Family / Kids / Parenting

Saying Goodbye to Childhood

Hello Fat Cat

My daughter’s room is always a mess. It’s cluttered, and she can’t seem to put her dirty clothes in her laundry basket. There are always little scraps of paper and hair ties and guitar picks and pieces of string strewn about. It’s a disaster, and I would rather just keep the door closed to contain the chaos. She only cleans when we ask her to, and she will spend hours working, but it only looks slightly better afterwards. So, last weekend, I decided that I would go through every step of the cleaning process with her. As we worked, she came to the realization that she had too much stuff. She does have a tendency to hold onto things for sentimental reasons which is sweet but impractical. She made a pile of a few things to get rid of, and we organized the rest, and then she was able to finish cleaning on her own. Later, however, she came downstairs with two full trash bags, and when I asked what was in them, she said, “All my stuffed animals.”

I have cursed the number of stuffed animals she has on a number of occasions because they take up so much space and have absolutely no purpose. She has always refused to consider getting rid of any of them and was adding to the collection as recently as this past June when she bought a little bear wearing a Canada sweatshirt while we were in Winnipeg for the Women’s World Cup. She handed the two bags to me and I said, “All of them?” She nodded, “All but Scooby Doo because I keep him in bed to block the light from the window.” I asked about the stuffed shark she bought in New Orleans and the Canadian bear and Fat Cat, the orange tabby she got for her first birthday, and she confirmed that they were all in the bags. Suddenly, I felt sad, and I couldn’t understand why until she said, “Mom, I’m growing up.”

Yes, that’s it.

I want her to grow up. When she’s rolled her eyes at me roughly 268 times before lunch, I want her to grow up in the most concrete ways, but, more often than not, I am thinking of it in abstraction in my hopes and wishes for her. I want her to go out into the world and find people she loves and who love her back. I want her to figure out her passion and devote time to it. I want her to move out and create a life for herself that has that mix of heartbreak and joy that is life. But she is also my baby, and she’s only ten years old, and I’m not quite ready for her to get rid of her stuffed animals which are such powerful symbols of childhood.

The two bags of stuffed animals are still in the living room because I haven’t quite been able to take them to the basement and, yesterday, she asked me why they were sitting where she’d left them.

“I’m not ready for you to get rid of them.”

“Mom, we’re just storing them.”

“We both know that nothing ever comes back from the basement.”

It’s true and we both know it. I’m just not sure whom she’s trying to comfort with the illusion that it’s a temporary relocation–herself or me.

There are so many milestones as our kids grow–some are exciting and some are bittersweet–and each one leads them away from the intensity of this shared family life to a life of their own that we watch from a loving distance. I have always known this was part of the deal. So, I’ll suck it up and take the bags to the basement and say my own goodbyes, saying farewell to Fat Cat and a small piece of daughter’s childhood.

PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

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2 Comments

  1. You’re pretty graceful about this parenting thing. Hard to let go, I’m sure, but also so much to look forward to. By the way, do you and Zeca hire out for housecleaning?

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