Last weekend, we finally took down the old trampoline in our backyard. It was time: The safety net was tied to the support poles with twists of rope and the skirt covering the springs was torn to shreds. When the wind blew last winter, you could hear it flap.
We’d gotten the trampoline for our son’s 3rd birthday; this month he turned 13.
Ten years ago, we were living in Ojai, California, where my wife was commuting down the hill to earn a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Somehow we misread the trampoline dimensions and only when we started assembling the frame did we realize there was no way it would fit on our small, fenced patio. But with the trampoline in hand and in the wee hours before big birthday expectations, what were we going to do? What we did was assemble it in two-thirds of our two-car garage, which required learning to park our Subaru in a very specific, cockeyed way so that we could open the car door into a pocket of space left by the trampoline’s arc.
We never said it out loud, but I think my wife and I both saw the trampoline as a way to celebrate our son’s recovery from brain surgery: In a follow-up appointment a couple week’s before our son’s third birthday, his neurosurgeon had given him the green light to “head the soccer ball and bounce on trampolines.” And so, when all was said and done, we didn’t really care that the trampoline was too big. In fact, the bigger the better. If we had to suck in our breath to make it through the gap between the car and the wall, who cared?
This is what I thought about as we tore it down last weekend. Actually, our son helped. Grumbling like only a teenager can, he hauled the bars into a big green disposal bag and I’m sure he must have wondered why Daddy’s eyes were wet. Maybe he thought it was springtime allergies.
The point is that things change. The seasons change; children change; illness changes. Believe it or not, we change, too (as shown by the fact that yard work now has the power to make me sore for two days).
Our son is off to a school camp next week — you know that big box on the medical release form where parents are supposed to describe their child’s medical limitations? I usually write about his condition and about how important it is to notify us immediately if he takes a whack to the head. It’s happened in past years: A teacher calling to breathlessly relate the story of a minor bump. This year, I left it blank.
Blank as the bald patch of grass where the trampoline recently sat. And blank as the canvass that now stretches before our teenage son’s life.
Garth Sundem is a parent, husband, and author of books including “Real Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change”.