A friend of mine recently asked me what I did with all the stuffed animals that my two older boys had when they were younger.
“I still have them?” I answered, half-questioning why she would be asking me this. Her son was the same age as one of my boys – a 7th grader.
She explained her query to me: “Well, it’s not like he wants them or cares about them anymore, but I don’t know what to do with them. I can’t just get rid of them. If my son were a daughter, it would be easier. She would either still want them or wouldn’t care if I kept them hanging around her room until she went to college. But, with boys, it’s a whole different story.”
I knew exactly what she meant.
I was a stuffed animal fanatic as a little girl. I collected tons of them and they stayed in my room, closet, bed, floor, beanbag chair, until I went to college. And when I went to college, they remained in my bedroom in my parent’s house, although a bunch were stored in closets, too. My mom asked me one time, and only one time, what she should do with the stuffed animals.
“You must keep them! I shrieked. “You can’t throw them out!”
“I won’t, I promise, but some day you will have to figure out what to do with all these stuffed animals. I need the closet space.”
My mom kept her promise for many, many years.
I bounced around from different jobs, cities, apartments and it wasn’t until I got married at the age of 29 and moved into a semi-permanent home with my new husband that she got up the nerve to ask me about the stuffed animals again.
I finally relented and told her I would come to their place and pick out the stuffed animals I couldn’t part with and perhaps someday pass down to my own children. I ended up holding on to five of the animals – a lion, giraffe, dog, gorilla, and cat. I couldn’t leave those five behind – they had too much meaning for me, though I wasn’t sure what that meaning was. I just knew that when I looked at those five animals, I still had to have them.
And I still do. I’ve added to those five animals, as I’ve given my three boys lots of stuffed animals over the past 15 years. My oldest is a freshman in high school and he still has a few build-a-bears perched in the corner of his room. He doesn’t seem to care (or notice) so I leave them there. My middle schooler has a huge mound of stuffed animals on a chair in his room. He too doesn’t seem to care. My youngest at 9, has his collection too, which is perfectly respectable at his age.
I’m waiting for one or all of them to suddenly notice and demand that I remove all stuffed animals from their rooms because it looks too “baby-ish.” That will be a sad day for me. Because, like my friend wondered, I won’t know what to do with them. What’s more, I know it will signal the end of an era. It reminded me of saying good-bye to my baby-making years. I stashed my maternity clothes in the back of my closet for years even though I was 99% sure I wasn’t having any more children. Still, I couldn’t donate them for a long time. I knew once I did, I’d be admitting that I was done having babies. And that was really hard for me. When I finally bag up all the stuffed animals in our house, I know once again I’ll be letting go of another phase of my life. Although…maybe I’ll hold on to just some of the animals…besides, what’s a few more? I’ve got the closet space.
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