When we decided to move to this town, I was six months pregnant with our first son. Within weeks we had put down a deposit to build our home from scratch, found out about a relative who needed fostering, and started a job hunt for relocation. Our friends from church in LA surprised us by announcing they had gotten a job in the same town where we were starting to build our new home. The trouble was they didn’t have a house yet. We gave them the keys to our brand spanking new home before we even moved in as a family.
I won’t go into all the rigamarole that went down during our first year of parenthood. Ultimately, those friends did find a home of their own, and when it came time for them to get rid of the old wooden play structure the previous owners had left in their backyard, they offered it to us. We hauled it over to our house in a borrowed truck and reassembled it in the corner of the yard. I had just planted two trees behind that spot. You could call them trees or sticks with branches, more like a hope for something that would be a tree someday.
Years flew by as years will do. My oldest grew up playing pirates in the upper deck of that playset, learning to cross all the monkey bars without dropping off, and swinging so high it usually took my breath away. When my second born started walking and climbing anything that didn’t move, we had to board up the ladder for a time. Later, he took to climbing up the frame of the playset and scaling across the top beam where the swings hung down. When he developed a penchant for string, I let him make his own “hammocks’ by weaving and twisting yarn all under those same monkey bars. He would often eat lunch with his best friends in the fort up top.
Many evenings when my husband came home from work, I could see him goofing off with my son on the swing. First he would push him high and let go. Then, they started the routine. My husband would pretend to be an innocent bystander walking by and my son would swing as hard as he could to tap his dad. Then my husband would reel as though he had been laid out by this unsuspecting kick. They both would laugh and I would grin, watching them from the kitchen window or the porch.
Recently my son started taking Trampoline & Tumbling at the local gym. He goes through his days bouncing around like Tigger and makes his way onto the neighbor’s trampoline as often as he is able. One day he asked if we could get a trampoline so he could have his very own to use. The only place we could put a trampoline would be in the corner of the yard, right where the old wooden playset sits. Those sticks that were trees have become strong enough that the boys can shimmy up them and read a book in the branches. That playset has been standing through all these years of potty training and starting school, choir concerts, family trips, backyard barbeques, celebrations and trials – and now he wants to take it down.
You never know when the last time you watch your child fly on that backyard swing will be. Will you ever see him cruise across the monkey bars again? Is this the day he stops imagining worlds of his own design with his playmates in the wooden fort among the tree branches? When you least expect it, a day will arrive when the playset comes down and a bit of childhood goes along with it.
My husband took out his hammer and saw and a ladder the following Saturday morning. Seeing him pass through the back door with his tools, I gasped. It felt as though he had a rifle and were about to kill off something beautiful. I begged my son to get on the swing while I took some videos and photos of him touching the branches with his toes and going through the ritual of knocking daddy over just one more time.
I couldn’t bear to watch all day. My husband was hard at work and I kept busy away from the yard. The trampoline will usher in great memories in its own way. Still, I remained acutely aware that something cherished was saying “goodbye” and I hadn’t had time to prepare.
Motherhood is like that. We pour out our hearts and time into these precious children. Looking back, we haven’t always loved them as well as we hoped we would. Our memories are filled with their laughter, our own prayers and the silent moments we spent watching them as they slept. One day, as though we blinked, the playset comes down and a whole era of family life closes its chapter.
Later in the afternoon, my husband sat alone in the oversized chair in our living room. The deed was done and he was resting. My son passed through the room and I heard the conversation between them. “Dad, are you okay?” “Yes, son, I’m fine. I was just thinking how I’ll never get to push you in that swing again and it made me a little teary.” I sure do love that man.
Something happened as we took down the playset. Time paused and we were reminded how irreplaceable each season of life is. It feels like a gift to hear the whispered call to treasure my children. We never know when our last time dancing them on our feet in the kitchen, picking them up for a hug, or pushing them on the backyard swing will be. I’m recommitted to being present. I’ll never regret setting aside most other things so I can savor the moment with my child.
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I’ll send you the “Love Intentionally” reminder bookmark. You can hang it on your mirror or put it in your bible or purse. It’s a great tool to keep you focused on what you treasure.