When I Was Reminded That 'We're Raising Children, Not Lawns'

by Shannon Armenis
Originally Published: 
Raising Children, Not Lawns: boy on baseball field
Courtesy of Dawn Kearney Photography

Each spring, for years, my husband would throw grass seed in our backyard. As soon as the soft green spikes would begin to shoot up make their presence known, they would disappear after just one neighborhood Wiffle ball game, once again.

Defeated, he would start grumbling about how the grass in our backyard would never recover and why we had the only yard with a homemade baseball diamond comprised of oddly shaped, dirt base baths and a perfectly round large pitcher’s mound in the center. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the boys would faithfully hose down and rake that pitcher’s mound when he wasn’t home in preparation for the next game. Instead, I would just yell to him from our deck, “YOU SAID YOU WANTED ALL BOYS! REMEMBER, HONEY: IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME!”

And they did, for many summers. Many times a day, I would find myself startled when a foul ball would drill the side of our house, the dog would bark and the baby would wake up. I would open an empty refrigerator in our garage after having just filled it with drinks the day before. I would pick up pieces of mangled Wiffle balls left behind to become victims of our lawn mower.

Courtesy of Shannon Armenis

The dirt spread as the base paths grew larger and larger, signifying the start of base leading in little league. We were forced to replace the pickets on a neighbor’s fence every couple of weeks as the home-run boundary moved further and further away. Right-handed batters started batting left to add an additional challenge until one day, the last game was played. The last strike was argued. The last home-run was hit. Bats were put away for one last time, even though a few Wiffle balls lay strewn across the yard waiting for the next game that had always come.

No one knew it was the last time. Not the boys in the backyard, not the parents calling them home for dinner that day. It seemed almost overnight, the field had suddenly become too small and the boyish voices I had listened to making bad calls all those summer days in the backyard had lowered several octaves.

One of the benefits of having a larger age gap between our older two boys and our youngest, is the benefit of hindsight. We are often reminded how quickly these “lasts” happen. We won’t receive a sign from a third base coach, warning us. There won’t be an announcer or a score board to let us know what inning we are playing in the game of their childhood. It serves as a reminder that if we aren’t paying careful attention, these lasts will whiz past us like a carefully placed fast ball on a batter, caught looking on a third strike.

Courtesy of Dawn Kearney Photography

We all know the quote “the days are long, but the years are short.” I knew it would happen quickly but even still, I was caught looking. In my efforts to calm my husband down, I would often remind him that one day, very soon, we would look out from our kitchen window and find the most beautiful yard filled with luscious green grass, worthy enough to be the envy of any golf course. Our hearts though, would look out that same window and envy the old, dusty, dirt base paths and carefully crafted pitcher’s mound.

Our youngest son was riding his little motorized 4-wheeler in our front yard the other day, while our older neighbor watched him from his porch. I use the term “riding” fairly loosely. It generally involves my son pushing the gas while I run after him shouting, “PAY ATTENTION!” and “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!” combined with the efforts of my hands quickly cutting the steering wheel, to prevent collisions and protecting our gardens.

He spotted our neighbor, left me in the dust and hightailed it through their lawn, dismounted his four wheeler and stomped through their garden to join my neighbor on his porch. I quickly scolded him and apologized to our neighbor for the fresh 4-wheeler tracks on his front yard and the five-year-old footprints in his flower bed. He smiled, welcomed my son and said “Don’t ever worry about that. We raise children, not lawns.”

True words spoken from the father in our neighborhood with the most beautiful grass.

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