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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Good and Bad (05/07/09)

TITLE: How Much Trouble Can A 3-Year-Old Be?
By Leah Nichols


It's a good thing that a very young children cannot really comprehend the concept of a bad idea.

Their sweet, innocent little minds are simply curious to explore the world in which they live, and beyond some minor problems with selfishness here and there, they approach almost every situation with a blessed lack of guile.

So I thought, until this afternoon.

Not that my 3-year-old suddenly obtained a deviously shrewd plan to wreak havoc upon my normally peaceful life. He's still far too oblivious to that kind of evil device.

No, he simply did not think things through when he came up with a brilliantly bad idea.

My wife had left for the grocery store the moment I got home from work, and as she had spent the entire day entertaining Jeff's curiosity, my task was to keep him occupied until she returned to make dinner. “No problem,” I assured her. “How much trouble can a 3-year-old be?”

I should have taken note when her eyebrows rose and she laughed knowingly. I was serious, of course. My previous experiences with our angelic offspring had given me no reason to suspect that he would attempt any activity that might result in punishment. As firm disciplinarians, we had trained him to sit quietly, take turns, speak respectfully, and so on. I nevertheless held the belief that he had a basically good nature, and would be just fine playing outside as I quickly checked the email for the week.

Twenty minutes later, I realized that all noise had ceased from the backyard. Rising from the computer chair, I strode to the door to see what my son had discovered.

To this day I praise God that I married in my 20's, or I surely would have suffered a heart attack in that moment.

“Hi, Daddy!” the sweet little voice called out – from the top of our pine tree!

I closed my eyes and willed myself to breathe calmly and easily. Upon opening them, I focused my gaze on the tiny figure waving as he swung back and forth on what seemed like the smallest of branches. “Hi there, Jeffy! How did you get up there?” I called out.

“I climbed up!” he exclaimed proudly.

“Wow, that's really high up! Are you okay?”

“Yeah! You look really small, Daddy!”

I stared at the tree, attempting to determine whether I might be able to climb it to rescue my adventurous child. Clearly oblivious to the inherent danger of perching 30 feet above the ground on an unstable tree top, he continued to swing in the air. Finally, seeing no other option, I asked, “Jeffy, can you climb back down all by yourself?”

“Sure!” Without hesitation, he reached for the nearest branch with his free hand. “Watch me, Daddy!”

“Okay.” Biting my lip, I stepped under the tree, keeping my eyes on Jeff the entire time. Please, God, don't let him fall! I prayed silently.

The next few minutes proved most torturous as my only offspring made his way slowly down the pitch-covered branches. I offered encouraging praises for each well-planned movement, inwardly rejoicing that, at that moment, he lacked my own paralyzing fear of heights.

At last, when he drew close enough to reach, I lifted him from the branch and set him upon solid ground. Kneeling down, I thanked God out loud for keeping him safe. “No more climbing for now, okay, Jeff?”

“Okay, Daddy,” he said. “But can I show Mommy when she gets home?”

I laughed nervously. “No, I'm sure Mommy wants you to stay on the ground and out of the tree.”

Mommy had a better idea, of course. Jeff could climb the tree again, yes, but not until he was six years old. He readily agreed to that plan as my wife assured him that it was much more impressive to be bigger before attempting such a daring feat.

You know, it might be a good idea to get some firewood for our wood stove. I think pine would work just fine.

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This article has been read 817 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 05/14/09
Oh my. I laughed knowingly at the title of this story. And I'm not even a mom yet!

It reminds me of the time I played "Bucking Bronco" with my older brother when I was 4. Only my story didn't have as nice of and ending.... I actually have a story posted on FW about it. PM me if you want to read it! :)

GREAT story. And what a GOOD idea at the very end there. ;)
Betty Castleberry05/17/09
This is precious. I had a clear mental image of the toddler swinging in the tree, and I felt the father's nervousness as he watched. Nicely done.
Catrina Bradley 05/17/09
This former tree-climber can't imagine what the problem is. ;) I'm also wondering if Jeffy will actually wait til he's six to climb again. I was actually holding my breath as he climbed down, sure he was going to fall. Great read.
Mona Purvis05/18/09
What I enjoyed in the story is the subtle way you brought out the "secrets" we parents keep from one another about our parenting experiences. We want to be seen as in control.
Great story.
Gregory Kane05/18/09
Great title, wonderful story, sensational climax. My only quibble would be that your opening two paragraphs came across as a bit 'preachy' and as such quite dissimilar from the rest of the sparkling narrative. I appreciate you're trying to capture the voice of an inattentive male aqnd maybe some men are like this.
Gerald Shuler 05/18/09
As an ex-children's pastor, and father of five... do people actually ask the question in the title? At that age they are 100% explorers. You story was wonderful.
Bryan Ridenour05/18/09
Great story and as a parent of toddlers, I know the answer to the question is "a whole lot!" Well written.
Carol Slider 05/18/09
The title is one of those questions you should never, NEVER ask! (I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want my six-year-old to climb that tree, either...) This was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it!
Joanne Sher 05/18/09
A VERY fun piece. And that title? Masterful. What a kid, and what a great story.
Kimberly Russell05/18/09
As a non-parent, I can totally relate- I'm pretty clueless about such things. Fun and funny entry. Nice writing.
Connie Dixon05/19/09
I loved this. I was trying to read it from a guys perspective and I couldn't really imagine a guy talking like this, but I just kept hearing my own voice so...there you are. Great read!
Diana Dart 05/20/09
Great title, great story - and I agree, this guy deserved it! I also found that the opening paragraphs seemed to have a bit of a different voice than the rest of the entry. Spectacular ending - funny (and redeeming a bit for daddy!)
Patricia Herchenroether05/20/09
A fun read. But did it take Dad all this time to discover a toddler's waywardness? The title gave an instant idea of what to expect. I wanted to say "uh oh"... Loved his logic at the end.
Laura Manley06/22/09
Now this is writing! What a fantastic story. I could visualize my own son at that age doing a similar thing. Actually, I think he decided at about 3 years old to back up the family car into a big tree - not climb it. I noticed one thing which you probably will want to correct and that is in the first line where you say: "a very young children" (or perhaps you meant "a very young child") when I'm sure it was an oversight. I truly have enjoyed this story and it gives me a little better understanding on how to reach an audience. Great writing! Blessings to you, Laura
Lisa Johnson09/04/09
My oldest grandson will soon be three...I'd better ask "Papa" to cut down our pine. lol!