Why We Gave Up On Having A Nice Yard

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Eliza Broadbent

In the summer, I have to swear that watermelon seeds will not make my three boys pregnant with watermelon babies. While I pant in a hammock and wish for an Alaska, they dive for giant coins in our awesomely redneck above-ground pool in their underwear, because they couldn’t find bathing suits. Again. Because they threw them somewhere in our yard. Again. And the dog dragged them somewhere and maybe buried them, or maybe they’re just under a towel in our guest bathroom. I’m slapping mosquitoes and/or bathed in Deet while I scream at them for perhaps the fortieth time not to splash me or splash their youngest brother in the face. Then they get out, yell for towels, and run around our yard, still in their underwear.

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And it’s not summer unless that yard’s a total wreck.

Courtesy of Eliza Broadbent

We might live where temperatures soar into the hundreds in July, but in the summer, our kids live in our yard. We don’t want them on screens all day, and between a trampoline, a pool, and a swingset/climbing wall/monkey bar edifice, they shouldn’t be. But despite the trampoline, pool, and swingset/climbing wall/monkey bar edifice, they usually prefer to find their own fun.

By wrecking our yard.

We Gave Up On Grass, Because Holes

When we sell our house, we’ll have to shell out beaucoup bucks for turf. Between three dogs and three kids, there is not a stem of grass in the dirt and jungle lot behind my house. We have trees. We have lots of trees. They exist on our yard’s periphery and provide fort-making material, secret hideouts, and toad habitats. We gave up on growing plants in pots because my husband’s Shepherd/terrier/raccoon mix merrily eats them, knocks them over, or digs them up. So we have a lot of dirt. A lot of dirt.

The dirt in our area is really, really sandy.

Sand is really, really easy to dig up.

The Shepherd/terrier/raccoon wants to be wherever our kids are, because reasons. My 120-lb German Shepherd wants to be wherever our kids are because he thinks he has to guard them from all the danger all the time. But dogs get hot. Dogs don’t do well in 100 degree heat. So dogs have a solution.

Dogs dig big-ass holes.

Courtesy of Eliza Broadbent

The Shepherd/terrier/raccoon is smallish and can only dig so deep. My dog outweighs me and digs with an unparalleled frenzy. My kids can sit in his holes. During the summer, they pockmark our yard like craters on some strange moonscape.

This does not count the holes my kids dig so they can “make a lake.” Making a lake involves excavating our yard, then turning our hose on full-blast and filling it as fast as the sand can soak it up. Spoiler alert: that’s super fast, so the hose has to stay on. They dredge themselves, often fully clothed, through their mudpit, then the Shepherd/terrier/raccoon dredges herself through the mud pit, while the German Shepherd looks on like, “Fuck no, I’m not getting wet. Let me dig another hole.”

The water drains. The hole abides.

Our Yard Is Littered With… Stuff

Look, people, it takes tools to make a lake. You need several shovels, because if you only have one your brother hogs it and you will scream until you find another. You need a hose, which you will turn off and leave, snake-like, uncoiled across the non-existent lawn. You need dinosaurs, if you are my seven-year-old, to ring the lake and presumably do things, like fall in the lake and die. These things remain in our yard because who’s going to pick them up when it’s one hundred degrees in the shade and sitting still makes you pant?

Then there’s the pool, which produces its own summer detritus. I watch them get in. I watch them swim. I watch them get out and someone’s always forgotten a goddamn towel, so while I run in to grab one, someone’s already stripped off their suit and run inside naked, or dried off and dropped their towel in the dirt, or left a towel on a chair. A trail of small swimsuits and towels surrounds the pool exit. So do confiscated pool toys, like squirt guns and those foam things that squirt water, and pool noodles that have been used to bash siblings over the head. There’s always a depressingly deflated tube around there somewhere, too. Yeah, our yard’s a wreck. You come clean it when the heat index hits 115.

My children also may or may not have made a clubhouse under the trampoline.

Courtesy of Eliza Broadbent

It Means Summer, Okay?

Look, all this stuff means we’re outside. That empty bourbon bottle next to my hammock? I was drunk-Zooming with friends the night before, which also explains that tangle of cords for lightning cables and my laptop. That stash of floats piled next to the pool shows that their dad and I also occasionally get in and float, sometimes with the kids, sometimes after they go to bed (and sometimes at night we don’t wear clothes because thank god I have a privacy fence).

Our yard might be a wreck. But in the summer, our yard gets used. Our kids aren’t on tablets; Dad and I are outside supervising them in the pool; the dogs are outside supervising them on dry land. They’re happy. We’re happy. And if you want to come over and fill holes in the face-melting heat, feel free. But my kids are happy on their quarter acre of dirt and play equipment. It saved our sanity during 2020.

We love our yard, holes and all. Grass is overrated, anyway.

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