We all understand people are more valuable than objects. And we all, as far as I've seen, take efforts to mitigate any damage to our nicer astronomy gear.
The point of this thread is to be a cautionary tale. I specifically purchased a Meade Starpro 90 AZ refractor for my very young son to use as his own under supervision. I've assembled my older and less valuable EPs into a case for him and I've been showing him the ways to properly take care of his equipment. The reasons for doing this are obvious. However, I have a problem with being over protective with anything I value. Even a cheap telescope. As a father to 2 boys I know the challenges of maintaining high expectations and any risks of being way too hard and critical of the young men. There is a happy medium which can, when you are anal retentive, be tricky to maintain.
My son, as young as he is, enjoys going out in the yard and finding objects himself, using his slow motion controls etc. 2 nights ago we came to a crossroads.
As it happened I did not realize we were at a crossroads but later I was able to bring the situation into clarity and ultimately I'm grateful it happened.
We had finished planetary observations for the night. It was one of those really great evenings where you finish up, completely satisfied and buzzing from the views. We were going through the steps of capping the objectives, making sure all the pieces of the kit were properly stowed away, etc. My son asks how to position his refractor vertically and over my shoulder I told him, "just a sec buddy, dont turn any knobs, I'll show you when my hands are free" when a fraction of a second later his scope came careening off the mount, smacked the dew shield off, did a couple of somersaults, before ending up with the objective lense in the dirt and grass. My initial instinct was to chastise the ever living heck out of him for not listening to direction I had just given him. But I didnt. Instead I took an instructional approach reclaiming the scope and dew shield, and showing him how to inspect it for damage. There was no chipping to the lense, the focuser and diagonal were fine. No harm. But after a 30 minute lecture I realized there could have been severe loss, severe harm done had I reacted differently, I could have killed the hobby for him completely. Not to say consequences should not be handed out when a child acts with malicious intent or brazen carelessness. But we need to learn by making mistakes, and sometimes I feel like as anal retentive hobbyists and collectors we can lose sight of this. I could have ruined astronomy for him and I feel like as obvious as this story is, there are endless threads about careful maintenance and storage of EPs and telescopes, that I'd like to add one about how not to lose forever your child's interest.
It could have easily happened to me.
At the end of the day I ask myself, would I take a $200, $300, $400 accidental loss to keep my child interested in astronomy and the answer is a resounding yes.
Maybe this topic has no utility, but if it helps another temperamental dad like myself think twice about how we are stewards of this hobby, this fundemenetal human science in fact, then maybe we can not sweat the small stuff. I am much harder on myself if I fumble or damage something FWIW.
As an added note to this story, I have been to outreach events where the folks were a little edgy with the children, not rude, but very particular. And while I think that it is warranted, as children need to learn the value of other people's belongings, we should realize that if we in fact choose to share this with children, they will inevitably do annoying and inappropriate things with our gear. And I had purchased this Meade scope for EXACTLY that reason yet still found that obsessive hobbyist rear his ugly head.
I'd love to hear any stories from you all. Any accidents or carelessness involving family or friends? Anytime you can think of when you have been at a crossroads with children or others because of something they did? I feel like this could apply to spouses as well although my wife knows how to handle the gear from experience so I've never encountered that.
Edited by SciGlass, 05 August 2020 - 11:17 AM.