By Dom Cioffi
Several months ago, after finding my son and his two friends indoors playing video games, I demanded that they exit the house. It was a beautiful summer day and they were wasting it staring into a television monitor.
I barked something about never being allowed to stay inside when I was a kid and then slammed the door behind them. They were visibly disappointed in me.
I watched from the window as they moped about the yard, half-heartedly throwing a football around while obviously complaining about my poor parenting skills.
Finally, I walked outside and called them over.
“What’s the problem?” I inquired sternly.
My son then piped up defiantly, “There’s nothing to do out here.”
This statement immediately sent me into a tirade about the multitude of activities available for 11-year-old boys. I further argued that if they lived in a variety of other countries, they would likely be scavenging for food and dodging bullets rather than looking for fun things to do.
My heavy-handed discussion did little to sway their dreary demeanors.
Finally, out of desperation I walked them into the backyard where I pointed to a large maple tree.
“See that tree?” I stated. “I would have been living in that tree when I was your age. In fact, I would have built a fort up in those branches with several rooms, an elevator for supplies, and a tin can phone.”
One of my son’s friends couldn’t resist and asked why anyone would want a tin can phone when they could have one of these, at which point he reached into his pocket to expose a shiny iPhone 6.
The boys giggled in unison, taking pleasure in making me look antiquated.
“Put that thing away!” I barked, “and get up in that tree!”
They grudgingly began climbing the lower branches as I stood there in state of semi-disgust.
After a few minutes, I left the area and proceeded to take care of some busy work in the garage. I could hear the occasional yelp coming from the backyard so I knew some sort of activity was brewing. After 15 minutes, my son ran into the garage out of breath.
“We need wood!” he exclaimed.
I was feeling proud of myself for having inspired the boys so I rustled up a few spare two-by-fours and a hammer and nails and sent them back up into the tree.
About an hour later I heard the first hints of trouble. I wasn’t positive, but I thought I heard crying – not the “I’m in immense pain” crying but rather the “I’m totally freaked out” crying.
When I walked around the side of the house to investigate, I saw my son and one of the boys standing beneath the maple tree looking up into the branches. They seemed to be coaxing the other friend to come down.
When I got closer and inquired what was wrong, the friend who was up in the tree began screaming in terror.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Dad, he just started freaking out!” my son exclaimed, obviously flustered by the predicament at hand.
After a quick analysis, I determined that the child who was screaming in my backyard was afraid of heights. He knew this prior to climbing 35 feet up into a tree, but still managed to move skyward. Now he was stuck and in a state of petrified fear, incapable of moving of his own accord.
Thankfully, I’m okay with heights so up I went. And after several minutes of calming him down and offering the promise that the rest of the afternoon would involve nothing but video games, I somehow commandeered him out of the tree. When we arrived back on the ground he sheepishly announced that he was never playing outside again in his life.
Another parenting job well done…
This week’s film, “The Walk,” features a man who was quite the opposite – he loved heights. In fact, he reveled in heights so much that it became his life’s passion to attempt the greatest high wire act ever imagined.
In 1974 Philippe Petit, a French high wire artist who secretly stretched a cable between the Twin Towers in New York City and then walked across it as commuters arrived for work.
This film not only shows the immense amount of planning and work that went into Petit’s stunt, but also how it turned out to be a transformative event for the entire city.
This is an amazing story on its own (which is why the documentary about the actual event won the Academy Award), but the unique storytelling involved in this production makes it even more captivating to watch.
If you’re in the mood for a truly unique adventure (and don’t mind dizzying vantage points), definitely give this film a try. It’s a poignant story of passion, commitment and bravery rarely seen in the world.
A steady “B+” for “The Walk.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected].