Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tree House: The Next Generation

How much of our stressful culture do we pass on to our children? I question that children always do what we say- but they definitely do what we do. I have often seen myself unintentionally following the patterns of my parents. I’m sure that I am passing information on to my own children as well, but I don’t know which messages are getting through.

In 2006, I built a tree house with my son. I did this because I traveled extensively and I wanted him to remember us doing something together. I also did this because I didn’t want him to perceive his mom as a mad woman who was forever stressed out, always running to save everyone’s world but her own.

At the time, he was about 9 or 10 and I was looking for a project that would engage us both. I have wanted a tree house since I was a girl. As an adult, I secretly bought a book, Tree Houses You Can Actually Build (by David and Jeanie Stiles, 1998). The most telling information it revealed was that tree houses are as unique as the trees they are built in and the people who build them. It was full of pictures. I dusted it off and handed the book to my son. He sounded like me 40 years ago. “Mom, these are sooo cool! Can we build one?” I told my husband that we were headed off to the hardware store to get materials. His response was brief: “I had a tree house once. It was a plank balanced on a couple of branches about 20 feet up in a tree that I climbed every day.” Back then there were no child safety laws; you just looked down and knew not to slip.