There was an enormous sugar maple tree in my grandmother’s back yard. I named it, simply, “The Climbing Tree,” and it was the center of my imaginary universe throughout childhood. I spent many hours climbing its branches while daydreaming, playing make-believe, and dreaming up all sorts of dangerous and fun things to do. In fact, the word “dangerous” never really entered my mind – until the day I got brave enough to climb all the way up to the fork at the top of the tree, look down on the roof of my grandmother’s two-story house, and sling a leg up over a branch to sit in the “saddle” of the fork. That was all well and good, until I discovered that slinging my leg back over in reverse, to get back down in time for dinner, was a whole ‘nother matter. I would have to hang on for dear life, suspended out over nothing, and work my leg out of its awkward predicament, risking a broken neck – or worse, I would have to yell for help. I’ve always been able to imagine consequences several moves ahead (this would probably make me a great Chess player, if I had any patience whatsoever), and I immediately envisioned my parents’ panic and their ensuing ban on my ever climbing The Climbing Tree again. Better to risk death or paralysis.
I sat there as dusk settled in, listening to the church bells a couple of miles down the road. I may have prayed. And then I mustered the courage, wrapped my arm around the limb in front of me, and kicked my right leg up behind me. It took a couple of tries to clear the limb behind me, and I had to sort of let gravity pull me around to the other side of that front branch – where I had no lower branch to stand on – in order to get free of the fork. Arms skinned, hands sore, but very pleased with myself, I made my way down the tree and did not tell my family this story for years and years. Once we’d moved, and The Climbing Tree was no longer an important part of my life, I ‘fessed up.
I have two children; I now understand that there are things a parent really doesn’t need to know and think about, at the time they happen.
Most of us invest a lot of time, effort, and worry protecting our kids. Often from the wrong things.
“Overprotective” is packing your child in styrofoam and duct taping him inside a piano box so he’ll never risk a bruise. It’s hard to be “overprotective” when it comes to strangers and it’s wise not to let your three year old drive. Unless… well, I hear I “drove” down Daytona Beach while standing on my dad’s lap, once or twice, when I was about a year old. Didn’t hit any sunbathers, either. He would never have allowed that.
Gever Tully argues for letting children do dangerous things. With electricity, power tools, and knives, among other things. I think he’s right, and this is one of the reasons I love Boy Scouts and have encouraged my son to continue on and earn his Eagle Scout rank – because Boy Scouts seems to recognize this need of boys, particularly, to do “dangerous things” under a reasonable amount of adult supervision and while teaching practical preparedness, safety, and first aid. Girls, too, should be encouraged to do “dangerous things,” and they have Scouting programs, as well. Venture Scouts offers older teens greater challenges and learning opportunities that involve real-life experiences and a few “dangerous things.” I think these kids are much better prepared for life and success than the ones who get all their learning from books, Internet, and TV – and they face the future with courage, not foolish bravado. Watch what Gever Tully has to say in 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Kids Do:
For more dangerous ideas to encourage your kids to try, read 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Gever Tully. It’d be a good idea to supervise, but maybe bite your tongue and sit on your hands.