“This little pile of stuffed animals has me in tears. And not just little tears. Weeping tears. Like the flood gates have opened.
For years, this pile grew and grew and grew. I have actually spent the better part of those years trying to pair it down. About twice a year, since my son was born, I have done a big cleaning of his room (and by cleaning, I mean throwing away). Every year, as the pile has grown, I have persuaded him to get rid of a few more each time.
‘Come on, you don’t need this one, right? It was from that claw machine at that birthday party you went to at the bowling alley.’
They came from fairs and carnivals. Family and friends. Birthdays and every holiday imaginable. One even came from an employee at Walmart, who tried to persuade my child to stop crying (it didn’t work). They have come from teachers and even the bus driver. And, I could tell you where every single one came from because that’s what mama’s do, right? We know all the things. Forever the keeper of everyone’s memories and mementos.
But, he is now nine, and I don’t have to persuade him as much anymore. Over the last year, he has been more willing to part from them. And, I can’t tell you how ecstatic this has made me! I have joyfully stuffed them into trash bags as I’ve watched the pile dwindle.
But, not today.
After our big cleaning, I sat them all up in the corner of the room, and it hit me how small the pile was. Once this pile almost reached the ceiling. And before that, it was on his bed. First at the head, and then at the back, when it became too big. And, as it grew, so did he. And now, this pile is so small, and it has hit me this pile won’t even be here in another year or two.
And, this has completely made me come undone.
It’s as if this pile represents his childhood, and it’s showing me how little time we have left of it. All this time, every stuffed animal removed has really been making room for this next stage of boyhood, and it has completely missed me. Until now. Now, I am aware. Eyes wide open. Staring at this small pile in tears, because it has hit me. This boy won’t be a boy forever.
And, that’s parenting, isn’t it? Suddenly, time is hitting you right in the face, and you can hardly catch your breath as the ache of all of it sits heavy in your chest.
Now, I’m the one persuading him to keep them. And, if I’m honest, half of that pile wouldn’t still be there if it weren’t for me begging to let them stay.
‘You can’t get rid of this one. This is Tony the pony! Remember? You named him when you were four, and we all laughed and laughed because it was so cute. And this dinosaur? You’ve had this since you were three, and it used to sit on your dresser by your bed. And this one? This elephant has been with you since you were a baby.’
Now, it’s my turn to make a pile. Up in the closet on the high shelf. A pile for future you. To remind you and me that you were little once. Because my mom did it for me, too. You see that brown bear being hugged by the snake? That one’s mine.”
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‘Today, I witnessed someone tell a mother of 4, ‘You must really have your hands full.’ I winced. There was nothing positive about it. She half smiled, walked away. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.’
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