It feels like yesterday. We had just moved into our new house. Finally, the kids had a yard. Justin was turning four. We couldn’t wait for him to wake up and see his birthday gift — a play yard with swings, a slide, a rock-climbing wall, and a tunnel.
Well, it was really a gift for all our boys — ages 2, 4, and 7.
Or maybe it was a gift for me.
I’d dreamt of giving my boys a backyard with a pool and a swing set and lots of grass for them to run around. I wanted them to have a wholesome upbringing full of fun, magic, and dirt. I still remember the joy I felt the first time I looked outside the kitchen window and saw that big, beautiful play yard. From then on, I’d spend many a day staring through the kitchen window while my boys played and I did the dishes. I’d also spend many afternoons swinging next to them or sitting on the grass as they climbed up and down.
Suddenly, seven years have passed. The wood has rotten in many places. The monkey bars we added a few years ago just aren’t holding up anymore. Even though we tightened the bolts and made repairs along the way, the handyman has warned us it’ll cost more money to continue to repair the play yard than it’s worth.
My boys suggest we get rid of it so they have more space to play football.
We decide to put the play yard on Offer Up for free. Anyone who wants the parts or is willing to repair it can come by and pick it up.
Now I’m staring at two strangers through the kitchen window, taking apart the structure that symbolized my kids’ childhood. My heart aches. The tears rush out.
The sadness and nostalgia I felt surprised me. I’ve never been a parent who gets overly emotional about my kids growing up. I’ve enjoyed each season.
But this one hurt.
I leaned into my husband’s chest and cried. “Ages and stages, my love,” he gently reminded me. “You’re still going to see your boys playing through this window. It’s just going to look different.”
Different can be hard
As a student of stoicism, I was almost embarrassed to mourn the removal of a play yard set. I understand that in the scheme of things, this is not a big deal. But the sadness that consumed me at that moment reminded me of my humanity. We often think that once we have the tools to process our emotions, reframe our perspective, and tap into our resilience, we won’t feel the yucky feelings.
And then something happens that jolts your insides, and you realize these feelings are part of our humanness. They are instinctual and we should not judge ourselves for experiencing them.
That night I went through old pictures and videos of my boys and other little ones enjoying the play yard. I even found that first video of the day we gave the play yard to Justin for his birthday. My cousin told me to stop torturing myself with the videos.
But I didn’t watch the videos to mourn that it’s over. I watched them to celebrate that it happened.
I allowed myself to feel all the feelings, knowing that it is only when we accept our feelings for what they are that we can also surrender and let them go.
After taking a picture in front of the play yard right before they completely dismantled it — my way of documenting the end of the chapter — I spent some time with the dad who was taking the set. He was a builder and was going to rebuild the broken swing set for his 3 small kids — ages 2,3, and 5 years old. On Christmas morning, his little children would wake up to an amazing play yard, just like my boys did all those years ago.
I took great satisfaction in knowing that the toys that had served my family so well for so long were now going to bring joy and happiness to a new family.
It was a new chapter for them and a new one for us — and thus the cycle of life continues.
A Moment of Clarity
The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else.
Although each new chapter brings a combination of joy and sadness, it also brings new beginnings.
May we look forward to the new chapters with a hopeful heart and look back at the end of them with a grateful one — for these are the makings of a wonderful life.