I remember a dear friend, who used to cry "Danger!" to her toddler anytime he did anything, well, dangerous (e.g. toddling towards the road). It is, perhaps, the battle cry of all mothers, who instinctively protect their children from all harm.
Jude was one of those kids who was always drawn towards danger. He climbed anything he found that had vertical footholds, and would squirrel butterknives away so that he could clang them together (to sound like a sword fight). He's not much into guns, but his interest in swords and knives has never really faded.
You can imagine his excitement when I picked out a nice little pocket knife for him, for our annual camping trip. The day before our trip, I showed him the knife, and had him practise opening and closing it safely. We repeated the safety "rules" over and over, as Jude has a language learning delay. We can express something that to us sounds clear, but he doesn't always get it the first time. Or even the second or third time.
We've learned that much patience, repetition, patience, and understanding are required when communicating with our son.
As we packed up the final gear, he asked if he could see his knife again. I reminded him again of safety, and walked to the sink. Before I reached the counter, he howled in dismay, running to the sink with a bleeding thumb. Sigh.
This is frustrating for me. Very frustrating. I felt that I'd been a responsible parent by talking with him lots beforehand, demonstrating safe knife use, supervising closely while he practised opening and closing, and setting limits (ie. the knife had to stay in my purse or in daddy's pocket, and he could only use it for cutting with close adult supervision). And still, he cut himself (if anyone out there is feeling smug, as in, "I would never have let that happen to my child, bite your tongue please...)
My husband came in and showed Jude the scar on his finger, from his first pocket knife. I realised that, perhaps, a cut on the finger is a rite of passage that many children don't experience anymore because of over-supervision.
Jude learned caution, only through hurting himself a bit. He spent the five days of our camping trip sharpening sticks into points so that we could use them for roasting marshmallows, into arrows, and into a stylus (which he burnt in a candle flame, to be used for drawing).
I was inspired by this Ted Talks clip of Gever Tulley exploring the dangerous things we should let our kids do.
Jude didn't cut himself again, in spite of much knife use over the time we spent camping. I'm a live and learn kind of gal myself...