We've all had the experience of being at a pal's house and thinking, "Well... that doesn't seem safe." We steer our kids away from the trampoline/glass coffee table/sheer cliff, and proceed on home.
But what if we took another tack? What if we called the county and demanded someone change their home to suit our comfort levels?
This is exactly the kind of thing going on right now -- with backyard tree-houses. They’re a classic bit of American life, the kind of thing childhood dreams are made of – and often, for the lucky among us, where kids really do go to run their imaginations, or just read comics in the lazy summer heat.
But one family’s annoying experience shows how today’s world seems to be sacrificing too much in a quest for a bubble-wrapped childhood. The question is: Don't I get to make the safety rules in my own home?
Look, I’m not into the whole “kids today are too coddled” argument. I am fine with coddling my children, in fact, and think those of us who are more hyper about our kids’ safety are probably reacting sensibly to things that happened to us and our friends.
But this story just makes me mad: a landscape-architect dad in Washington State engineered a spectacular treehouse for his 10-year-old twin boys, and an anonymous complaint from a neighbor may lead to their having to tear it down.
The tree house is a marvel of engineering. It’s built to be part of the tree, with no damage to the natural world around it. Take a gander at the video if you don’t believe me.
Really, people? In an age when video games and 1,000 channels of cable TV make it nearly impossible to say “kids, go play outside,” you’re going to punish kids for climbing trees? Not only that – you’re going to do so on their own property, where it’s their parents’ job to supervise them?
This is their property, their home, and from what the article says, you can't even see the tree-house easily if you're not standing right under it. So someone's sticking their nose way, way into their business.
The Free-Range Kids website lists at least two other cases where treehouses have been torn down. As she puts it, “I get that it’s a liability. All treehouses are. I just wonder when and how society will ever get back to accepting SOME risk, now that even the tiniest risk (and this is a little bigger than tiny) is seen as abominable.”
The Treehouse Guide, a website devoted to helping people plan and build their own treehouses, has a page dedicated to treehouse safety. Included on that page is a guide to keeping the law off your back when building a leafy getaway – that’s how common it is for people to get in trouble for their treehouses.
“My impression of a treehouse is that it is a fun exercise - something that takes hard work to build but which will give you a huge sense of achievement and a lasting, useful addition to your garden,” says Patrick Fulton, the site’s founder.
What's more important: private property, or public safety? Certainly, more safety is better, and the Center for Injury Research is on the case. But is it really a better use of a town’s resources to track down one well-cared-for structure on a family’s private property … or should those tax dollars be going to, say, a shelter for kids that are actually homeless, or hungry, or mistreated?
Because when it comes to treehouses -- they really are the stuff that dreams are made on.
Do you think this tree house should come down? Do you make the safety rules on your property? Tell us in the comments!
Image via emdot/Flickr