“Someone’s gotta paint the Golden Gate Bridge,” is a thought that pops into my mind at work quite often.

In reality the bridge is constantly being painted by a team of 33 people.

If you have ever been to San Francisco and seen the bridge you know how special it is, and how it is a stunningly daunting structure. There’s no doubt in my mind the 33 people who help the bridge shine International Orange were never told not to climb trees as children. I would guess that these people were the kids that climbed everything.

With risk aversion dominating the national education system of school-aged and preschool aged children, I shudder to think that maybe there won’t be any people left to paint the Golden Gate in twenty years.

While climbing trees doesn’t directly relate to painting bridges, I can’t help but notice how confident young tree climbers are. No doubt it’s important to arrive to your twenties safe and sound, but are you really better off if you arrived there without confidence in your body, and never having pushed your physical limitations? Isn’t a key part of the American dream that you look up, climb higher? Stuck, it seems, would be a generation afraid to take risks.

How much has a litigious prone society affected our children? When a soccer ball was kicked on the roof of Ljungfalleskolan, an elementary school in Växjö, Sweden, there was a race to see which kid could climb up the pillars and onto the roof to get the ball first. “Is that allowed?” I asked the only other adult on the playground. “Well I don’t want to climb up onto the roof,” was the reply. Should school children be climbing onto the roof of their school? Maybe not, but there was no hesitation. The children who were good climbers scampered up, with a few lingering on the roof for the rest of recess just watching the others play.

Fear is natural and healthy. It protects our young from potentially life-altering injuries, or even death. However, there are many situations where parents’ and caregivers’ fear could be replaced with admiration and esteem–and in nearly every circumstance the opportunity for rich dialogue is present. Children want to know how the adult they care for is feeling, and it can be enlightening to hear a child express his or her own fears. Open, honest dialogue is key to any relationship, so why not use it with children who are taking risks?

As a new generation graduates high school and college, who is going to seek the careers and adventures that challenge in healthy and invigorating ways? Who’s going to paint the Golden Gate Bridge?
© Jonathan Iris-Wilbanks and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
Photo © Haidor Truu and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
(Golden Gate Bridge picture courtesy of pdphoto.org)