Giving our children the freedom to do things on their own (age-appropriate things!), doesn't always turn out as well as we would like. As much as I would like to believe that I have the ability to shield my children from all danger, I do not. Sometimes they do things on their own that don't turn out quite as expected. They might even be hurt. I have no desire to put my children in a position to be hurt, but I also try not to freak out when it happens. So, here's my story.
Not long ago I was on a trip with my girls. On the way home, I stopped to get gasoline. The pump was running very slowly for some reason and I needed something from the convenience store. I told my girls to stay in the car (this is important – I did not give my youngest permission to get out of the car) and that I would be right back. When I returned about 5 minutes later, there was a smell of gasoline on the car and my six-year-old daughter was screaming in the car. I opened the door and saw her throwing water in her face from a water bottle in the car. She was completely soaked.
After I left the car, she had decided to finish pumping the gasoline for me. My husband had been letting her help him a couple of times, which she loved. So, she decided that she could help me out. Unfortunately, pumping gas is a little beyond her ability to do alone and she ended up spraying herself with gasoline and her eyes were burning. We were lucky enough that an ambulance was getting gas at our same pump, so I asked them for assistance and they were quickly able to flush her eyes. She changed her clothes and we were on our way – being careful to stay away from any lit matches or anyone smoking.
Did I freak? No. Did I have a moment of panic? Yes. But, my moment of panic quickly turned into a moment of pride realizing that even though my daughter had made a terrible mistake, she had also reacted completely appropriately by getting the water into her eyes. I was really amazed that at six, she had the presence of mind to take the most appropriate next step to wash the gasoline from her eyes.
Don't get me wrong, we were incredibly lucky that the ambulance was there and this incident was over quickly without anything worse happening. My daughter exercised poor judgment and disobeyed me, but she did it in a spirit of trying to be helpful and she suffered the consequences. She hasn't asked lately to even help pump gas and it will probably be a long time before she is interested in doing it again. And, she will think twice the next time she tries something a little bit dangerous.