Parenting is an art, not a science

Some kids in my neighborhood are building(or built) this tree house.  Scrap wood and duct tape. And probably a handful of nails.

Looks great, huh…

See I can a m good judge of tree houses, because when I was maybe 10 or 11, and lived in Indianola, Iowa some friends and I built a tree house in “The Big Old Hickory Tree.”

(That’s what we called it, you can see I got my way with words early on in life…)

As best as I can remember the tree was a thousand feet tall and we built our tree house about 900 feet up in the air.
After we decided we needed to build the tree house, probably to spy on kids in the next neighborhood or to have dirt clod battles or some other sort of high level strategic 6th grade activity, we began to work. We scavenged through construction sites and Mark Conley’s garage to find the wood. Most of it had only been used once or twice. The nails came from a rusty coffee can at my house. We hammered steps into the trunk, carefully using at least two nails for each step. Somehow we got the larger pieces of wood up the 900 (or maybe 9) feet to the “perfect place.”
(It is at times like this, when I reflect on our tree house, that I really respect the Egyptians and the Mayans and all those really smart civilizations before ours. Not so much for their engineering and construction prowess. Which as I understand it was pretty amazing since all they had was a ruler made out of a dog’s hind leg and a piece of papyrus to do all the engineering involved in the manufacturing of the giant thins they manufactured. But rather i admire them for their patience. Cause they would take centuries or decades or some really long period of time to build their things. We wanted to be done in time to go to the pool in the afternoon.)
Nevertheless, after a handful of long summer mornings, (because the afternoons were reserved for swimming) we finished the tree house, fully complying to all the fifth-or-sixth-grade-codes and scrambled up to the top. We could see forever. Or at least through the cow pasture to the next neighborhood.
As best as I can remember, there was never a parental visit to the job site. Just me and Mark Conley and David Bell and Michael Pfeiffer and some scrap wood and bent nails and a big tree.
What were our parents thinking…?
Didn’t they know that someone could get hurt? No one asked what kind of liability insurance we had. No one considered the possibility that maybe one of us would fall from the tree or get tetanus from a rusty nail or end up with a giant splinter crammed under a fingernail. And what about bicycle safety? I can guarantee you that not one single of us had a helmet on when we rode our bikes over to get the scrap wood from the construction site. We probably built a ramp to jump our bikes off with the extra, extra scrap wood, so don’t even get me started on that one.
Where were they, I ask you?
Shirking their parental responsibilities, just throwing caution to the wind….
Maybe, just maybe,  they were letting us be kids.
(And probably watching from much closer than I realized.)
Cause now I realize that it is hard to know when to “push in” and when to “pull away” as a parent.
When to give a little rope, or when to pull the reins tight.
(do you want another metaphor, cause i got’em…?)
It really is hard sometimes, especially now that they are getting older,  to give the girls boundaries.  The right boundaries.
To know when to let them stretch and when to hold them close.
When to let them build a tree house in a too tall tree and when to suggest a shorter tree.
What I am figuring out is that parenting is really much more of an art than science.
Cause the science part would say “there is no way you and a bunch of knucklehead friends are going to build a tree house made out of scrap wood half way up to the sky.”
And the art part says, “what would (or could) happen if they did?”

Posted on September 22, 2011, in Dad stuff, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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