Contributed by JC Boushh
An article by Gordon Clark in THE PROVINCE titled “We modern parents are safety freaks” had me reminiscing about my childhood in the 1970’s. At that time my parents, specifically my mother because my father was at work, allowed me to play outside in the rear yard where we had two large acacia trees growing and I was allowed to wander around the neighborhood without to many restrictions.
Looking back at the amount of freedom I was allowed did not seem strange or unusual at the time and it was the norm with my other friends in the neighborhood and my cousins who lived in other parts of Los Angeles. I remember feeling a sense of independence, although at that age I did not really think about this ability to roam freely as anything strange. I simply remember that I was allowed to do things by myself and that I did not have a parent hovering over me, constantly telling me to be careful, or overly concerned with where I was in the neighborhood. I was subconsciously being instilled with a sense of independence about my own abilities and the world around me. I was being made responsible for my actions and my own decisions in life.
One of these moments was when I was allowed to build a tree house in one of the acacia trees with my two younger brothers. This was our secret place, a place where we could eat, talk, and read by ourselves. It was our place! The scene comes back to me as a vivid picture as I think back to my memories of the tree house. I remember the arching branches covered with leaves and smaller branches that provided cover from adult eyes. My brothers and I scavenged for pieces of wood in the backyard against my dad’s tool shed and in the garage behind boxes and shelves. We did not have any plans or drawings of how the tree house should look or instructions on how to assemble the floors and walls. It was a process of trial and error, and we learned and adapted as we built. I was naturally in charge of the project being the oldest and the creator of the tree house. I can picture the milk crates that we lifted up into the tree house to act as shelves and storage space for toys and books. We used one milk carton tied to a rope as sort of an elevator for supplies, and I can remember my mother allowing us to bring our lunch outside so that we could eat in the tree house.
My brothers and I were in our own world, we were in a place that we controlled and commanded. I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment and power in this hidden den and the camaraderie I had with my siblings, and just the peacefulness of our tree house. Sure we argued and disagreed with each other, but we survived and we kept on being brothers. I can feel the breeze as I would sometimes lie on the floor of the tree house alone looking at the sky and just enjoying the freedom of aloneness and imagination. Eventually it ended, and I grew older and more mature, and the acacia trees were torn out to make way for a concrete pool. The memories I kept about the tree house still reside with my memories and even in the foundation that I am as an adult and how I have raised my own children in relationship to the outdoors.
I learned that when a child is given independence at an early age they feel a sense of inner confidence and creativity. I learned that when a child is given the freedom to be creative without being stifled my fears and overbearing restrictions that they feel self-reliant and resilient in relationship to the world around them. I learned when a child is given solitude and companionship they feel socially accepted for being themselves. I learned that when a child is not given a preset list of too does and instructions that they feel the freedom of being allowed to be creative and imaginative without being judged for what they’ve done or how they have done it. I learned that when a child interacts with their peers in building that they feel companionship and friendship with others. I learned that when a child is given the own time that they feel independent and confident about themselves.
My early exposure to independence, self-reliance, and creativity as a child allowed me to practice the fundamental skills that I would need as an adult. This experience taught me that I could make my own decisions, address problems and discover a solution, and hone my own leadership skills. The ability to self-reliant as an adult is evident my ability to start several business throughout my adult life and has played a key role as I solve problems that arise with owning your own business. The experience has also provided me with insights into the way I raise my own children and allow them certain freedoms. The freedom that I was exposed to an early age was not that I was allowed to run wild or do things that were inappropriate, but that I was allowed the opportunity to be self-reliant and yet still answerable for my actions.