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Photo by drniels on

10.5 seconds. That’s how long it took for my kids to jump out of the truck, run into the woods, and find a tree to climb on Friday. 

180 minutes. That’s how long it took for the screams from the woods to reveal that one of my kids had fallen out of that tree.

What goes up…

My kids are active. They have run off more than one babysitter, at least one grandparent, and occasionally even a parent. They are good, but they are 100% kid. They climb trees, they scream, they chase, they kick balls, they jump in cold water, they happily take dares, they pull pranks on each other, and they sometimes get caught in precarious situations including on top of a house, balancing on a swing set, or playing hideout in the back of a closet. I’ve raised them to explore their creativity, and they do.

Given that we don’t have a lot of climb-worthy trees around our house, they love it when we go camping so they can have a picnic in a tree, play capture the flag after dark, and make as much noise as humanly possible.

… Must come down

Friday evening, about 3 hours into our camping weekend, I heard an earth-shattering scream from my 8 year old. He came running to me while holding his side. He had fallen from a tree and hit a limb on the way down. The outside of his thigh had a massive bruise and scrape, but he was otherwise intact. I was concerned about whether it would initiate some fear in him, but it didn’t. In fact he was out climbing a tree as soon as the ice left his skin.

Later that evening my 5-year-old got into a fight with a tree after dark, and the tree left a lasting mark on his side. These battle scars became my boys’ pride and joy for storytelling at school on Monday.

Old school parenting

I think parents these days are too cautious with their kids. We try to protect them from bumps and bruises by keeping them under lock and key. We try to protect them from heartache by calling every other kid on campus a bully. We teach them not to defend themselves in fear of them becoming bullies themselves.

I, on the other hand, was raised playing soccer on an all boy’s team, playing tackle football, putting soap on the Slip N Slide, climbing trees, riding a bike without a helmet, and laying on the baseboard of the car or sitting the bed of the truck. We drank from the water hose, “smoked” candy cigarettes, and gave each other black eyes. Kids weren’t bullies, they were just mean… and we took care of it with a good ol’ fashion fist fight.

All of these experiences taught us lessons and personal limits. We learned that a fire was hot by testing it for ourselves. In the process we also learned that our parents were right when they warned us that the fire was hot–even if we hated to admit it. That helped us learn to trust their judgements and limits.

My goal is to raise my kids to be kids. I want them to test their personal limits, run around outside, climb trees, and wear every bruise as a badge of honor. They don’t have to have an organized sport to be active; just toss them a ball and show them where the goal is. Sure, we will probably have more trips to the ER than the average family, but my gut says we probably have more fun than the average family too. Right now, camping is the best time for much of this “kid-dome” to occur, and that’s why we do it as often as we can.

And we have the scars to prove it.

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