What's Childhood Without a Treehouse?

Parents editor Liz Vaccariello knows her twin girls' treehouse is a place for unstructured, imaginative play...but knows there's a place for a nanny cam, too.

Editor's Letter Guess My Power Move Liz Vaccariello Red Dress Steve Vaccariello
One Spring evening when Sophia and Olivia were barely 4, I came home from work to find a pile of fresh 2x4s stacked between two backyard trees.

“For the treehouse,” said my husband, Steve.

“Yeah? What treehouse would that be?” I asked.

We had always planned to give the girls as many opportunities for unstructured, imaginative play as possible. Walks in the river, springtime snake hunts, outside hide-and-seek. Our backyard was becoming a patchwork of fire pits, mud piles, and gardens anyway. A fort in a tree? Sure. 

“I found a guy,” Steve enthused. “I showed him my plan, and he does it so everything’s strong and stable. We’re even building a handrail for the ladder.”

I didn’t want to dampen everyone’s enthusiasm. The tree-fort train had left the station, and I was just grateful the project involved someone who knew what he was doing. “Besides,” Steve said, bottom-lining it for me in the simplest terms.

“What’s a childhood without a treehouse?” 

Right.

Later that summer, we stood at our kitchen window admiring the scene. I had to admit, the fort didn’t look half bad. Branches from both trees wound through the structure, which was tall enough inside that an adult could stand. Its door “locked” with a little key latch, and I’d insisted we put rubber on the steps to skid-proof them. 

Nick, CJ, Will, Jack, and Edward (who, with my girls, made up the local kid squad) helped furnish it with a child-size art table, a smattering of stools, and a rickety bookcase they’d lifted off someone’s tree lawn and hauled to our place. They accessorized with meaningful (to them) rocks, sticks, and pinecones. A yellow beach pail hung from a rope; adults were to fill it with snacks when required.

Future summers played out in my mind. I imagined snipers with squirt guns, games of checkers, coded knocks, and secret passwords. As they grew, some of these friendships would fade, but the treehouse would be the setting for many of their childhood memories. Then it occurred to me. The structure Steve had erected for his little girls might someday be the setting for their first kiss, an illicit beer, maybe a round of spin the bottle.

“Oh my God, Steve. You just built a love shack!”

He looked at me. “I’m buying a nanny cam tomorrow.” 

I invite you to e-mail me at liz@parents.com. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter.