Last week we took down our swingset.

It feels like I should play a little funeral dirge behind that sentence. No swingset, after 12 years of living in a home with a swingset. Ours is gone.

I watched the disassembling from my perch on the back patio (where I sat wearing a JACKET in late August, by the way–if this is climate change, it's working for me just fine). I watched the boys handing tools to Hubs, while Corrie sang them show tunes (it was immensely helpful to them), and I coached myself: do not get sentimental, do not get sentimental. It's just a rusty old death trap that needed to come down before someone got launched over the neighbor's fence. Anyway, it would be nice for some grass to grow over there. This is purely practical–it is not some climactic harbinger of my sad, empty nest.

But because I find myself squarely in a midlife crisis at the moment, realizing that I'm just this close to not having a preschooler for the first time in 13 years–well, my raw emotions are turning non-events into events, every single day. Hubs knew this, and he called over his shoulder as he worked: "You sure you don't want to take a picture?"


And then I think I may have stomped my foot.

But just before I let myself descend–yet again–into my swirly pot of self-pity that my babies are growing, I caught a look at my 8 year old, attempting to use one of the old swingset bars as a javolin. At the same time, the twelve year old was drawing up blueprints on how he could incorporate the swingset wreckage into a fort. The 10 year old picked up a garden house and started watering down the tiny sprigs of grass underneath where the swingset once lived.

They were moving on to better things. Repurposing.

It is precisely what they should do, just as it is precisely what I should do. The times, they are a-changin', and I can mourn their passing (and thus miss their passing), or I can look at what is to come. Even as I leave behind the Season Of the Swingset, I'm greeting a new season in its place. It's a season of deep conversations and belly laughs and hair gel and healthy grass and every member of my family cutting his own meat.

We're moving on to better things. Repurposing.

And I like it.

52 thoughts on “Repurposing

  1. Sarah @ Short Stop says:

    Amazing how removing those kinds of things feels like surgery. They’ve just become such a part of our memory – the swingset – always in the background.
    Loved this post, Shannon. I think so many mothers can relate.

  2. Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck says:

    I can relate. I am having such trouble with my oldest starting kindergarten this week–I know it doesn’t HAVE to be a big deal…but I can’t get over it. I can’t believe that she won’t be home with me all day, every day, ever again. I mean, obviously except on summer vacation but you know that’s just temporary. I keep tearing up thinking how different it is, and will be. GAH.

  3. Creative Junkie says:

    Sigh. Our swingset might as well come down as it is barely used anymore.
    But I just can’t do it. Not yet. Because then I’d have to admit that my kids are getting too old to use it, which means I’m getting old.
    And I just can’t face that truth right now.

  4. maria says:

    As I began my FINAL year with a child in elementary school, similar thoughts ran through my head. Then I spent a weekend with my 3 yr old nephew. That was the best medicine for the “no little boy blues” I had!
    It is bittersweet, watching our children grow. We just need to remeber to look for the sweet instead of the bitter.

  5. Becky says:

    Thanks for another great post. Your writing always makes me laugh and get teary eyed. : ) I am looking forward to the day we give the kids their first real swingset…I will try not to think about the taking down and growing up for now.

  6. Growing in the Son says:

    Oh how I can relate. When we moved into our house three years ago (3 yrs last week in fact) we did not bring the swingset with us. The young couple that bought our starter home was starting their own family. It seemed only right to leave it to them since ours were 9 & 12 at that point. Every now and then the kids get nostalgic and say they wish they had the swings here in our new home. And I completely understand what they’re thinking. We spent many a day playing on that swingset. Singing songs. Planning adventures. Dreaming dreams. Ahh now I’m gonna cry. 🙂 It’s hard to move on sometimes but we know it’s a part of life.
    Thank you for the beautiful post. ((hugs)) from one swingset-less mom to another

  7. Colleen says:

    Oh how this resonates with me. I am happy to report I did NOT cry as I watched my eldest daughter drive away for her first day of university. I am also happy to report she phoned me 5x because she was lost, or lonely or just overwhelmed.
    She still needs me. Not to give her a push on the swings, but to give her a push in the real world…to give her support when she asks for it and remind her that she can do it. By herself. On her own. With me on the other end of the phone.
    Enjoy this next year of no teenagers living in your home. Rest up.

