I am navigating the line that separates danger and discovery. Walking this line used to be a piece of cake—it was solid, and there was a clear delineation from one side to the other. But over the years, the line has flexed and grown treacherous, making my footing uncertain.
When my children were younger, it was easy to create opportunities for them to discover the world in ways that involved little risk. They would play in the sink with soapsuds, “experiment” with science kits that were designed specifically for kids their ages, or don their puddle boots and wade along the shoreline of our pond with a net and a bucket catching frogs and fish and turtles.
Now that the children have become teens, the line I walk is thin and often barely visible. Their discoveries involve delving into some project that has an uncertain outcome. Take, for example, the electronic interests of my younger son.
He has, in our basement, an area in which he satisfies his technology-driven need to create. He has electronic components culled from the drawers at the back of his favorite Radio Shack stores, before his they all closed. He has an array of lights and breadboards and switches and transistors and miles of wire.
For his most recent project, he created a speaker, wired and assembled and tested by his fourteen-year-old self. But then he needed a transformer and an amplifier, so he built those, as well.
And then he took his creation, and he plugged it into a wall outlet carrying 120 heart-stopping jolts of electric current. That part I made him do in my presence at the kitchen table. And I readily admit, I took a step away from the table, just in case. There was a deep sigh of relief from this mom when the entire contraption did exactly what it was supposed to do.
Yesterday, he began to assemble a box for his speaker. He used power tools to cut the ¾” MDF while I made dinner, pretending not to hear the whine of the saw emanating from the basement. Pretending there was no danger involved in my son’s latest exploits.
Today, when I arrived home from work, he proudly demonstrated his new speaker—assembled and working and sounding pretty darn good, I must say. There is no doubt in my mind that the “discovery” aspect was an integral part of the process: he built, he learned, and now, he will move on to the next project.
Bigger and better discoveries lie ahead for him. And the line I walk—between danger and discovery—becomes ever more treacherous.