The girls actually planted a small garden with leftover seeds. It didn't grow too well but C'est la vie. It was preteen heaven.
There was one small problem. It was on the ground. Everyone knew you had to be up in the air should WILD ANIMALS come sniffing around. We needed a tree house to run to in the event of wild animals. So a few feet away from the fort a tree house was built. It was perfect it was cool but there was still a problem. Everyone knew we needed a plan to hide it from THE BIG KIDS who would defile it. This led to a couple small lookouts hidden carefully from view under the cover of massive jack pine branches. No one could see you but you could see out. Each platform had strings of fishing line leading out to tree branches in different directions and was equipt with a large supply of pine cones. If the BIG KIDS came everyone would take their posts and tug on a line to shake a tree branch then throw a pine cone in that direction to make a noise as if someone was running that way thereby sending them off in the wrong direction and keep the location of our paradise concealed. We had to go out everyday rain or shine and protect our spot from THE BIG KIDS.
We were soldiers. We were pioneers building our homestead in a strange new land. We were never home and never supervised. Times have changed.
I would often catch myself comparing my home to that of my mother and grandparents. Why don't I get all that baking done? How come I have to struggle all day to keep the house clean? Why don't I always have the energy to prepare a full blown roast beef/ chicken dinner feast with all the trimmings everyday? How come I only make one kind of potatoes and choose only 1 side dish? Why don't I take up knitting again? How come I don't try making the kids some cloths myself to save some money? Why did I waste money on disposable diapers? Why do I only iron on special occasions?
Because I don't have time. Yes my kids spend an average of 4 hours a day outside in the park away from home and not messing up the house. But I'm WITH them so I'm not cleaning it either. While our generation roamed freely our children don't have that luxury, times have changed and its not safe to just let them roam around all day. That's a lot of time parents no longer have to get stuff done without kiddies under their feet undoing everything they just did. I don't have the afternoon free to knit and sew and get one up on the house cleaning and quite frankly I'm not giving up the "me" time I take in the mornings after everyone's fed and dressed and I've cleaned it all up. The time I take then for "grown up talk" and expanding my web skills, or working on a small business, is my gift to me to keep myself sane and build my energy up so I can make the park trip and be an active parent without dropping from exhaustion. I used to really beat myself up over it. I've changed my idea of perfect parenting.
Now I remind myself of all the things I did accomplish instead of the things I did not. When I think about it even on my least productive days ...I have done a lot. and so has every other parent.
Now as to perfect parenting in the new millennium. Its not about who makes the best carrot cake, has the most starched doilies and the cleanest living room these days. Ask yourself this. Have I groomed my children? Have I spent quality time with them? Did they eat balanced meals? Did I do something to make them feel loved? Did we do something educational? Were their needs met? Did I fit in a few wants too? Did I talk to them? Did I tell them I loved them? The answer is yes. Perfect.