Thursday, January 10, 2013

Go Climb a Tree

Every once in a while, Michael and I don’t quite see eye to eye.  Nothing unusual about that. Like most couples, we talk through the issues and come to a compromise. On the topic of child rearing, he tends to be a bit more overprotective than I am. Don’t get me wrong, I worry and fret about my babies’ emotional and physical well being just as much as he does, if not more. But, I know that part of my job as a mom is to prepare my children to function independently in a world that may be indifferent and even hostile at times.

After months of renovation work, we finally moved into our new house a couple of weeks ago. I love that we have plenty of room to spread out, and a yard full of lush greenery with magnificent trees. The kids love it, too. Especially the part about the trees.  And that’s where Michael and I disagree a bit.

He thinks that it’s far too dangerous for kids to climb trees. I say, let them climb. Is there a chance that they’ll fall and get a little scraped up? Sure. 

“What if they break an arm or a leg? What will you do then?” says Michael. 

That’s a bridge I’d rather not think about crossing. Of course, I’d be heartbroken, like any mother would be. My tears would flow more easily and with greater strength than my injured child’s. But we would get to a doctor, be fitted with a cast and learn to be more careful in the future.

I took an informal poll amongst my friends and was truly surprised at the differences of opinion. Then, I did a bit of searching on the Internet. It seems that the issue isn’t as straightforward as I had assumed. In my world, childhood equals playing in the dirt, climbing trees, scraping knees and going indoors only when the sun goes down.
But, for a lot of moms and dads – well, moms more than dads - the risks outweigh the advantages, it seems. I read about the hazards, the what-ifs and the keep-them-safe-at-all-costs opinions.

This worst-case scenario thinking and fear-based living doesn’t really resonate with me. I just can’t approach life like that. If my kids want to scramble up a tree, I’ll be there to support them. Why? 

Because I know that there are valuable lessons to be learned up there.

For one thing, it’s a great workout. It helps with developing balance and coordination, while necessitating the use of all the major and minor muscle groups. Also, when children climb trees, they are learning to overcome physical challenges, and maybe even a bit of fear, thus building self-confidence that they will carry with them for life. They are developing strong positive connections with nature while experiencing the unique perspective and freedom that comes from being 30 feet above ground.

But don’t take my word for it.

Child development specialists state that when children engage with natural climbing structures like trees, they experience heightened awareness and focus, as well as learning to exercise judgment and self-restraint by choosing which route to take and how high to go. Now, how can you argue with that?

So, will my kids have free reign on the trees in my yard? You betcha. And I’ll be right there with them, as cheerleader, advisor and giver of hugs. It’s in my job description. I’m a mom. 



  1. Great post Tamera, I agree - "What doesn't kill or hurt you, makes you stronger."

  2. Thank you, Suenet! We get stronger by pushing our limits, both mental and physical.