Most parents know that one of the endless battles fought with your children is over the number of toys overflowing from their rooms and playrooms. Just when you think you have a handle on it, their birthday rolls around and their friends shower them with gifts. Then you do some more donating or storing, and Santa Claus comes to town. Even though we try to keep a handle on it, it feels like for every trinket I throw out, it multiplies and two more take its place on the crowded shelves.
But there is also another battle that occurs when mom or dad march in with a garbage bag to purge the dolls and happy meal toys. This is one that my heart wasn’t quite prepared for the first time it happened, and I’m not sure I have yet recovered.
On a rainy and cold day over Christmas break, we decided to make our five year old donate some toys to boys and girls in need before Santa came (and grammy and papa, let’s be real,) to refill the room once again. We settled in on the floor with bins of toys scattered all around us, and I opened the closest one. I let out an audible “aaww” when I realized the box contained some of my daughter’s toys that she played with as a baby and toddler. Books she would keep in her crib to “read” when she woke up in the morning. Stacking rings with chew marks on them from when she was teething, and little people she would line up on the window sill and then grin at me, so proud of her accomplishment.
I was smiling and remembering when the silence was broken by Emma Kate saying with disgust: “oh MOMMY, those are BABY toys, you can donate them” then she tossed a few into the dark abyss of the black trash bag, and a quiet sob caught in my throat. I didn’t want her to see that I was upset, but inside my heart was racing as I thought of giving away a piece of her babyhood. I was cruelly reminded of how fast the baby and toddler years ago, and that she didn’t “need” those toys anymore. Would she soon discard me like the toys as something she no longer had use for?
Every day I am reminded of how independent she is becoming. My kid gets up on her own, gets dressed on her own, wipes her own bottom, and can even work the TV remote better than I can. She can now even open her own fruit snack packages and doesn’t ask me to hold her very often. While I know the toys in question are just pieces of plastic, for me they hold such sweet and special memories that I may not be ready to let go of just yet.
Here I was, the instigator of the great toy purge of 2019, and I’m the one unable to let go. Sentimental by nature, I put a great attachment on things that hold the best memories. A seashell from our most fun beach vacation. An old T-shirt from my first marathon. I buy Christmas ornaments basically wherever we go to commemorate all the things. (Coincidentally, the day we put up our Christmas tree is my second favorite day of the year, next to Christmas itself. I am obsessed with pulling out ornaments that remind me of the most memorable places and events, so it’s a day full of huge smiles and “remember when’s”.) Our attic is full of yearbooks and high school sports trophies, and I just can’t seem to let go.
As Emma Kate talks to a stuffed animal while digging through bins of toys, I remind myself that growing up is a part of life and that I am so lucky to have an amazing kid who is smart enough to do things on her own. Her independence will serve her so well one day, and I am proud. I may never have to reach up to turn on her light for her or put on her shoes, but she will always be my baby girl.
The best thing about memories is that they live in your heart forever. As I sat on the floor in what amounts to a puddle of my own tears, I reminded myself that no matter what happens to the junk in the room, no one can throw away the sweet remembrance of my little girl’s first years. So I will continue to be proud, be thankful, and hold her close because soon she will be throwing away the barbies and the tea sets and the action figures. But for now, we will sit and play….and I may or may not secretly hide a baby toy or two in the back of the closet.
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