Updated: Apr 11, 2019
"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." - Dorothy
I'm pretty sure anyone who is above the age of 30 has had concerns about "kids these days." That somehow "we" (Baby Boomers, Generation X, etc) did things better than "they" (Millenials, Generation Z, etc.) do. That somehow life was simpler/better/more enjoyable than it is today. Isn't there some way we can get back to "the good old days?" Admit it, you've thought those things at some point. You've worried about your kids growing up entitled and with a rotted brain. You've compared your childhood to theirs and wondered - how did we get here?
In 2015, my husband and I set out to find some land just outside of the suburban area we called home in South Charlotte. Our kids were 15, 6, and 4 and we were concerned they were trending towards being "inside kids." We wanted some acreage to use for recreation - to get our hands dirty and do some of the spectacularly stupid and fun things my husband and I both did as kids. As we were searching for property, we started thinking -why not just build a house and move onto the land? Why not just have this out our front door every day? So we took a leap of faith, bought 25 acres of mostly wooded land, and set about the task of working with an architect and builder to build our dream home. In November of 2017, we moved in and began the process of de-suburbanizing our kids. It's been tough. It is nowhere near complete. There are conveniences that we all miss. We miss neighborhood streets for bike riding, and sidewalks for dog walking. Gone are the days of effortless playdates with neighborhood friends and the conveniences of being closer to shopping, dining, and the airport. But there is so much we love about our new lives. There is wonder an amazement in the little stuff. We can see stars at night. We can see gorgeous sunsets every evening. There is so much life going on around us, and the kids are starting to be interested in what is going on outside the walls of the house. We can watch hawk families feeding their babies. Our pond was home to baby geese taking their first swim last spring. The most amazing thing is the two younger kids are starting to actually become friends. It was so easy in our old neighborhood for our daughter to just go outside and play with any one of dozens of kids her age and leave her wild younger brother behind. Even though the transition has been rough and is nowhere near complete, we now see them begging for more time after dinner to play together before bedtime. They share secrets and build pillow forts to sleep in together on the weekends. We are trending toward contentment. We still some days wish we were brave enough to throw away all the iPads/iPods/video games - but we are doing better.
My dream is that the kids will feel so deeply connected to this home that they will feel nostalgic about growing up here. After they have created their own homes and families elsewhere, they will always feel a positive connection to this land and the life we have created on it through lots of hard work. I hope that when they look back on their childhoods, they will see the positive effect a carefully crafted place can have - and they will know that the space and the relationships within it take hard work and a little elbow grease to maintain, but that all the hard work is worth it.
Enjoy the photos below, starting from when we used to come out and play on the land and come home covered in ticks through the construction process. Photos are (mostly) in chronological order and going through them all made me realize how lucky we were to not end up with any ER visits during this process.
There's no place like home.