Ben’s treehouse and other delicious kid things that make me nervous.

Ben in his magic tree, shot with Canon Xsi

If you came over to my house right now, the first thing that would happen is that Ben would take you by the hand and show you his treehouse. He is exceedingly proud of it even though it is simply a tree, with good limbs for climbing, and he can stand in it and see the world from a wonderfully high vantage point. What does make it special though is that he has fashioned a world of shelves, zip lines, pulley systems and grappling hooks, all from cardboard boxes and red craft yarn. He has a lot of plans… and I don’t always know what to say yes to, if he has a grip on reality or not. Will he actually try to use the crocheted zip line? Will he hurt someone with the coat hanger grappling hook?

But really, I’m just worried about him falling out of the tree. There is a line of bricks underneath it and the cement walkway to our house is just beside that. I have flashbacks to his drop seizures, of the time he actually did fall out of the tree, slammed his head on the pavement and then had a seizure. Or did he have a seizure and then fall out of the tree? Or the time he fell off the slide and the same thing happened.

For a while there, it was almost easier. There were hard rules: No trees, no tall play structures, no hikes with big cliffy edges, no swimming pools or bonfires. It was clean. Now that he is medicated I am in the murkier waters of balance– how do I let him be a boy? climb trees, fall off his bike, all that delicious kid stuff and still keep him safe?

Yesterday, a neighbor who I shared my concern with, called up to him. “Hey Ben! Why don’t you expand your empire to the magnolia tree?” she pointed to the tree in front of our house with its elegant pink blossoms, placed more delicately in a patch of grass and soft dirt. His eyes got big. He liked the sound of that.

Then he ran to the other side of the house and creeped back behind the jade plants. He squealed with delight, “There’s a clubhouse back here! and tunnels!” He dragged his tiny purple desk chair back there, built a new shelf and attached a shoelace from one tree to the next.

My shoulders dropped. At least for now, he’s at ground level again.

Until he sets his sights on the next adventure of course. I’ll take it though. A moment of reprieve.

11 Comments

  1. Posted March 23, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I read this as my three year old is trying to climb to the top of my mini van. And doing quite well, cement all around. He is willful and makes me nervous to the core of my being. He just said, “This day, I can see everything around me from way up here.” Makes me think what I might find a way to see more of.

    Love to you mama, and to ground level.

  2. Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Ah, the balance between freedom and safety. Those sound like difficult lines to create. I don’t envy you! And you have a whole extra pack of worries to add in to the normal mix. Mama, you must have your hands full but I guess sometimes we just need to coast alone and gather our breath in those moments of reprieve. In my fairly limited kid experience I’ve noticed that boys seem to get out of the parental safety zone much more often than girls. Although I want my two year old daughter to be more fearless than she is (she’s sometimes a bit fearful) so that she grows into a kick ass, brave woman, sometimes I swallow it and can’t help but think “ahhh” this is easier. Hopefully she’ll be climbing those limbs one day too though! The low ones. :)

  3. elizabeth
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    This is so beautiful Andrea….thank you for sharing with the rest of us who are trying to navigate our own murky waters…

  4. Posted March 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    lovely blog x

  5. elisa mikiten
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Well, you know I have reason to fret too. I didn’t think it would work to say “be carefu!” 900 times a day. I figured if I were to put myself in total charge of safety, he could put himself in charge of recklessness, and that would be hell. I also thought that sabotaging his confidence would make him fall for sure! But I did stand under the tree and try to say something relatively neutral, like, “I’m keeping you safe.” And Eli started to ask for that when he was doing something on the edge. “Mama, would you come keep me safe?” That encouraged me because it showed that he was at least aware of when he was taking a chance. Even now we do some of that, though usually without words.

  6. Posted March 24, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    One of my favorite books of all time, and one of the only parenting books I’d ever recommend is “Free Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy. It talks about this kind of thing, about dangers and the need to give kids more freedom. I think every parent struggles with it…how much is too much, how safe is my child, what if something happens and it will all be my fault. I think it’s an ever shifting line in the sand, and not necessarily a clear one. Trust yourself and your inner voice, and I think you can never go wrong. :)

  7. Lois Jones
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    When our kids were 2 & 4, we moved to India, and lived in the mountains, where the way to get around was on rocky, fairly steep paths. They would RUN down the paths, with me yelling to slow down, SLOW DOWN!! Useless. Eventually I gave up, deciding to trust that their natural sense of self-preservation would protect them. We all survived :), and it sure helped my sanity to let go. They are now in their 20’s, and still do things that amaze me with their courage and basic sure-footedness. Best to you as you navigate this!

  8. Anneli
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I love Ben’s sense of adventure. What an adorable, courageous boy. He’ll go far.

  9. cayden
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Other mothers always gasp when my 6 and 3-year-old climb too high at the park. Though since they could climb I always walked beneath them, instead of limit, because I felt it was important for them to learn how to trust their own bodies, or gain a sense of their bodies. There is one tree though that I put old mattresses under- just incase:)

  10. Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    the adventures of childhood. love!!!
    i am still climbing trees.

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