My dream of a perfect Saturday consists of this: A crisp fall day, a brisk hike, enjoyable errands—a run to the yarn store or the fabric store (or the wine store or the shoe store). A little leaf raking, a little bonding with the neighbors. A cookout planned for the evening, or else an outing to a restaurant. There would be reading time, knitting time, time spent chatting with my husband about all the amazing things we’re going to do with our house and yard over the years.
And the entire time I’m engaged in all of this pleasantry, my children would be in the woods out back, building a fort.
Understand this: the construction of this fort would in no way involve my driving to Home Depot to buy supplies. I would not be the one who came up with the exciting idea of building a backyard fort. Maybe Fine Young Son No. 1 would have thought of it himself after reading a book about some kids building a fort in the woods. Maybe Fine Young Son No. 2 would have found a two by four in the garage and yelled to his big brother, “Let’s build a fort!”
Together they would procure their supplies. They would go out into the woods and find large fallen branches. They would come up with an ingenious way to secure those branches into some kind of structure. Periodically, FYS1 would send FYS2 into the house for snacks.
Together they would decide that in fact what they were building wasn’t a fort at all—it was a pirate ship, and FYS2 would come in asking for black construction paper and white crayons, so they could make a pirate flag. FYS2 would come in and ask if they could take a couple of knives and pretend they were swords. I would suggest cutting swords out of cardboard instead.
They would work on their fort all day. They might squabble a little, but for the most part they would work together. FYS1 would finally realize that what we’ve been telling him for ages is true: if he is nice to his little brother and includes him in stuff, his little brother will worship him like a god.
At the end of the day, they would ask to sleep in the fort. My husband, the camper, would get them set up. Around nine, FYS2 would wander back into the house because he heard some strange noises. At ten, my husband would go out and collect the fast asleep FYS1 and deposit him in his bed.
It doesn’t seem like such an impossible dream, does it? But so far it hasn’t come to pass. Mostly I blame myself: Despite our limits on TV and computer, my children spend too much time indoors, immersed in their technological lives--or waiting for me to entertain them. I should do what my mother did: Kick 'em out of the house. Don’t come in ‘til dinner, I’ll tell them, and then I’ll bar the doors.
But maybe not all is lost. Maybe the idea of a fort is just beginning to ripen in my children's minds. It just needs a little more time to come fully to fruition. Fall is around the corner, the mosquitoes will die off, and our little woods behind the house will cry out to be explored. In an age of miracles, my children will abandon their Leapsters, their infernal Nintendo DS's, and run outside, free at last. And in the best possible way, I’ll be free, too.