When I was a girl, I loved to climb this tall
pine tree that stood alongside our house. I would go all the way to the top.
From there, I was higher than the house itself and could see over the rooftops.
It opened up a whole new world to me. I would
imagine I was a bird flying through the neighborhood. My mother would step out
the front door and scream at me to come down, abruptly ending my fantasy.
"You're going to break your neck!" she'd yell.
Of course, that was a possibility. But I didn't
care. And she never forbade me from climbing the tree. She allowed me to roam
the neighborhood and the woods surrounding it freely, too. With no supervision. I spent a great deal of time exploring a nearby creek. Alone.
Perhaps that is why nature continues to be so important to me as an adult. It's my happy place. There is nothing I enjoy more than a long walk through the woods, or on a beach. Will my child ever feel that way? Or will the lack of the type of experiences I had take a toll?
recognize the world is a different place today than when I grew up. Things can't be the way they were then. Not completely. But
there is something special about exploring nature. Connecting
with it. And I fear not enough kids today get to experience that.
Living in Florida, we can be outside and
active nearly year round. Our city has one
of the largest, diverse, and most unique urban park systems in the nation, with
over 400 park and recreational sites within the city limits.
We also have state and national parks here. Still, even though children in Florida have ample opportunity to explore nature. But beyond
the basic walking along a designated path, I don't see kids today doing very
much of it.
I wish I could watch
my child climb trees and explore the world around her with wild abandon like I
used to. With her epilepsy, we are under doctor's orders not to allow her to
climb more than 3 feet high without proper safety equipment.
Question is: Would I
let her even if she could? It is rare today to see any child doing so.
Occasionally, I have come across a photo in my Facebook feed of one of my friend's
kids in a tree. It makes me so happy.
I can't remember the
last time I actually saw a child climbing a tree in person. The exception being
a local beach filled with dead, fallen trees. Their branches reach toward the
sky, and kids love to climb them. But its not the same as a live, standing
I'd like to say I would allow my child to climb trees if I
could. Sure, I'd be nervous about her getting hurt. But there are plenty of
other activities she engages in that include some level of risk. Life includes
risk. Always. And its not necessarily a bad thing. It has been the times when I took real risks throughout my life that
I learned, and grew, the most.
My daughter is not as
passionate as I was at her age about the outdoors. And she's definitely not as
much of a risk-taker. When I signed her up for an eco camp program at a local
college last summer, I wasn't sure what she would think of the planned
activities. I only signed her up for one week, figuring it would be a good introduction.
And, if she hated it, it was only one week.
She swam in a lake for
the first time. Went canoeing. Fished. Took nature walks and brought
home found treasures. She spent all day in the hot Florida sun and had
the time of her life.
Her favorite part was
the one thing I was skeptical she'd even try—zip-lining over a lake. She was
crazy about it. The only part she didn't like was all the safety gear she
had to wear. It probably weighed about as much as she does, and she had to climb
a rope ladder wearing it.
The reward though? That was so
"Mommy," she said breathlessly after that first day, "it felt like I was flying!"
"I have always wanted to fly," I said.
Sure, it wasn't the same as climbing to the top
of the tree outside my childhood home. She was closely supervised, literally up to her neck in safety equipment. But the experience gave her the same feeling I had as a child.
It was a thrill. It enabled her
to step outside her world and her comfort zone. She did it as many times as they would allow
during that week.
This coming summer,
she wants to go back to the same camp—and for more weeks. In the meantime, I'll
be looking for as many ways as possible to take advantage of the mild winters and get her outside. Give her room to roam. And maybe let her climb a small tree …