Monday, 20 April 2009

Climbing Trees

As a child I loved climbing trees - being scared of heights increased the thrill - there was not a place I played that there was not a tree with a den in it. I often got stuck, sometimes fell down - the worst was a sprain ( although, my brother did break his arm falling out of a tree trying to avoid being stung by a wasp!) but you feel like king of the world in a tree above the heads of adults - sometimes walking underneath unaware of the adventurer lurking in the leaves and branches. The trees all had names ; Bertie was a pollarded oak tree with a hollowed out crown in his upper trunk - reached by a ricketty rope ladder. My childhood was liberated - free to roam and adventure - often miles from home in remote places surrounded by the wind and the wild. This life was probably fraught with potential risks but the real damage didn't lie in burnt out pill boxes, abandoned railway carriages, smashed up war shelters, mud flats, creeks or fallen tree bridges over deep ponds - it lay in the words and actions of my family. To escape to the swaying top of a tree did not pose the risk, because broken bones can be mended in nearly all cases, but spirits are much more fragile and much harder to heal.
On the Dykes To Watch Out For Blog they are discussing airport security reactions to the risk of terrorism. I understand that it is responsible to have greater security to adapt as risks become apparent - just like it is worthwhile having risk assessments when you take children on a school trip - But somehow I am sad - children are discouraged from climbing trees - playing outside without an adult. We are suspiscious of people resembling stereotypes of Muslims - even Brazilians - just in the same way every Irish person was suspected and questioned during IRA attacks on the UK. Probably Basques are treated with the same suspiscion in Spain, Tamils in Sri Lanka etc. etc. So many governements are concerned with seeming to do something to react to risks - but much of this is crazy and pointless as if closing the house door after the horse has bolted out of the stable - like banning beef on the bone after the Mad Cow Crisis in the UK - when the risk was infintessimle (sp?) whilst having allowed animals to be ground up and fed to other herbivore animals had previously been legal.
I don’t know how the world can become less mad - full of concern over what might happen - so that we often stop living life to the full today. Everything seems more likely, somehow closer with Media coverage bringing it right into our homes every day.
I know I find it hard not to want to caution my children to the point that they are nervous of strangers and worried about potential hazards - but where is the balance? What would be a sensible way to deal with the threats of: terrorism, peadophiles and accidents waiting to happen? How can we live life to the full, without worry holding us back, and not be reckless in the face of real risks? How can I enable my children to climb trees and feel like kings of the world - without communicating wordlessly my concern about what might happen?

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