  8. Musings of a Housewife says:

    Do I sense a spiteful DANGIT at the end of that post? Teehee.
    I can relate. Almost. I’m close to that point, and I do dread it. I absolutely LOVE having a preschooler in the house. 🙂
    Best of luck in your repurposing. 🙂

  9. Amanda says:

    I keep telling myself to stop wishing that my daughter was older and I had all my kids already. I’m only going to wish I could go back, so I just need to stop and enjoy it now. Thank you for the reminder.

  10. Teri says:

    When my parents put our swingset up when I was little, they cemented it in so that we could swing as high as we wanted to without it tipping…so now it has become a trellis; it sits in their backyard with two grape vines curling up either end…

  11. Kathy C. says:

    Oh sweet memories. I can relate…I remember when my husband worked so hard to build a fort with attached swingset all by hand, and I remember well the times it sat unused as your son grew older, and the times that hubby asked if it was time to tear it down…I just couldn’t part with that, as if my son would suddenly get younger…when the time came though, the pieces were used to build a beautiful gazebo in the corner of the yard with a hammock to relax on, and my son and I spent many days reading books out there as well. When he comes home he likes to hang out in the hammock, so…repurposing paid off, it’s a good thing. 🙂

  12. Beth says:

    This makes me grateful, suddenly, that my kids are spread out over 10 years! Ranging from 2 to 12, I am dealing not only with potty training, but Jr. High and a near teenager and all that it brings! Yes, our swingset will stay up for a few more years, but this gave me pangs of sadness for you and the future me! I felt the same way when we put away the crib and other baby items. And when we painted over my daughters picket-fence, flowers and butterflies to make way for a “teenagers” room. And I’m sure I’ll feel it over and over again as they continue to grow into young adults…
    Thanks for all of your beautiful posts…you’re so wonderful at putting into words exactly how I feel inside!

  13. kisatrtle says:

    My baby just started kindergarten. I’m home alone and tomorrow I interview for substitute lunch lady. I don’t remember ever wanting to be a lunch lady but adult conversation sounds nice.
    I suppose we are repurposing too.

  14. Lainie@ Mishmash Maggie says:

    I felt the same way when our eldest daughter came to me one day and said, “Can we get rid of these tub toys?
    They’re just in the way when I clean the bathroom.”
    I think I stopped breathing.
    We’ve since recovered but I was blindsided by the tub toys thing… that and when we didn’t need a step stool in the bathroom any more…sigh

  15. Becky says:

    Sentimental is my middle name. . . I think I find something sentimental in life during almost every bedtime story and meal and bathtime . . . and my kids are only 2-1/2 and 15 months. . . I think I need to print this post and attach it to the wall above my kitchen sink.
    Repurposing . . . I’m sure we’ll be doing a lot of that in the years to come.

  16. Tara says:

    We hit a milestone on August 23. My youngest graduated out of the nursery and into “real” Sunday School.
    After nearly 9 years in the nursery, I’ve also graduated and have taken myself off the nursery volunteer schedule. Now, on to children’s ministry!

  17. Tammy says:

    This fall I was to have a daughter in community college but like many she didn’t get in.So I have one at home all of the time and a 9th grader!Seems like yesterday i had a new born and a preschooler!The baby is now 7 inches taller then mommy.

  18. Liz C says:

    When I was a kid, we had to take out the treehouse in order to expand our actual house. We managed to fit about nine billion kids from the neighborhood into it, for one last picture of the local “hangout” with hooligans included.
    We’re in both the bra-shopping and baby-doll phases still, with the age spread of our four, but I do find myself very reluctant to move past a few stages.

  19. edj says:

    You will like this new season. In some ways, you will like it better. I personally love the deep conversations, and the glimpse of friendship that still lies in the future that they bring. I like the helpfulness and the developing personalities and independence. I like this season A LOT. I still miss the younger children stage sometimes, but it’s okay.
    Great post.

