Letting Kids Climb a Tree Is Not a Crime
I missed my kids a lot this weekend. It’s rare that I leave them for a few hours so it’s incredibly rare to find me leaving for a few days. My momma heart ached being so far away, so feeling them in my arms could not come soon enough today.
It was a beautiful evening in Minnesota -- a perfect blue sky not marred by clouds while the temperature was in the 70′s without humidity. After dinner we took a walk. The girls laughed and ran through the grass and soon we came upon a monstrous tree to climb. I found a cozy spot on the cool grass to sit. Astrid found sticks that still had leaves attached and she used them as her "brooms" as she swept the grass clearing "dirt" while her sisters pretended to make rooms and a home in the large tree and Eloise climbed higher. I had to use my hand to shield my eyes from the bright evening light shining down on my children as they played so happily in that tree. It was one of those perfect moments that don’t come often enough -- you know one of those on a perfect Summer day when your kids are not whining or asking for a snack.
Until a young woman ran by and then circled back to us. At this point Astrid was on my lap and I was tickling her and she had that deep, deep belly laugh that I wanted to bottle and let her listen to the next time she was sad. Astrid then got up and grabbed one of her "broom" sticks and started sweeping again and told me to get up and find a broom so I could be an "old lady sweeper grandma" with her. But before I could get up the young woman started yelling at me...
“Are you the one watching these children in the tree!?”
Why yes, they are mine.
“Well you are a horrible mother!!! Don’t you know how dangerous it is to play in trees? I’m was an EMT and we saw tree accidents everyday! I want them out of there and I want the baby to drop the stick!”
(And I said nothing because what do you say?)
“Parents like you make me so angry! You better be gone by the time I come back or I’m calling the police!”
For climbing a tree? I asked calmly. I didn’t move or say more. I turned my glance back to my children and just willed this woman to leave.
She ran off and I just continued to sit and watch Eloise and Esther climb while Astrid swept the ground. But I was sad. Not because I was endangering my children but because someone could worry that much and say such awful things.
Maybe she saw something just so bad one time that this was her immediate reaction. But to question my parenting? I mean sure my kids could be hurt climbing that tree. I know that risk. But who knew that kids could be hurt or killed at places that should be safe -- a movie theater, a temple, a school, in a car, in a plane, in their own home, in their own yard.
And was this young woman with me at the pool each day this summer when I was the crazy safety lady watching them ALL the time in the water because that’s my job as their mother… even though I know the only way to guarantee they won’t drown is to not let them swim. Or was she there when I fed them chicken and cut Astrid’s portion into bites small enough so she won’t choke even though the only guarantee she won’t choke on food is to feed her liquid. But only when sitting up of course.
I just hope she doesn’t follow me when I drop them off at horse camp because I know that the only way to eliminate the potential of a horse riding injury is to avoid riding.
I take my job as a mom pretty damn seriously and I know a major component of that job description is to keep my kids safe. And I also still remember being a kid and climbing the neighbor’s trees with my cousin to steal some apples and how she fell and broke both her wrists. And yet tree climbing doesn’t scare me.
Because I cannot wrap my kids in bubble wrap and give them a long list of things that they cannot do because maybe they could get hurt. Because how would this list ever have an end point.
So I will let them climb trees on a perfect summer night. And as God as my witness I will not tell another mother how horrible she is for doing so. Ever.
Tracy writes about the lighter side of parenthood at www.sellabitmum.com