A Boy, a Tree, and a Fireman
It was Easter weekend and my husband was out fishing the last of the spring salmon run. Like a normal weekend during fishing season, I’m often home alone with my boys. With a bye off t-ball, I decided to catch up on a months’ worth of laundry. I work full time and laundry sucks the life out of me, so I often procrastinate doing it.
I shooed the boys outside and they took the opportunity to run out and play on the first dry day we’d had in months.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about my boys. I ALWAYS need to be one step ahead of them. I have just now started showering alone, and my oldest is six. Even locks on the doors don’t keep them in. I constantly need to make sure they haven’t scaled the fence to go play with the neighbors or started the power tools in the garage while I’m distracted.
I started in on the mound of laundry that was covering my kitchen table – Suspicious that they may find trouble. “Marco-Polo” is a game we taught the boys to trick them into letting us know where they were – Occasionally yelling “Marco”, so they would respond with “Polo.” I started shouting to keep track of them outside (the neighbors think I’m crazy, but at least I know where my boys are).
The response “Polo” was coming from a 65-foot-tall Ponderosa Pine in our backyard. I could see Bridger, our youngest (age three), at the bottom of the tree and Tucker (five years old) in the tree.
Tuck had never gone higher than 15 feet in a tree, so I let them play. As a mom of boys, I have to walk a fine line in allowing them to explore and have fun but not hurt themselves or others in the process. Their nature is to climb and get dirty any chance they can.
It had been about 30 minutes and I was making a good dent in the laundry when I heard Tucker calmly shout from the direction of the tree.
“Mama. Call 911. Call the fire department. I can’t get down.”
Honestly, I thought I would head outside to find him 10 feet in a tree and only a little bit stuck, so I started videoing to capture the moment.
“Tuck, where are you?” I asked, looking around for him. “I can’t see you. Where are you?”
“I’m up here,” he replied.
Panic started to hit. I couldn’t see him. Anywhere.
I went under the tree and looked 20 feet up into it. No Tucker. I backed away and strained to finally see a tiny little face – 60 feet up in the Ponderosa Pine, sitting on a branch looking out over the world.
This was not at all what I was expecting.
I rushed to call my brother in law, but it went straight to voicemail. I called my sister: “Is Otis home? I need his help getting Tuck out of a tree.”
Her response, “Just tell him to climb down” led me to pull out my phone and put her on Facetime. Her panic immediately echoed mine as she saw her nephew so high in the tree. “You may need to call the fire department…”
I looked for a neighbor or someone on the street that could climb up and help us. No one was home to help me. NO ONE!
So I did what any mother whose 5-year-old was hanging on for dear life in a Ponderosa Pine tree. I called 911.
“Hi, yeah my son is stuck 60 feet up in a tree. Can you please send the fire department to get him out?”
Those were words I never thought I would hear come out of my mouth. But when raising young boys I have said many things I never imagined, so I’ll just add this one to the list.
All of this happened in a matter of 5 minutes. My youngest son fled up and over the back fence, taking advantage of the chaos, and was running down the street to the neighbors. I reminded Tuck not to attempt climbing down at this point, and left to find the three-year-old. My sister lives in the neighborhood, so as I ran out the front door to track him down I saw her running toward my house in her socks carrying her 5-month-old in only a diaper.
The fire department arrived and four men chuckled a little as they walked through the door. Surely they thought I was an overprotective mom that called them for something minor. Boy were they in for a treat!
“Where is he?” The first one asked.
I pointed to the top of the tree, but it took a while for them to find him.
“Oh! He’s way up there!” One said in surprise and pointed out Tuck’s location to the others. They stood there for a second wondering what to do when the youngest firefighter said; “I’m just going to climb up as far as I can and see if I can get to him.”
Let me remind you that when I started doing laundry I hadn’t changed out of my PJ’s and had kicked the boys out into the backyard before a morning cup of coffee. There I was standing with these men in my pajamas in my backyard. And to top it all off, I recorded the whole thing. I just knew I needed to document this for my grandkids one day!
Back to the story. The fireman climbed about 10 feet in up the tree when I heard Tucker say, “OK, I’m coming down.”
Insert facepalm here… What? You could get down the whole time?!?
