eaddy sons in tree

Why a Mom Changed Her Mind About Letting Her Sons Climb a Tree

How I appreciate this story from Olivia Eaddy, a Pennsylvania mom I met when we did a parenting panel together. A few days later, she dropped me a note:

Dear Lenore:

True life moment. So yesterday, while gardening, my 6-year-old Aaron came out to help me. After a few minutes of helping he says, “Mom, I can climb that tree?” (It’s a smaller flowering tree out front. )

I said, “Show me!” Shocked by my response he said, “Mom — it’s this tree right here!” I said, “I know — now show me!” After a few more attempts to clarify my response by asking some additional questions of me, he finally took on my dare.

His first attempt fails but I quickly encourage him to try again. Third time’s the charm. He makes it up the first couple of branches. I say, “Is that as high as you can go?” His eyes widen in shock to my response. Quickly he ascends higher.

By now my 9-year-old Evan comes around the house from out back, scolding me for letting Aaron take on such a feat. Aaron beams with pride at his brother’s dismay and hidden jealousy. After towering over what seemed to be the whole neighborhood, he bravely makes his way down.

You can guess what happens next. Evan cautiously asks for a turn. I of course say yes — and his brother cheers him on! As he climbs, I make my way to the other side of the yard to do more gardening. I can hear Evan holler for my attention. “Mom, I can’t get down, I need help!” Maybe knowing his 6-year-old brother made it down solo fueled my response: “Just jump!”

“I’m scared!” he says. “You can do it. Jump!” I yell back.

A few minutes later he stands beside me with a big grin. He jumped! I said, “Feels good doing something you thought you couldn’t, doesn’t it?!”

As he grinned some more, I thought I have to share with my girl Lenore!! Really appreciate your work! — Olivia

I wrote Olivia back and asked if I could publish her note. She (obviously) said yes! 

Sure you can use our story, and here’s a picture of them. It was a moment that I know I would have approached differently before reading your book. [Free-Range Kids.] I know I would have said, “No you can’t climb that tree! It’s not safe.” I then had my WWLD (What Would Lenore Do) moment. I thought about how I climbed trees all the time as a kid and loved it. Nothing has changed about trees or kids abilities so it’s me who has to change!

3 Responses to Why a Mom Changed Her Mind About Letting Her Sons Climb a Tree

  1. Mark Headley May 25, 2023 at 2:50 pm #


    I’m forever baffled how so many parents veered to helicoptering, away from FRing, to begin with. She vividly recalls her own thrilling FRing as a kid. I don’t see this has nothing to do w/ a “changed world,” internet “dangers.” As she incisively remarks: “Nothing has changed about trees or kids abilities.” She knows this. Were I a parent, why wouldn’t my point of reference first and foremost be how I was raised? For better and worse? Why divert from something I “loved”? Inspiring, candid; and she was a super Mom that day.

    Ironically, for all my FRing, my parents weren’t nuts about me climbing trees. And I had next to no inclination to push this, unlike so much else. Shameful. Phobia of heights. Yet when w/ a naturalist I had a crush on, I followed her up an open-air firetower swaying 40 feet atop the State Park’s tallest mountain.

  2. Mark Headley May 25, 2023 at 2:51 pm #

    And Bravo Aaron! Bravo Evan!

  3. Mark Headley May 25, 2023 at 2:54 pm #

    And Bravo Aaron! Bravo Evan! Bravo Lenore!