Everything stay-at-home mom Jennifer needed to build memories for her children was in her backyard.
When I put away the complicated instruction manuals, my children were much happier (and I was too).
When I was growing up, we had a tire swing in our backyard hanging from a gigantic pine tree. It was made out of an old black tractor tire and hung from prickly yellow nylon rope. With two younger siblings, there was a lot of bickering over who got to swing first (and I’m sure my brother and I won most of the time). We spent hours on that tire swing. When my parents divorced and we moved from my father’s farm to my mom’s farm, the tire swing was left behind and we were kept busy on the family farm with new adventures and a replacement tire swing was never put up.
Gillian and Isaac have been begging us to put up swings. So we did what most parents would do: bought a book about how to build swings. We looked at the pictures, read instructions and pretty much threw our hands up in the air because even something as simple as hanging a swing seemed to be beyond our skill set. The tire swing called for hardware I never heard of and was very specific about the type of tires that should be used (apparently low-profile tires are the best). This simple backyard swing was going to cost more than $50. And never mind trying to find a suitable branch to hang it off of. All of the branches seemed too close to the ground, too high to reach or too skinny to hold the weight of a tire and a child. In short, a tire swing seemed expensive and dangerous.
That is until I visited my father and we started talking about the old tire swing. I told him that I desperately wanted to hang a swing for the kids but was missing all of the tools and hardware to do it and that I had a hard time understanding the knot tying instructions in the book I bought about tire swings. I swear he looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. That’s when I realized that maybe I was overthinking it. When my dad put up our childhood tire swing that he didn’t have a book. He had rope, an old tire and three kids pestering him to put up a swing. That was it.
When I got home that afternoon, the kids and I hauled an old tire that was dumped along our road over the winter out of the ditch and rolled it down our driveway. I went to the hardware store, bought 100 feet of rope for $10, climbed a tree in my bare feet to tie several invented knots around a branch that bent under my weight. And for the next hour our kids shared — and of course, bickered over — that swing. This morning I put up two more swings, salvaging some pressure-treated lumber and again the kids swung themselves silly. No measuring or tools or knots or instruction books. I even used a steak knife to cut the rope because I couldn’t find the scissors.
So what’s the point of this post?
Think about what your kids have been begging you to do lately that you have been putting off because it is outside of your comfort zone. Maybe it’s a riding a bike, baking a cake or building a fort. Put away the instruction books, forego the tools and any special supplies you’d need to buy. Forget overthinking it, forget wasting time and worrying whether or not it will turn out like the picture in the book (because remember, you put away the book).
Because the best memories you can make for your kids are the simple ones.
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.