Every American boy needs a shed

When I first heard the John Williamson song, The Shed, I thought it an odd subject for a folk song. After all, when he sings “Every Australian boy needs a shed…” I couldn’t help but think about a woodshed and we all know what happens when you take a boy out to the woodshed. And it’s not a subject for folk songs.  But it isn’t at all what the song is about. It’s about needing a place to get away, be yourself and pursue your own projects even if the roof leaks and the whole thing sways on windy days.

A joint to learn to read an’ write, to work on his bike at night
To grow up as he likes, to grow anything under lights
A place to keep his tools, nuts and bolts and drills
To hang a hide, to hide the dry or hang to pay the bills

I think it is why children are drawn to building forts and clubhouses and tree houses. For as much as they like being underfoot, they also have a need to carve out their own space. Their own private space. It may be in the attic, under a stairwell or even under a blanket thrown over some chairs, but it is a place to get out from under the immediate influence of parents and be themselves.

My children have been busy claiming a closed off section of the hen house, a small room with the door boarded shut and a loft area that can only be accessed through a small window. The younger ones require a boost up and help down from the older ones and there is something so very touching watching the four of them work together to slip through. I don’t really know what goes on in there aside from a bit of hammering and occasional requests for scrap lumber, but it is their small space and they seem to get along much better when they escape there.

The next project is to clear a space for them in the barn to keep all their treasures. Snail shells, antler sheds, mouse skulls…all those delightful things children come across and cannot bear to part with despite the limited room for such things in the house.

So yeah, every boy (and girl) does need a shed. Or at least a small space they can carve out as their own if only for a little while.

Come to think of it, I think mom does, too.

Where do your children escape to? And how actively do you encourage that time to themselves?

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16 Responses

  1. It’s great that your kids have a spot to make their own little world!
    How fun!! We had various tree platforms as children, but my only trees now are citrus.

    My kids escape into the jungle (amongst shrubs under the small palm trees in our back garden), into the sky (on the swing set), and sometimes into a wardrobe. Luckily I tidied Elijah’s wardrobe a few days ago … I found a stash of foil wrappers from mini chocolate eggs!

    I don’t encourage their escapes, they just happen in the course of play. I tune in if they’re very quiet for very long (guaranteed 4-5 yr old mischief)! If they’re whispering cheeky ideas, debating, singing or playing noisily, I know it’s just life as usual.

    My kids would love a 2 storey home so they could have a den under the stairs.

    I’m an Aussie mum, and I desperately need a shed!
    Or an island. Or a corner. I’m still looking.

    Do you have a special place to retreat to?

    🙂 Vanessa
    .-= Vanessa´s last blog ..Comparing the incomparable =-.

    1. Hey, we’re half Aussie here. My husband is from Victoria, just outside of Melbourne! That’s why I have even heard of John Williamson (let alone have songs like “Old Man Emu” almost memorized!).

      I don’t encourage it, exactly, but I do love how well they play together in their various forts. They have one down in the windbreak, too. They’ve asked us to tag which of the saplings they’re allowed to cut down to build it up. I can see we’ll have plenty of tired out children by the end of this summer if they keep to all their grand plans!

      Where do I escape to? My chickens. I go out a dozen times a day just to check on them and always end up lingering. They are quite relaxing. 🙂
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Every American boy needs a shed =-.

  2. Avenues of escape came in various forms for me; a loft in my father’s garage where lumber was stored became a fort, bushes around that same garage were my jungle and bunk beds with blankets hung became tents. Thanks for reminding the child in me of the need for trips of imagination and wonder.

    1. I escaped to the attic. Or a small clearing in the hedge bordering the business building next to us. Many hours were spent pretending all sorts of things and all sorts of little treasures were stored there.
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Every American boy needs a shed =-.

  3. Great post!!! My son is very lucky to have a “shed” these days. At 10 he is learning how to build and create and the “shed” gives him a place to be himself.

    Blessings to all our boys in their “sheds”


    1. That’s so cool! My son got a tool box for Christmas and he absolutely loves it and all the things he can do with it. He spent an afternoon just nailing left over wood blocks together from the scraps from the chicken tractor we were building.
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Every American boy needs a shed =-.

  4. My children have been making forts since we moved here. In fact, the only book we have yet to destroy from the library was about building forts, shelters, and tree houses. Someone (who shall remain nameless) left it outside and it got snowed on.

    Right now they have two pallets propped up between the trees with a piece of carpet over one side to shelter them from the wind.

    Maybe what you mentioned is the real reason I want a separate library/school room, so I can escape…

    1. I loved our library/school room, but now it is too messy to enter. Rethinking my thoughts of having materials available and reachable to the children. Actually, sort of remembering that locked cabinet in the back of my school room and thinking how nice it would be for things to just stay where they belong.

      OK, so access always wins out in the end of my frustrations, but that is why the door to the library is almost always shut.
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Every American boy needs a shed =-.

    2. Hmm…my husband mentioned something about the “school room getting messy, too” after I moaned about the cleaning up the living room every day. But I think it would be lovely to be able to close the door on the mess and I would have a lock on the door. 😉 See, I have it all figured out. Ha!

  5. When I was little we each claimed a tree in the woods. We used moss for carpet and “decorated” the tree. We use fallen branches to show where our “Yard” was. It was pretty cool when I think back. The neighborhood children and I had a whole “neighborhood’ of our own along the trail that ran behind our houses. My children are still working on this. They just go to their swing set right now.

  6. We only have two children, one girl and one boy, who have always had their own rooms. VERY private and personalized, from the youngest ages . . .

  7. I always had my own room as a child, but still went off to build forts and special places in the attic. My children aren’t so fortunate, although they don’t seem to mind it. My eldest is the only one who wants her own room. The others don’t like sleeping in a room alone just yet. 🙂
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..Every American boy needs a shed =-.

  8. Dana, I love the new blog. I’m glad you stopped by or who knows when I would have figured this out!! I’ve not been a very good blogger lately, but still like to catch up once in a while and can’t yet just walk away from it.

    The shed – yes, I wholeheartedly agreed, our kids all need a place to call their own, even if it is just under a blanket or in a box. A real shed, all the better!

    We’re blessed to have property, so my kids are always working on something, and their special places shift over time.

    My own place? I need to work on this. It’s not for a lack of space, which I have plenty of, but time. Seems like I have to get up before the sun, or after everyone’s in bed, to get that moment to myself.
    .-= Jennifer in OR´s last blog ..Behind Enemy Lines =-.

  9. My oldest (now married) apprenticed for a blacksmith beginning at age 14. Shortly thereafter, he constructed his own forge building in our backyard. My next son (also now out) apprenticed for a cabinetmaker. He also taught himself to turn on a wood lathe. When we bought him his first tabletop power tool for Christmas he promptly cleaned out our storage shed and turned it into a woodworking shop. After witnessing all this, of course, my then 7 year old pointed out that if we allowed all five boys to build their own shops in the yard we wouldn’t have any yard left!
    Wonderful essay. Now I have to google the song.
    Blessings to you,

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