That time a kid almost cracked their head open
“Fun times can be dangerous!”
That’s the type of thing that makes me feel old…
Why is it so easy to become less fun as we age?
… Knowledge. We simply know too much.
The life experience has caught up,
Our wisdom comes at a cost,
That cost? Opportunity.
Working in youth work took me to a buuunch of places, some I wanted to visit, some random and new. One of the amazing in-between is a place called Gardners Falls. Tucked away in the back of the Sunshine Coast hinterland near Maleny, about 40 minutes north of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. With a lovely waterfall, a big swimming hole, small parking area and some other fun the falls are well worth a day trip!
The boys I was working with were a few years apart, maybe 5 or 6 years in between them, but everyone had a blast! We went swimming, jumped from the rocks, ate a little picnic we bought on the way there. For one of the boys it was a lot different to sitting in his room, or clicking at workers and demanding food from the couch. Even on the long windy mountain drive there he was squeaking and squealing asking to stop, wanting pictures taken on the work phone he could look back at them.
When we arrived I had to bargain with him at the car, he started running down the path to see the waterfall! After putting his imaginary leash on we got to the waterfall, and suddenly he wasn’t as excited. The water looked dark and reflected all of the trees surrounding the swimming hole. The light shining on the middle of the rock pool looked like polished metal, shimmering back to the sky. Because there weren’t many people we were almost washed by the natural silence, only interrupted by birds and rustling leaves. This place was like heaven.
OH, And there were two rope swings to ruin the ambience,
as well as the few meter high waterfall to jump from!
WE HAD A BLAST!!!
At the rope swing, there was a rock bank to the water, and a rise, maybe 2 meters above the bank.
Creating a natural platform to Tarzan into the rock pool.
Now, as you can see, there wasn’t much to that rope swing.
It was made from a set of handle bars and a few lengths of different ropes people had tied to a branch.
Swinging was pretty standard, a little ride, a ton of deep water, and heaps of time to let go.
But for SOME reason, I was thinking about if there were cars under the water, how old the rope was, if the piece of wood could support us, trying to decide what would happen if we fell on the solid rock bank on the way down… I was throwing up ALL kinds of terrifying, and completely possible, scenarios… petrified of swinging from a piece of rope used by a million other people every week. The boys must have been experiencing something similar, because after talking such a big game they had nothing left, they sure weren’t game to give it a swing!
For a good 15 minutes we all went back and forth, ribbing each other to try and goad someone in first. We needed a crash test dummy! Well, we got it… eventually the older boy, who wisely had said he wasn’t sure if he would swim on the way there, manned up before the two of us.
In complete frustration basically he marched over, grabbed the swing, and launched himself from the rocks. Swinging waaay further out into the rock pool than I imagined, as the swing was coming back he finally let go, gliding into the water.
The scream of pure joy when he got up ALMOST convinced me to go next, but I decided the little guy needed to get in. That was my deal, if they both jumped in I had no choice, until then I had an out.
The younger boy slapped the rocks as he stood up, reefed his shirt off and asked for the rope. We pulled the rope in, passed it up…and nothing.
The boy was just frozen.
White knuckling the swing,
He clearly didn’t want any part of this,
Now it was real.
The older boy started up with the taunting after a few minutes, but quickly came around and began to encourage the boy. We were both gassing him up, making him feel like a champion. He even went to sit down a few times, but would always come back and stand in place again.
After the third time he said “Alright, I’m doing it” he didn’t pause, finally launching through the air… majestically flailing… then half belly flopping onto the water below.
Luckily he came up laughing.
Finally I kept my deal with him, and jumped into the big scary water. Instantly realising that all of the things I imaged were just that, the fear were pointless, and that it’s really just me trying to keep myself safe. All of the knowledge from all of the other insane things I did caught up, now I want to protect myself instead of testing ALL of the boundaries. How many other opportunities had I missed because I thought I knew it all?
I think we could all learn a lesson here.
A lot of the things we stop our children from doing, are the very things that made us who we are. The lessons that we learnt when we went too far are what built up our senses, what made us smarter and stronger. We grew wiser by being exposed to things, so we need to be careful with our “no.”
We need to create these opportunities… That’s going to be my justification for this next bit, but I totally stand by that, and use that mentality with my daughter to this day.
You see, that was only the first swing, the lower one… There was one about 3 times as high on the other side of the falls. Suspended from a massive tree, that also had a ladder built into it for jumping from the branch, about a 20 meter plunge!
The older boy decided he wanted to try it.
At first I didn’t think he really would, and then I was concerned… the younger boy had climbed out with him and was also near the higher swing. To his credit, again, the older boy actually tried to impart some wisdom to his little follower, telling him to stop and go back. When they both reached the ‘launch pad’ (a little clearing on the side of the cliff overlooking the water) they got the rope, and the older boy was ready.
Without even hesitating he went, swinging wide out over the water, aiming his feet right at the one rock in the pool, and letting go. As he fell I just imagined the worst, and hoped like hell.
He landed (what felt to me like) a hair away from the rock, and let out another cheer!
After such a grand adventure, we HAD to go back. I think every week for that summer we basically headed there. The best part was, with time the boys began to interact with other people there more. They were getting well and truly out of their comfort zones!
One afternoon we headed out, and a big group of guys from a meat works were having a little celebration there. As we talked they explained that they had travelled from China on working visas and all met in the meat works. Everyone was taking turns on the swing, lots of laughs, just a typical day with random new friends.
As we all got in and out of the water, the rocks got darker and darker, and then just balancing while walking to the swing got trickier and trickier. With a big roar one of the larger guys took a few steps and stuttered, his hands slipped straight off of the handle bar swing, his legs started coming up and up and up. While his head just swooped down down down. He got past the first rocks, and BARELY made it into the water with the back of his head. It must have literally missed by 2 or 3 inches that saved him from a 2 odd meter jump straight to the back of his head. 😐
A few trips later, one of the boys looked at the handle bars, and said that they were too slippery…
I thought it was an excuse…
He whined on and on about grip and tape and blah blah blah,
Making me want to listen less and less…
After some prodding we got him to jump . . .
My stomach dropped as he left the rock.
His face opened up, eyes widening…
His back travelling down towards the rocks . . .
It almost felt like slow motion!
As his head neared the rocks below,
Time snapped in! His head missing the rocks JUST like the guy a few trips before. I could feel my face go white. He came up from the water looking TERRIFIED. His face white, mouth aghast, his eyes though… His eyes were filled with accomplishment, a smile began to crack from his horrified face. HE SURVIVED!
I swear it’s the moments like these that gives children a chance to grow, they discover themselves. They learn life isn’t as scary as they feared!
This little champion went from not wanting to leave the house, not functioning at school, too timid to talk to people… to asking shop assistants all types of things, getting some school session completed, doing boxing classes, actually talking to his therapists, making friends in the park, eating dinner at the table like a civilised human (as opposed to being an emotional terrorist) … in just a few months. Sure he still broke through a wall or 2… but he was different, and he began learning to trust.
Have you got a time in mind, a nice day out, an adventure, a time fun changed somebody’s life?
We’d love to read about it!
Let us know in the comments below