Thursday, February 09, 2012

Built To Code

In every city park, they've lopped-off the branches that are low enough for the kids to use for climbing, then compensated with metal ladders that lead to platforms surrounded by railings with no gaps wider than 4-inches, all over fall zones of sand or wood chips.

I guess there are folks who would sue the city over a fall from a tree with branches growing where nature would have it, but not from a structure built to code. I guess we've decided as a society to raise our kids according to a bean-counter's fear of liability, leaving us all to learn to trust "the code" more than our own judgment. 

It seems we've decided to toss aside the ancient process of picking our way through thick and thin branches, testing to see which are sturdy enough for our weight. It's a story older than humanity, learning to find hand and footholds, to turn our bodies in awkward spaces, to swing out and around, to let our own sense of physics, structure, gravity, muscle, and confidence tell us how high we can go on this day. The informal, self-taught art of climbing trees is a thread that knits all the children together, everywhere, and across all the centuries. 

I hope we haven't decided that this is where it ends, like a steel ladder ends at a platform built to code. I hope we haven't given up entirely on climbing trees, where we are free from the limits imposed by railings built to code, where we could always climb a little higher if we just had the knowledge, the skills, or the courage: maybe next time. I'm afraid if we're finally coming down from the trees, we'll leave behind something in those branches, an essential part of what has always made us humans.

And no one can tell us what it is that we'll leave behind, fluttering up there in the branches: it might be our humanity.

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Pip said...

every child needs to climb a tree. My boys love the woods and climbing as high as they dare. We need to keep that part of childhood for all children x

40 said...

Robert Frost reads Birches

Kimberly from vogelJoy said...

That is pretty sad. Climbing trees is so fun! Kids will keep climbing though -- probably a tree will shoot up by that platform and a child will come by and just climb the tree =) Since everyone knows trees are infinitely more exciting than steel ladders!

Kai said...

I recently found your blog and am thrilled I did! You're insights are so right on and it's rad to get to learn from them while standing in the kitchen. I'll be replicating here at birdsnest childcare - to the delight of the kiddos I'm sure.

Joyce said...

It really is sad. I love your post. We aren't all that way though. There are still parents encouraging it. I hope you don't mind me sharing, but I wrote a post about the benefits of climbing trees as well.

We definitely need to increase the awareness though, because it is getting ridiculous. Thanks for spreading the awareness :)

Aunt Annie said...

Honestly, Tom, when I read beautiful but infinitely sad posts like this I want to take to City Council (or whoever decides these things) with a cast iron frying pan. I'm giving myself five minutes in the quiet corner till I stop feeling mad.

Calgary Mom said...

We are rapidly becoming an indoor society with everything we do regulated by risk assessments and codes. Kids that can't climb trees or play tag (can't touch another person). And they wonder why the obesity rate is sky rocketing? Grrr.... frustrates and angers me. I'm glad that there are at least a few out there that believe in getting outside, getting dirty and taking risks - it helps knowing that I'm not alone.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Awesome post! Would you mind if I shared this with my students' parents?

Juliet Robertson said...

Well said! I've just learned about a researcher who is collecting overzealous responses to health and safety. So thanks for sharing.

Children all over the world love climbing trees and adults too! Yay!

Kimberly from vogelJoy said...

Just want to show you - we climbed trees. Even the littlest! Have a look at our video! Just finished it =D

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