For his tenth birthday, my son got a zipline built in our backyard. A real one, not like the attempts he had made over Spring Break with three feet of rope. No, this one stretches a hundred and ten feet and flies out of the tree house, twelve feet in the air.
It was his father's idea, of course. And my mother heart was a little slower to get behind the project. But, I knew it would make two little kids' dreams come true.
Last New Year's Eve, our family sat down in the living room and spent some time praying together. I then asked everyone to answer a few questions about their goals for the new year. What ways did they want to grow spiritually? What aspect of self-discipline did they want to see incorporated into their daily routine? What was a fun goal they wanted to accomplish before the year was out?
My two youngest, independent of each other, answered "go zip-lining" on that last question. I was immediately concerned about that. We don't have a zip-lining facility anywhere close to our home. My husband and I had only experienced it for the first time the previous year on an anniversary trip to Tennessee.
How were we going to help that dream come true?
And then a few months later, my husband solved the dilemna. He would build them one.
And there I was. Stuck.
I really wanted to see that happen, to see their faces light up with the dream accomplished. And to have a way to not just do it once, but over and over again in their own backyard? That was amazing.
But, I'm a mom. And moms worry about their babies being safe
. I was the one who had insisted the tree house have lattice all the way around every edge, making it virtually impossible for anyone to fall out. And now my kids were going to launch themselves out of it, attached only to a wire? And not just once, but over and over again?
When he asked my opinion, I agreed to the plan, keeping my concerns fairly well hidden. I knew I was being overprotective. I knew he would make it safe. I knew they would be fine.
But, still I found myself nervous about it.
Until I remembered something that happened in that same backyard, many years ago. Our oldest two boys were small, one of them still in diapers. We were out on the back patio, eating a watermelon. I had cut slices for them and thought I was a cool mom by letting them eat them while running around, the juice dripping around their chins. This was pretty out of my normal routine, as I had always been the eat at the table and don't make a mess kind of person.
And then it happened. Laughing the whole time, my husband picked up the end of the watermelon that was lying on the patio table and smooshed it down on top of my oldest son's head. "Here's a watermelon hat!" he yelled, as our son giggled and tried to lick the juice that now ran out of his hair and down his face, dripping down his belly and landing all over the patio.
Of course, our younger son wanted a hat, too. So my husband lopped off the other end of the watermelon and smooshed it down on his head as well. Then, the two boys spent thirty minutes running around the yard with watermelons on their heads, laughing endlessly.
I remember watching my husband who was watching his boys with a smile, realizing that he thought nothing of the incident. I, on the other hand, was having a major life-change moment.
You never really know when those are going to happen. But, something was breaking inside of me. And something was being born.
Watching my boys play with such abandon. Seeing my husband chase them around the yard while they had big melons on their heads. Listening to their cries of amazement as he helped them throw the melons as far as they could be thrown when it was time to come inside, the shrieks of delight when the watermelon ends busted into pieces as they hit the ground. Loving the playfulness in him as he scooped up my filthy boys and dumped them in the bathtub.
It somehow set me free. I understood that I was going to have to step back and let him be dad. Because of course, kids need the tender ways of mom. But, they also need the wildness of their dad.
They have to have someone in their lives who nudges them into risk, beyond the limits of mom's safe world.
And I've realized through this journey called parenting that he's rubbed off on me. I've grown to be the kind of mom that can handle the mess, even though I still like to clean it up when we're done. I have found my own ways to challenge our kids to try new things--in fact, I was the first one who took our oldest out to a country road and let him try his hand at driving the car last summer. And when I really stop to ponder it, I realize that just living with this man called my husband has made me more ready to take risks in my own life, challenging myself to go beyond what is comfortable.
And so I watched, these many years later, as he built the zipline, and one by one, every one of my four children left his arms in the treehouse and flew to the other end of the yard, out into the great adventure.
And I thanked him sincerely for his token of love to me. A new gate on the treehouse, ensuring that when they aren't ziplining, they still won't fall out.