Trin recently figured out he can climb over the fence. It's not a particularly strong fence. I got it on Craig's List for free – an old six-foot cedar unit that had been replaced, and all I had to do was take the panels off the posts, bring it home, and put it onto new posts here. Some of the boards are dry-rotted where the vertical 1x6's are connected to the horizontal 2x4's. Others are split, or have big knots in them. So I didn't feel real excited about it the other day when he led a pack of neighborhood kids in a chase over the top of it. Especially since there's a lovely patch of tulips on the other side of it.
I was challenged again when Trin walked out the door this morning, expressing his intention to climb over the fence again. Having embraced the philosophy of Nonviolent Communication, I immediately expressed my reservations – and promptly became an unpopular parent. I tried to understand what he was needing in climbing over the fence, and to consider my needs, too. It didn't take long to figure out that the passage from one side to the other wasn't the issue – there's a gate on the other side of the house, and he's free to use it. So it was the process. Boards not strong = broken fence and hurt boy. Safety, economic security (don't want to pay to fix it), and beauty (don't like to look at a broken fence).
Didn't matter. Trin called me some names (including 'Dummy!'), stormed out of the house, and kicked everything in sight for a few minutes. His scowl made the storm clouds look like sunshine.
I nursed my own hurt and anger for a bit, while I finished the breakfast dishes. Then I went outside and asked him to come look at the fence with me.
"What is it you like about climbing over?" I asked.
"I like the challenge. Look, this is how I do it!" He scrambled up the fence.
"Mmm hmm." I pointed out where a nail was missing from one board, and another had rotted considerably. A third had been cut thin. I pointed out where he'd stepped on a plant in the garden.
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry." Losing interest, he ran off to play with Sam.
I got the hammer and scrounged a nail. Added it to the board that needed it. Looked over the fence and the ground around it. The first three boards next to the gate are in good shape. (The gate latch doesn't work well or from both sides, so we don't use that gate much.) There aren't any tulips on the outside, and no important plants on the inside. I called Trin back and showed him.
"The only thing, I'm still concerned about other kids, especially if they're bigger than you. Would you just climb it when they aren't around?"
He scrambled up again, this time reaching the top before dropping onto the other side.
It took a lot of effort to first give up my own reservations, and the hurt from the names he called me; second, to figure out what needs he was meeting in climbing over the fence (in some ways, it would have been easier to just add a brace that would make it stronger, but would also make it easier to climb); and third, to take the time to ensure that he could climb the fence with a minimum of danger to himself, the fence, and the tulips.
But I saw the light in his eyes when he climbed over, looked back, and blew me a kiss.
More effort, yes. But worth it.