Build a Fort for No Regrets Parenting

When we were kids, there was nothing more fun than pulling all the sofa cushions onto the floor, stacking them, and covering them with sheets to build a fort. Hours upon hours spent in our forts, with flashlights, crayons, toys. In the summer, there was a corner of our backyard that became our outdoor fort – hollowed out bushes, with a leafy camouflage cover, giving us shade and secrecy with our friends. So, it was natural for my mom to get sucked in by the magazine ad…

Of course, all these years later neither my mom nor I remember if the ad was in the Ladies’ Home Journal or Reader’s Digest or in one of the kid magazines she saw in the doctor’s office or on the back of a cereal box. This was back in the day when “truth in advertising” wasn’t really a well- established concept yet.  In fact, it was in the day when cigarettes were still promoted as healthy. The ad was for a log cabin fort. One dollar, maybe with some box tops required as well, and your kids could enjoy a realistic old West fort of their own. The picture, my mom remembers, was of happy kids playing inside a richly colored and textured log cabin fort. And, best of all, there was “minimal assembly required!”

Money was tough to come by for us as kids. My dad sold fruits and vegetables on a truck (a peddler, as he was known then) and my mom was at home with us trying to balance the family budget on the meager profits from bananas and onions. A dollar, with my mom’s frugality, could by a shirt for school, or on Month-End sale days, a pair of dress pants from the clearance rack. She struggled mightily over investing a whole dollar on a log cabin fort, no matter how realistic it was. But, she knew we really did love forts, and she loved seeing us happy in our forts. So she sent in the dollar, and eagerly waited, never spilling a word about the surprise that she was waiting for in the mail.

When the package with the name of the fort company came, my mom immediately knew there was a problem. The envelope was standard issue manilla, no thicker or larger than one might ship the Ladies’ Home Journal itself in. With trepidation and remorse, mom opened the envelope to find a plastic tablecloth, the size of a card table, with log shapes imprinted on the outside. The “minimal assembly required” referred to the hole that the satisfied customer was supposed to cut along the perforated line to create the door. And then all one had to do was set up a card table, spread the tablecloth, and voila, a fort worthy of…well worthy really of nothing other than a plastic covered card table ready for a game of canasta or poker.  Mom was devastated. But…

She set up a card table, covered it with the plastic fort, and called us into the living room for a big surprise. Our unabashed, utter delight at the log cabin fort is something she remains grateful for to this day. When you are 7 years old and 3 years old, your taste in forts isn’t very sophisticated. And this, whatever adults thought of it, was a real fort, not a bunch of sofa cushions! We ran for our flashlights, our crayons, and our toys. Let the fun begin.

As parents ourselves now, we are very lucky that our kids appreciate the little things, have modest tastes and realistic expectations. No Regrets Parenting is about simple. And sweet. It’s about forts in the living room and being grateful for what we have instead of wishing we had more.

Thanks, mom.