I had six hours to complete the mission. The objective: clean out my sons’ closets and eliminate the toys and junk that they insist they need but never touch before they return home. Three large lawn trash bags and two clothing donation bags later and mission accomplished! What I didn’t expect was the emotions that I felt during this process. Since the day they were born, I’ve been letting go of my children…..one toy at a time.
It starts with the baby toys. You keep the high chair, the bouncy seat and the baby jungle gym for the next baby. Then you’re done having babies and you still keep them, because after all, you are the best auntie/friend/neighbor ever when you pull out the baby support system! Then there are no more babies in your circle. You keep the baby toys anyway. One day you realize they are collecting dust, the high chair has been recalled by the manufacturer, the jungle gym is missing pieces and the bouncy seat looks flat instead of angled. You pack up and donate the baby toys. You let them go and try to hold on tight to the memories of your beautiful chubby angels and their innocent smiles.
Next are the toddler toys. The electronic play phone, the xylophone, the blocks, the wooden cars, trains, baby dolls and lots and lots of Fisher Price garages and little people. These are really hard to clean up and pack. You decide that one day you will need them (for grandchildren) and you will keep the classics. Thomas and the tracks go into a box, the Fisher Price garage goes onto a top storage shelf and you toss the electronic beeping gadgets and plastic stuff away. I have found that the toddler toys really infiltrate your house. You accidentally find little pieces of them when your son is a teenager and you sit down on the floor and start to cry as you hold a bald little people man in your hand. Maybe that’s just me?
Then it’s the stubborn elementary school toys. These are the toys that seem to stay for a lifetime. Star Wars clones infiltrate your house, Barbie struts around with her cars, homes and clothes. Board games and puzzles start to pile up and Pokemon and Bakugan come in and out of style. Toy makers have turned to the dark side. They invent toys that have lots of little pieces that break and spread like the latest pandemic. Lego pieces become the bane of your feet and wheels come off of the metal toy cars. You will find Barbie’s shoes and Darth Vader’s light saber under beds, dressers and in between couch cushions for years to come. You start to believe that the premise of the movie Toy Story is based in reality. One day you find the old Play-Doh in your craft drawer and smell it just for fun. Maybe that’s just me?
Teenage birthdays arrive and your teenager only wants gift cards or money so that they can buy the latest video game or go shopping for the latest sneaker or fashion. This doesn’t mean the toys are gone. At this age they try to secretly hold onto their childhood. Their closets now are full of old puzzles and board games that they desperately need to keep. They absolutely have to store their old Game Boys that are missing chargers, they intend to build a robot one day, and the science kit that you have secretly been grateful has never been opened is still on the closet shelf. You seriously consider re-gifting. A younger cousin will come over and your son will find the dinosaurs that are in his younger brother’s room. The forgotten T-Rex is attacking big cities and wrecking tall buildings. You pat yourself on the back because you KNEW you’d need those toys still. Maybe that’s just me?
College comes and your baby leaves you to go live in a dorm. You enter his empty bedroom, secretly hoping that the smell of teen spirit will dissipate if you open the windows and deep clean what he left behind. You open a side table drawer and find his old Pokemon Egyptian God cards that he has hoarded and has refused to hand down to his brothers. Old signed footballs, posters of his favorite sports team and old school paperwork and middle school binders are stuffed into empty drawers. You don’t dare get rid of anything except the clothes you know he no longer wants. When picking him up during winter break you realize the smell has simply transferred to a new location. He doesn’t have any toys left in his room because he himself has handed them down to his brothers, he has been letting go of them….one toy at a time.
It dawns on you….since the day they were born, your task has been to guide them, support them and love them, and to let go of them. It starts with the cutting of their umbilical cord and continues throughout every single day of your life and their lives. It is the indelible truth of motherhood, that they are not really yours – they are only on loan. Empty nest syndrome? It’s a process that takes years and years to complete.
For now? it’s clear that I’m letting go of my children…one toy at a time.