She looked at me aghast, her eyes wide in horror at the mere suggestion,
"No no! They can't climb trees! We're a conservation area! They might damage the trees, plus of course the danger to themselves!"
I kid you not, this is an actual conversation that I have just had with the elderly lady in our local country park when I enquired about hiring a barbeque area there for The Boy's sixth birthday party, hinting at one of the activities he wanted to do.
An hour after his fifth birthday party (I am never doing a joint party with another mum again, very different ideas about what a child's party consists of) my son asked me if he could have his next one in the country park as all he wanted to do was climb trees, make mud monsters and build a den. How could I not agree to such a wonderfully simple idea incorporating simplicity, nature craft, outdoor play and good old fashioned fun?
Of course, what I hadn't bargained on was the health and safety regulations that existed in a country park full of trees. Climb one of them? The very idea of doing one of the most obvious things when confronted with a natural climbing frame caused this woman to nearly collapse in a heap of quivering anxiety. Let's not analyse whether she, her children or grandchildren ever did such a monstrous and disrespectful task; clearly that would be a ridiculous question.
There is a reason why it is #1 on the National Trust's 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 & ¾, because it's a basic childhood activity. Climbing a tree rewards a child so much; challenge, achievement and pride, boosting confidence and self-esteem, and teaching them about perseverance, how to assess dangers, and team work. Being close to nature grounds us in our hectic man-made world.
I left the reception area shocked, not having booked a barbecue area and with my tail defiantly standing to attention rather than between my legs as she wanted.
He will have his party in this free and open country park. He will have a scavenger hunt and create natural art. He will build a den amongst the trees with his friends. He will sit and have a picnic lunch. And if he wants to do that eight foot off the ground up the trees that he and his friends will have climbed, then I for one will not be stopping him.
I'll be sitting on that bloody branch with him!
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