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.
Oh Patty, so not fair. The magical days of play grounds and play dates have ended for us too. Now we are wii games, dirt bikes and headphones. It makes me want to just run in their bedroom and cuddle up with them now. Thank you Jesus that I did not miss this time. Oh I love them so- such a rich part of my life.
Tanya ~ I feel it with you! Nothing could prepare us for the depths of the love we feel for these children of ours or the ache that comes along with motherhood. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love witnessing your passionate devotion to your boys. Such goodness!
You know the choice we are about to make… And this is part of the reason. Thanks for helping too confirm my choice, and God’s leading.
I hear you and I totally affirm it, Christi. We have eternity, but we also have the fleeting now. God tells us to make the most of the time because the days are evil. He reminds us we are a vapor and our life is like grass. I want the gift of this life to matter. I want to eat up the goodness of all the people He has given me to love. I want to prioritize the roles that only I can fill. Bless you as you do the same.
This was beautiful, Patty! My only complaint is that now I will have to redo my makeup because your words brought tears to my eyes. We all know that we should cherish each stage of growth, but it is so hard to say goodbye to days gone by. I am so glad that we have moments to pause and reflect of the gift of our children and God’s faithfulness to all of us.
Dawn, I felt it when I wrote it! I am eternally grateful for you, for our Intentional Motherhood Community and for the Holy Spirit pressing us towards what is good – and best. It’s so easy to get flustered, distracted and overwhelmed as moms. We lose sight of the fleeting nature of our days with these children. Today is the day! What is past is gone. Let’s love them well now. You are such a great example to me in this. Praising God for you.
This was beautiful! As my 2.5 year old looks more and more like a big girl each day, this was such a great reminder to be present in the moment!
Marlo, I thought I responded to you already, and then when I signed on today I couldn’t find my response, so I’m giving it another shot. It’s true! They move out of that “baby” stage and become so grown up so quickly. I’m glad you are committing to savoring the moments. You will never regret it. Thanks for sharing here. You are welcome at PattyHScott.com anytime.
This was such a beautiful read Patty. I hear you and I understand this oh so well. Savoring the moment deeply — you did that! And now you finding it hard. But hey, the memories will not fade with that wooden frame out of the picture. They’re stamped in your heart already. They’ll always be there. Here’s a virtual hug from one mother to the other.
Now let’s make room for new and amazing new memories to join the old ones. A mother’s (and father’s) heart never forgets!! Be blessed. Selma
Thank you, Selma, for this reminder and encouragement that each new phase brings its own joy and memories to treasure. Also, I love what you said about these memories being etched in our hearts. They are! Some of them (due to my aging brain) aren’t as easy to recall, but they are etched in my heart. Nothing can blot them from there. When something is scarce it is precious. The moments we have with our children in each stage are more precious than we know – because they are more scarce than we imagine. I’m grateful to be awake to it – as I hear in you that you are as well. Thanks for the virtual hug!!
Hi Patty, this is so beautiful and so true. I enjoyed it very much and I will be sharing. Bless you and your sweet family.
Thank you, Teresa! I so appreciate you reading and sharing. I think the truth of this is becoming so poignant to me. I love when God gives a wake up call. I’ve been tuned in, but this was like an alarm clock bell! Bless you and your family. I am grateful we are connected.
Lila Diller says
You made me tear up! My 12 year old is in his first year of middle school, and changes have already begun. My youngest is still 7, so those days aren’t completely over, but they will come sooner than I expect. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy it while it lasts.
Lila, your life sounds like mine: with a 16yo and a 9yo and the years are zooming and they don’t see what I see. They see opportunity and friends and challenges and disappointments and all the mix of boyhood. I see the preciousness of life with them and the deep love I feel and the way it all is slipping past us. It’s ok that they don’t see it. As long as I notice, I can bring us all to a halt, or appreciate the process while we zoom forward together. I’m grateful for your heart for your children and the desire to enjoy them. You encourage me with your comment.
Your story made me all teary-eyed. Both my parents passed away and our family home found other hands. We didn’t have a swing set, just 5 acres of woods and vines and lots of homesteading trial & error memories. Losing loved ones makes you acutely aware of how short life is and how we should treasure every precious moment with our children. They are only ours for a short time before we must let them fly.
Sally, your sharing here warmed my heart. I grew up in Ohio and in a spacious neighborhood in St. Louis. Acres of open space with woods and vines and creeks were my childhood landscape. I’m so sorry for the losses you have endured. They sure give us an acute sense of what is precious. It’s not that we don’t forget at times, but there is a pervasive sense that we need to make the most of the time we have. I’m so glad you came by PattyHScott.com and shared. You blessed my day.