I feel like the spirit of Bad Dad month is those things we’re supposed to do as dads: push the boundaries and help develop a sense of adventure in our kids. Last month I was out for a Hearthstone Walk (playing Hearthstone and getting exercise… but that’s a story for another article) when I noticed that a runoff-catching pond in our neighborhood was missing its manhole cover. I went and took a look. As sewers go, it wasn’t very exciting. Just one concrete block next to a pond, a ladder to the bottom, and a pipe to the other side of the berm.
I finished up my Hearthstone match before I got back home, giving me some time to think. When I was a kid, I crawled through a number of drains. There was a particularly large one behind my apartment building that ran under a road. I played there often (though I’m certain it wouldn’t have been an approved activity). I also remember a grate in my schoolyard that was missing its lock. It became a dare to climb down inside.
Those were formative moments for me, and they’re the kind of activity that our kids aren’t getting exposed to in our hyper-parenting safety-at-all-costs world. I got it in my head that I should bring the kids on a field trip! Rushing excitedly inside our home, I told them we were going to go do something that, while not necessarily wrong, was a bit “naughty.”
Tactical error! I got my daughter sufficiently worried that she started to cry. She thought I was going to get in trouble. However, she also really wanted to go. So, after my wife and I sorted out her concerns, we were on our way. We bicycled over to the pond, and the kids readily jumped on top. They were pretty happy to be there, but weren’t too keen on climbing down the ladder, so I went first.
Once I got down, I described it to them, and talked about the pipe leading to the lower side of the hill. They got excited about that and ran to find the outflow. After hollering back and forth, they came in to join me. That normalized the place for them, and they both tried climbing up the ladder, then back down, and out the pipe again.
The day was a success. The kids both had fun and gained some self-confidence. The world had just become slightly less of a mystery, and they learned that not all areas foreign to them are necessarily off-limits. As part of the outing, I had a talk with them upon returning home about parenting styles, and why they shouldn’t spread the word to their friends. I followed up with a neighborhood Facebook post about the missing cover for the less Bad Dad-inclined parents, and it’s since been replaced.
To complete the tale, that schoolyard sewer expedition of my youth didn’t end so well. The grate was accidentally dropped on the arm of one of the kids. So maybe there’s something to be said for a safer world. In place of the total freedom of days gone by we’ll keep looking for Bad Dad adventures.