It's happening this summer. After 15 long years we are saying goodbye to our climbing frame, which has provided endless days of fun for our three children. You name it, the climbing frame has been it – a space ship, a gym, a witch's den, a great place for lunch (it has a covered pod).
This contraption ruined the grass, as we continually moved it around our small town lawn, but I can say, hand on heart, it was probably the best thing we ever spent money on as far as the kids are concerned.Dollies have spent the night in it, abandoned after a full day's play. Food has been left in it and attracted hordes of ants. Birds have splattered the rungs and the resultant mess has caused many an argument as people disagreed over who should clear it up.
Even adults have got wedged in the slide coming down it on alcoholic Saturday nights.
It's also been a great indicator of how you treat your first child with kid gloves but relax with subsequent arrivals. When we first put it up we only set up the frame at its lower level, gradually building it up as first our son, and then our daughter, grew.
By the time baby number three arrived the frame was at its full height and she had to learn to negotiate this momentous climb from her first day of using it. And I'm sure I didn't stand alongside her helping her go and snapping pictures. Bad mum.
A few years ago, following a period of watching gardening programmes, we got a lady in who promised to transform our suburban plot into sumptuous grounds we would spend the long lazy summer days lounging in – well, I can dream.
But the consultation didn't last long. "That will have to go, of course," she spat, pointing at the beloved frame, which was slap bang in the middle of the grass that day. I looked at her blankly: "That's not going anywhere for the time being – it's still in use," I spluttered back.
Her obvious disdain for it was too much for me – at that stage I couldn't ever imagine it not being part of our lives.But fellow parents, we all know, Time stands still for no one. Our youngest child will soon be 12 – she's had her fill of it, too. My husband, who keeps everything from his childhood, is already rubbing his hands in eager anticipation of claiming the lawn back.
Hasn't he noticed the badminton net that the kids have strung across the garden? Believe me, what's left of our lawn won't survive a summer of shuttlecock divings.
Of course I know I'm not mourning the frame going, as such: I'm mourning getting older. It's an inevitable milestone – as my brood don't want to clamber on things in the great outdoors anymore, neither do they want to climb onto their mother's knee.
So, my problem now is: how to get rid? We have planted a seed in our next-door neighbours' heads that they can have it. That way, if we're really careful we can possibly just hand it over the fence. Job done.
Otherwise we're going to have to advertise it on a recycling website, dismantle it and then explain to the new family how to put it back together again. It's bound to turn into a dirty, angst-ridden job with lots of wasted weekend sulking as we struggle to clean it up, make sure it's safe and then dispatch the whole thing.
Come on, next-door neighbours – make my day. I promise you, your kids will love it, just as mine did.
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