“Hey Mom,” says Declan, “Grab a pair of scissors because we’re going for a run!”
He takes the scissors, stares at me, and starts to jog. He’s eight. He’s good at finding my chain and yanking it. Repeatedly.
I say no.
“Why can’t I run with scissors?” I get off the couch. That’s really what he wants–attention. He knows he can’t run with scissors. What he’s doing isn’t much different from what I do when I need help in a high-end store and nobody’s around. I touch things I can’t afford until someone appears.
“May I help you?” the salesperson says. She wants to say, “You’re broke. Don’t touch!” Instead she stands between me and the pricy things with a glassy-fake smile.
“Hey Mom, can I have the big knife?” Declan asks.
“No.” Kids asking to run with scissors don’t get 10″ chef’s knives.
The question–just a formality. It’s already in his hand. He holds it more like a serial killer than a chef.
Maybe I should relax a bit. Using dangerous equipment builds job skills.
During the Industrial Revolution kids much younger than Declan stuck their hands in machines with moving parts to get out little pieces of lint–many of those factories are right up the road from where I now sit. They revolutionized society. They promised the nation lots of free time, but instead locked people in decades of jobs that wrung out their souls–except on Sundays, when factories provided free church and baseball to keep the masses at bay. That’s why we celebrate Labor Day–because we don’t have to do that anymore.
Now, we overprotect our kids. What harm could a 10″ chef’s knife or a pair of scissors do in the end? What if he would’ve been a chef prodigy and I didn’t let him cook because he could get cut or burned?
“Remember when you cut your thumb, Mom?” he says. “That was cool.” I wonder how cool it’ll be when he’s the one bleeding. I show him how to hold the knife properly.
“I want to be a chef,” he says. “I’m going to make you a fruit salad.” He doesn’t ask if I want a fruit salad. If you go to his restaurant, you get what he serves.
He puts down the chef’s knife and cuts a banana in half with the scissors. “That’s a food hack, Mom. I saw it on YouTube.” I don’t tell him a “hack” is a workaround. We don’t need a workaround when we have the knife right here. Moms can’t contradict YouTube.
I slice the apple in half for stability and guide him through cutting with the big knife. I tell him the apple came from our tree. He doesn’t care. He stabs it and makes a Kung Fu Panda noise. I blab about knife safety.
He doesn’t want to hear about knife safety or local fruit unless it’s also on YouTube. I’ve written before that YouTube’s making adults unnecessary, passé. That’s precisely why we block most of it in schools. Teachers want to be useful and relevant. Moms do not, though. We just want a break. I might make a series of videos called “Do Your Homework,” and “Go to Bed” and put them up.
Meanwhile, I’ll be on vacation in Bali. Declan can push the button and watch my parenting instructions while I sit on the beach with one of those umbrella drinks in my hand. He can push “like” when he’s done or give me a thumbs down instead of whining and complaining. I don’t want to hear it. Put it in the comments.
Declan chops the apple. “I’m done. You can have it now.”
I eat the apple. I tell him not to put knives in the sink. People grab them and bleed.
“Cool,” he says. I wash the knife. He tells me he’s going to make me something gluten free for lunch, like carrots, but then he loses himself in Minecraft.
Mike Rowe’s new show, Dangerous Kid Jobs, will have to wait a few seasons longer.
This post’s photo was taken by and stolen from Sarah Steenland, who’s sitting on an island drinking coffee and umbrella drinks. Her children put their lessons on YouTube, under the guise of the Green Gorilla Project where they are traveling the world “boatschooling.” While Declan is using knives, the Steenland children stand on boat decks safely, without falling in the water or fighting sharks.