It’s been a year. Or, a year and a week since they first asked me, “Can you teach me to climb a tree?”
I couldn’t, of course. Climbing a tree is something you have to figure out on your own. You have to take the branches in your own hands, put your own foot against the trunk of the tree and push off. You have to reach by yourself, pull yourself up between branches and twigs and buds and, eventually, leaves. You have to do it on your own, because if mom or dad or someone pushes you from below, you’re not really climbing.
And so, for a year, I’ve let them climb.
I’ve also let them get stuck. Oops?
And after a break from climbing after that debacle, I let them climb some more. Even when I read stories about cops being called for letting kids climb trees. Because climbing a tree is a right of passage, a beautiful joy of childhood. Climbing a tree is an escape. It is a fort. It is a house. It is a place to hide. It is everything, growing in your front yard, just waiting for you. For your brother. For your laughter. For your mom to get smacked in the face with a branch when she bends to get a better angle for a picture.
BigBrother wound up with a scratch and a bruise on his forehead last week. LittleBrother scratched his back trying to get down off of a bigger branch. I’m still waiting for a fall, a thud that hurts me as I watch it happen even though it’s not happening to me. Even though it is.
And maybe they won’t fall — singularly or plurally. Maybe, as per usual, my worrying is in vain. Maybe they won’t; maybe they’ll climb higher and higher and get braver and braver and learn more and more and finally reach that destination.
And maybe, really, that’s the basis of the fear in general. That by letting them climb and do and reach and pull and be, they’ll continue to climb up, up and away and out of my reach. I sit on the porch, sipping coffee I warmed up in the microwave and still isn’t warm enough to protect against the early spring breeze. I watch them and I know this will continue. If not trees then bikes or sports or college or careers or significant others or what have you. Forever.
And maybe that’s okay.