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Up a Tree: One Mom’s Story of Letting Grow

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Read Time: 3 minutes

Love when we get theses stories! This one comes from Olivia Eaddy, a Pennsylvania mom of two. Olivia had just moderated a corporate panel discussion on parenting in the culture of fear, and how hard-yet-liberating it can be to let go. Let Grow President Lenore Skenazy was on the panel. A few days later, Olivia dropped her a note:

What is it about kids and climbing trees?

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

“It was me who had to change.”

Note: After Olivia sent this note we asked if we could run it on the blog — and did she maybe have a photo of her kids? Olivia replied:

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!

Olivia Boys In Tree 1


  1. MichelleMichelle says:

    As a side note – the photo at age 2, he was about 2 feet off the ground. But he did it ‘all by myself’. It’s the doing hard things, and not being afraid to try new things, that we have tried to instill in all of our 5 children. As I’ve watched my 3 remaining sons mature into young men, they impress me constantly with their positive attitude and perseverance to do hard things. They have expressed their gratitude to me many, many times for letting them ‘just be kids’ – to ride bikes in the neighborhood, climb trees, fly airplanes (that was with a co-pilot!), ride horses, and more. I love the mission of Let Grow!

  2. MichelleMichelle says:

    This was a sweet story that I just re-read again while cleaning out my email.

    In 2017, my eldest son died in a lake accident. As I was preparing the photos for his memorial, I was surprised by just how many photos I had taken of him, from age 2 to age 15 up in a tree – always with that smile of pure satisfaction and pride of accomplishment.

    I’m so happy that he lived his short life to the fullest. (For the record, he was with a group of 30 other kids that day at the lake, and sacrificed his life so others wouldn’t die – too long a story for this email). The summer before he passed, at the age of 15, he traveled to England, Poland and Germany on a church trip. Later that year, he traveled to China with me and learned how to negotiate in the marketplace with his own translator (without me).

    Again, I’m so glad that he had so many rich, wonderful experiences. I believe he would say that he lived a life of no regrets.

  3. EmerEmer says:

    I’m Emer’s son. Recently, they put up a sign on my favorite climbing tree in town, and my mom said we should try to stop it, like sign a petition and take it to the town’s municipal building,(And as a 9 year old fourth grader,(and a kid who loves to climb tree’s.)I’m all for rebelling.)

  4. Barbara SarneckaBarbara Sarnecka says:

    Brava to Olivia! And congratulations to Evan and Aaron! May this be the beginning of many joyful, resilience- and self-confidence-building adventures.

  5. CaryCary says:

    I’m trying to imagine tree climbing as an adult-supervised activity. We used to climb trees all over the neighborhood, all the time. Also climbed fences, roofs, and the frames of houses under construction when the workers weren’t there (fun to jump off into the piles of sand). We were like little chimps, without a grownup in sight. I’m constantly grateful I’m not a kid today.