My family is celebrating a birthday this week. My daughter turns 11.
We’ve already entered the pre-teen phase and some of those unwanted teenage behaviors have emerged (insert eye rolling and sassy comments here). So when she was asked what she wanted for her birthday I was bracing myself for what her response would be.
Boy was I surprised – not just by her request but by my reaction also.
In order to fully understand this birthday wish of my daughter’s I need to give you a little history. For as long as my kids can remember we’ve had a swing set in our backyard.
They both enjoyed countless hours of play on the slide and swings. But I have to say my daughter loved it most. She played on it with friends or by herself almost every single day.
Then, last fall someone decided to have a little fun in our neighborhood. In the middle of the night our swing set was tipped so it was standing straight up in the air – if you can picture that.
Unfortunately, because of the weight of the swing set, not to mention its condition, when we set it back down the wood splintered and it was no longer structurally sound.
You cannot imagine the disappointment of one little girl.
Friends very generously gave us their old swing set but it was like the “magic” was gone and could not be replaced. My daughter asked for a brand new one but my husband and I couldn’t justify spending that amount of money for something we knew she’d outgrow all too soon.
So I thought our swing set days were behind us.
But someone had other plans. Someone asked for a new swing set for her birthday. Actually what she wanted was an addition to the existing set, more of a playhouse.
She had big dreams and she even drew plans of what it would look like. And what did I do? What did I say to the soon to be eleven year old dreaming of all the fun she would have? I said no.
I said no because our culture tells us that 11-year-olds don’t play with swing sets anymore. I said no because what she was asking for was a little more money than I wanted to spend and it didn’t seem like a good investment. I mean how much longer will she want to play on a swing set?
And then, thankfully, my husband made me look at the big picture.
Our daughter is going to be 11 and she asked for a playhouse for her birthday – nothing else. She didn’t ask for a phone. She didn’t ask for makeup or clothes that are inappropriate for her developing 11-year-old body. She didn’t ask for an over-the-top birthday party.
She asked for an addition to her swing set where she could play and use her imagination and stay a child just a little while longer.
And with that realization I finally came to my senses and said yes. It certainly didn’t hurt that her father has the knowledge and skills and willingness to build this addition himself.
There are enough outside influences that pressure our children to grow up too quickly. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to embrace the child that lives inside my not-so-little girl as long as I possibly can.
So whether she plays with it for one month or one year, we’ve decided it’s worth it.
It’s worth blocking out that grown-up world so a birthday girl can be just what she is – a growing, developing, creative, caring, beautiful 11-year-old girl.
Contact Kim Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org.