  20. Janelle says:

    Well said! It’s hard to keep that perspective. We’re not taking down the swingset for a long time yet, but we’re getting rid of the little baby stuff and it stings, just a little.

  21. Gretchen says:

    Wonderful post. I found wisdom in the sentence where you said to mourn the passing of things could be to miss their passing. Great thought. We’re at the getting rid of baby items like the person commenting above – bitttersweet. Thanks for the insight.

  22. Cara says:

    What a sweet post! As you know, I am only two years into my first set of preschool years and sometimes it feels as if it might never end. It hit me at the beach this summer that I might not ever sit down and relax again. No book read this year, no laying out and catching the rays, just fetching water from the ocean and digging sand for castles. But, I wouldn’t trade it for the sun and the book any day! When I read your post it reminded me that the time spent rocking tonight before bed will be gone before I know it as will the words “mama, read a book” as his chubby hand stretches forth with Goodnight Moon. Thanks for reminding me to enjoy this “season” in his life and mine because all too soon the seasons will change and I’ll need to get busy enjoying what the next ones hold in store.

  23. Jen says:

    Funny you should Post this. I really like the part about the Funeral, lol. I’d really like to get rid of mine but just like you I feel it’s alive….filled with memories.
    Lot’s of luck :O)

  24. TRS says:

    I must be the only one confused – probably because I don’t have kids – but isn’t your daughter very young? Like 5? seems like she has 5 years of swinging left … but what do I know?

  25. Shannon says:

    Yes, Cara, enjoy those sweet times while they last! (But at the same time,
    don’t feel guilty for being exhausted…) 😉
    On Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 8:52 PM, wrote:

  26. Martha Lowe says:

    Problem was solved by moving to a new house. There was a wonderful tree that occupied the kids and Moonshine, the Cockerpoo who thought he was a cat!
    I am sad that Carrie won’t have the joy of trying reach the sky with her feet. Then again, there are always parks – WONDERFUL places for Grands to take kids!
    Milestones hurt. Growth is decided by Our Father and perhaps it is as much for parents as it is for kids.

  27. Genny says:

    My husband has been asking me if I think it’s time to take our swingset down (our kids are 8 and 10). Each time he asks, I almost yell, “NO!” I’ve been feeling like time is flying so quickly lately (just posted today about a moment with my daugther that I almost missed, but am so glad I didn’t).
    Thanks for the reminder to focus on what is to come, instead of what is passing. Although, I think I’ll leave the swingset up for a couple more years. Maybe until the kids are 10 and 12. 🙂

  28. joyce says:

    This was really good. I’m in the empty nest (kinda…still paying college tuition so not quite empty). Your post made me nostalgic…we sold our house when we moved overseas a few years ago and my youngest was then twelve….the buyers wanted the swingset taken down before closing. (they put up an identical one after moving in but I won’t go there)…it was a day…I agree.
    But I will tell you I absolutely love having kids this age (21 and 19)…so interesting. It’s a whole new world but its good too.

  29. Bethany says:

    I needed to read this today. Thanks for the candid look into your life. There is peace in knowing that others have gone before me and will come after me. I hope I can meet the coming changes with the same grace and humor you have portrayed here.

  30. Cyndie says:

    I loved your post. My metaphorical “swing set” was sending my daughter off to college this fall after homeschooling her through highschool. I really really miss her, we had grown so close during the last year, and while I see her really blossoming into a beautiful young woman, I still sometimes think it isn’t fair, they just get to the age where you are really enjoying them and then they leave….

  31. Clarissa says:

    I may not be old enough to have my own kids yet, but I still loved this post! It relates to everyone’s life!! I’ve had to get used to things that were always around in my life that I’ve had to get rid of/change (like my bedroom when I left for college and my little sister took it over). 🙂

  32. Stephanie says:

    Beautifully written. With heart. With vivid imagery. with passion.
    No wonder a publisher approached you to write a book. You are definitely “author material.” 🙂
    Thank you giving us a glimpse into your life.

  33. cathy says:

    hmmm, here I am, six children later, putting up a swingset for the grandchild! I loved my children when they were little, but the teen years were great, and so are the post-teen years:))

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