Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Trails, Part 1: the Backyard Pool

“Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace” -Psa. 144:12
I grew up in the same home where my mother lives in today. It’s in a nice neighborhood in Fort Worth. I make the journey there several times a year to spend time with her and do projects around the house. I love that home and I reflect a lot when I’m there on the great times growing up. Growing up, my mother was always joking about one day having a pool in our backyard. My dad would always say, “There’s a nice pool at the Country Club.” We’d all remind him, “We know, but we have such a great yard for it.” And we did have the perfect backyard for a swimming pool. But the wish never came true. Or did it? When I was in 6th grade. I was really into bugs and animals. We lived near a lot of undeveloped land that we called “the trails.” There were tons of woods and trails for “mini-bikes” (remember those?) and a creek that flowed right through the land. I spent countless hours down at the “trails” with my friends. We built a cool fort there where we kept secret treasures. One day I had a great idea, “Why not start a ‘zoo’ in my backyard?” I remember asking my mom and dad if I could buy a baby pool and put crawdads and stuff in it? They said, “sure,” but I’d have to take care of it. So, my mom drove me to the BX at the base (my dad was retired Air Force) and I (my mom, really) bought a baby pool. I brought the pool to the backyard, filled it with water and rocks and the transplant began. My friends and I used buckets and began to transport all kinds of living things from the creek to my backyard. We brought tadpoles, frogs, minnows, catfish (small ones), plants, and pretty much anything we could catch. I remember later that week I left to go to YMCA camp for 4 days, but my parents said they would “water the pool.” When I came back, most of the fish and tadpoles had died but my experiment was complete. I had proven to the scientific world that the creek creatures could survive for a few days in my backyard! My parents unknowingly showed me their love in several ways. My parents were willing to let me mess up the backyard. I’m sure my dad didn't like the idea of an ugly baby pool with smelly fish in his backyard, but he loved me enough to let me do it. It reminds me of the story about the man who was mildly rebuked by the neighbor for not keeping his yard tidy. His reply, “I know there are toys and bikes all over my yard, but I’m growing kids, not grass.” My parents were willing to let me pursue my dreams. I was in 6th grade and summers were a blast! The world has changed so much since the 70’s. Now, 6th graders are typically so intensely involved with sports that they don't have much time to do meaningless things like build a fort or catch animals. We need to be careful to let our kids just be kids. Everything doesn't have to be super intense. My parents were willing to cover for me. Taking care of a bunch of crawdads might not seem like a big deal, but they tried their best. They even wrote me at camp to let me know how the “pool” was doing. They didn't just let me pursue my dreams, but they supported my dreams as well. Some childhood memories are sad. But what better memories are we leaving for our kids? One of the joys of parenting is providing our kids with memories better than our own. We need to let our kids pursue their dreams, as goofy as they might seem us. We need to be willing to buy baby pools or whatever, and let it be their idea. We must not forget that our most important job is growing kids. Smelly tadpoles or not, there’s nothing more important we can do. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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