I mowed my lawn for the first time this season a couple of weeks ago. As I got to the back yard, I once again had to mow around my daughter’s old swing set. I’ve had to deal with this thing since The Kid was 6 or so. It was hard to maneuver around and required the push mower and weed-eater to keep grass from overtaking it. The Kid is now 15 and hasn’t so much as sat on a swing in a couple of years. The wood was starting to rot in places, the chains were rusty, and the slide was cracked. I determined it was time for it to go. I talked with her about it, and she agreed she was done with it. She’s more concerned with her car and her phone these days, so it made sense to get the swing out of the way.
Last weekend I set about taking it apart. It was a good set, made of wood held together by heavy bolts and screws. But it had been sitting out there for nearly 10 years and time had taken its toll. I had all the necessary tools and expected little trouble taking the rickety thing apart. What I didn’t expect was the flood of memories and the emotional thunderstorm I would experience while dismantling a piece of my daughter’s childhood. I was completely caught off guard and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. I’m not an overly emotional or sentimental person by nature. At least I wasn’t until The Kid came along. I kept thinking, “It’s just a rotting old swing set! Get a hold of yourself, man!”.
Yes, it was a rotting old swing set. But it was more than that, too. It was built by the three men who will love her more than any other man ever will; my Dad, my father-in-law, and me. It took us part of two days to get it together, but we had a ball doing it. I remembered all the fun she had on it, carefree as only a young kid can be. I remembered all the time she spent on it with her friends, all of whom are growing up just like her. We had to rebuild part of it a few years ago, and I remembered her going with me to get the lumber and picking out some “interesting” paint colors to give it some protection. I remembered the fun of her helping me paint it and how proud she had been of the job she had done. Turns out that pile of weathered wood and cracked plastic was a lot more than a rotten old swing set. I got it apart, loaded up the parts and hauled it away. I can’t tell you how hard it was to do so.
Yeah, I guess I’m getting sappy in middle age. Honestly, I think it has more to do with The Kid’s age than mine. Those of you with teenagers will probably understand all this. The rest may not. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and the young woman she is becoming. It thrills me to think of what her future holds. But it is hard to let your little girl grow up. I can’t solve all her problems with a hug and some time on the swing anymore. That is hard.
I mowed the lawn again this weekend and it was much easier. I sailed right across the spot where the swing set used to be. Having that space opened up the yard quite a bit. It probably looks better now, but all I see is big hole.