STERLING HEIGHTS, MI—No amount of explanation has been sufficient to make Dylan Rieder, 8, understand why he is not permitted on the roof of his family's two-story home.
"I don't know why I can't play up there," Rieder said Monday. "I'm not gonna fall off. It's way less steep than the slide at the playground. And I never fall off that when I climb up. Plus, I wouldn't ruin anything—there's not even anything to ruin. It's just the roof and the chimney and the TV antenna and the wires that go to the telephone pole, but I know not to touch the wires."
Rieder's remarks came on the heels of his third parental warning in as many weeks not to even think about going on the roof.
"He does this every summer," said Beth Rieder, Dylan's mother. "As soon as it gets warm, he gets it in his head that he needs to get on that roof, and he won't give up until it's covered with snow. If I hadn't been out shopping all afternoon, he would have bugged me about it again today."
While Rieder has been subjected to numerous anti-roof-climbing lectures from his parents, his older brother Stephen, and next-door neighbor Mr. Rutigliano, none of their arguments have struck him as valid. Reasons given for staying off the roof have included the danger of falling off, the fragility of the shingles, and what someone driving by might think.
"He knows he shouldn't be up there," Beth said. "That's that."
Rieder said he recognizes that safety is a concern and promised he would not run, jump, or otherwise conduct himself irresponsibly if let onto the roof.
"I would be really, really careful," Rieder said. "It's not that different from climbing a tree. Mom once said she was going to let me put a treehouse up there. What's the difference?"
Rieder said he could perform many useful tasks if permitted onto the roof.
"I could see if any balls got caught up there and throw them down. And I could make sure the chimney doesn't have anything stuck in it," Rieder said. "Also, I could help get the leaves out of the leavesdrops [sic], then Dad wouldn't have to get all mad at the ladder when it pinches his fingers."
As further evidence that his parents have nothing to fear, Rieder cited several eye-opening statistics.
"People can get killed in a car accident a hundred times more easy than they can on a roof," Rieder said. "Or they can eat poison by accident or get a disease or get bit by a dog and get rabies. So I should get to go on the roof, 'cause it would be a lot safer than that."
Though he would like his parents' permission, Rieder said he has not ruled out a covert roof visit. Without use of his parents' bedroom window, which they keep locked at all times, Rieder's best chance for roof access is via a tree in the backyard. By climbing to the fourth extending branch, Rieder would be able to drop down neatly onto the roof. The tree, however, is visible to anyone looking out the kitchen window, the very place where his mother stands as she does dishes and prepares meals.
"I might try the tree in the back, too, but that's harder," Rieder said. "I can't get caught, 'cause Mom would kill me."
Climbing on the roof is not the only activity forbidden to Rieder. Also verboten are pulling up the loose blacktop at the edge of the driveway, picking leaves off the bushes in the front yard, playing with the rocks in the window wells, writing on the side of the house with chalk, climbing on the water meter, putting anything in the mailbox without prior approval, and opening the chest freezer in the garage.