Annabel wanted a million different insane things for Christmas. I could explain why she couldn’t have a lot of them (No, you cannot have a sled…because we don’t have snow here. No, you cannot have a snow machine…because it is too hot here.), but there were a few requests she tried to sneak past me. For example, at one of the pre-Christmas events we went to, kids could meet with Santa Claus. Even though she’d already had her time with Santa, she still wanted to sit with this one. When she was on his lap, I heard her tell Santa, “…but what I really want is a tree house.” I was close enough to say, “Oh, Santa…do you think you can get a permit in time? You know the City is strict about those.” Santa caught on and let Annie down gently, but I could see her disappointment.

I’ve said it a million times, but Annabel is so much like me. When I was a kid I also desperately wanted my own tree house, or a clubhouse, or really anything I could retreat into and, once safely inside, create my own imaginary worlds. Sometimes I’d build myself a cave on my bed with pillows, blankets, and rope, and once I even cleared out the floor of my closet and made myself a secret hideaway under my clothes. I’d go to sleep inside my homemade fort, and I’d wake up furious to find that my mom had taken down the fort around me, or moved me out of my closet into my bed. At the time all I could think was, “This wouldn’t happen if I had a real treehouse.”

I couldn’t give Annie a real treehouse but I wanted to give her something she could enjoy in a similar way. I asked my dad to help me build the kids simple two-sided tents. He used some tools to fit together 2x4s and dowels (I should never be allowed near a saw), and I sewed two tent covers out of duck cloth (it’s similar to canvas). I was really happy with how they turned out, and I hoped the kids would like them.

Luckily, they do. They sit in them all the time (as much as James sits, at least), and Annie asks me to move hers throughout the house.

in the tents

I’ve watched Annie bring her special stuffed animals into her tent, and when she’s inside she speaks in a quiet voice that only her toys can hear. She’s also put “doors,” (aka blankets) on the entrances to the tent when she wants more privacy.

She even asks to sleep in her tent:

ready to sleep in the tent

Every night she’s slept in it, I’ve come into her room later to discover that she’s propped up pillows and hung blankets all over the tent. I’ve found myself automatically taking down the blankets, moving the pillows, clearing the area around her head so she won’t accidentally get hurt or suffocate…even though I know she’ll be furious with me. But I’m the mom now, and I have to keep her safe – even if that means tearing down some bits of imagination.

I know someday she’ll do the same for her children…maybe even in a real treehouse.