I was relieved when the fireman told him to wait so he could guide him down on the strong branches.
Step by step, the young fireman led my 5-year-old down from the tree (jacket in his mouth because he knew mom would be extra mad if he left it up there), and safely to the ground. No boom trucks needed, just a little extra boost of confidence that came from having someone there next to him – To guide my young son and assure him that if he slipped, there was someone to catch him.
As parents, we want to give the world to our kids. We want to cushion everything so they won’t feel pain. We want to set them up for success at any cost and shelter them from all things that might hinder their future.
But what if our job in raising little humans is establishing the grounding principles so they have the tools to move forward on their own? Maybe we are just the extra boost of confidence – A guiding hand in case they slip?
The fireman stood below Tuck as they climbed down together branch by branch, guiding his way, but I was the one who taught him the basic skills of climbing (well, my husband was the lead on this one), and the skills of listening and respecting the person giving him directions.
I often revisit this experience and can’t help but liken the young fireman in Tucker’s story to the Holy Spirit. He is there to guide our children down the tree – Holding them every day as they maneuver the difficulties of life. But WE need to be the ones to teach them to listen and obey – To feel the Spirit’s gentle embrace leading them to the strong branches.
“Then he told them many things in parables saying: ‘Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and birds came and devoured them. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it grew quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, the thorns came up and choked it. Still other seeds fell on good ground and produced fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown. Let anyone who has ears listen.’” Matthew 13:3-9
“So listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground – this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he who has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. Now the one sown among the thorns – this is the one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground – this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what he has sown.” Matthew 13:18-23
I look at the parable from Matthew 13 about the sower and the three different types of soil, and can’t help but think of our experience with Tucker and the tree.
My job as a parent is to prepare good soil for my sons’ roots to grow deep when they are young – So they can take all God has to offer them and yield much more in their life then we ever thought possible: “But the one sown on the good ground – this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what he has sown.” Matthew 13:23
I need to be careful that I don’t extinguish the ambition and God given gifts out of them while tilling the soil to make it good for planting. But if I can teach them to harness these ambitions for good, like Tuck’s climbing skills, ability to listen, obey, and respect authority, then God will do something amazing with them.
In the End
We cut down the tree.
Tuck tried to climb it again the next day (ripping a huge hole in his pants five minutes before we had to leave for Easter service).
Knowing that we would never be able to keep him out of it, we decided that the best thing to do now is take it away until he is old enough to handle the responsibility and safely climb down on his own. Sometimes helping our kids establish deep roots means providing boundaries and measures so the roots have time to grow.
A Humble Prayer
Let me mold my boys in a way that creates a soil for you to sow a harvest that multiplies. Give me the insight and wisdom to parent my kids that gives them the foundation you need to shape them. Allow them to produce your fruit.
It’s sometimes hard for me to parent in a way that is glorifying to you and I often lose my patience or am tired at the end of a long day. Lord, please give me grace and fill me with a light that resonates out to my children, so even when I fall short they see that you are working in me the same way I am trying to teach them that you are working in them.
Lord, please speak to me right now as I sit and listen (take a few moments to listen to the Holy Spirit) and give me a word that I can work on with my children this week.
Thank you for your never ending grace and wisdom. Thank you for blessing me with the responsibility of raising the future generation of your Kingdom. I know you picked me to raise my boys for a reason. Help me live that out to fulfill the story you have for me.
In Jesus name,
About the Author: Nikki Duke is a speaker of truth and seeker of justice. God has given her the gift of raising boys – A task that is not for the faint of heart. With a stirring in her soul over the last year, God has led her on a journey to change the fate of the world by changing the hearts of the next generation of boys – Teaching them to empower, respect and protect women to be all God has created them to be. Embarking on this new journey God has led her to speak and teach about the lessons the Holy Spirit has taught her on the path of motherhood.
Along with writing, Nikki runs “My Friends Are Not For Sale,” an organization that raises awareness about sex trafficking here in our communities. She is a mother to three, a wife, a full time working mom and a Daughter of the King. She is not content just sit still, but believes God has made each and everyone one of his daughters to do something extraordinary to make this world a better place. Arise, my daughter, Arise.