When I became a mother, I decided that there were a few things I would do differently than most moms I knew. Attachment parenting was one of them. Extended breastfeeding another. And then, of course, I wasn’t going to raise my child to be a consumerist, and I wasn’t going to flood her with plastic fantastic toys she wouldn’t care about. So I didn’t. But what I didn’t count on, was that I actually wouldn’t be raising her alone. She’d be part of a family, a community and a society over which I have very little control. This has become increasingly more obvious, and looking into her room the other day, I was shocked to see what I saw.
I’ve tried organizing the chaos, of course. Each of her toy categories have their own boxes, and everything that can be done has been done in order to keep it nice and tidy for her. She even claimed that she’d never make a mess again, after the last organizing frenzy we had, dancing freely in her room, beaming of happiness over the space that was given to her.
But this time… I had started to become haunted by a blog post I had written a year ago: Give the Kids Materials, Not Toys. (If you haven’t read it, go read it before you finish this blog post – it will make so much more sense! )
Was I walking my talk? Really?
No, I wasn’t.
I was, in fact, allowing all my daughter’s STUFF to hurt her. And come to think of it, she wasn’t actually playing with it either, the mess I saw when I opened the door to her room was actually there from the last time she had a friend over. And what’s more… they didn’t actually play with it after making a mess, as they ended up in the living room with us, painting side by side on some big card boards.
Light bulb moment.
“You know what?”, I said to my beautiful daughter the other day. “Mom’s gonna take all your toys away now, so that you’ll have more room for your hobby materials in your room – and I’ll even get you some more of them. OK?”
I was expecting a gasp and maybe even a disbelieving laughter. Or at least a terrified “Nooooo!!!”.
“OK”, she said. Smilingly.
I was dumbfounded. OK, then..? Maybe she hadn’t fully grasped the consequences yet..?
But the next morning, out of the blue (it was in fact too early for me to remember this little project of mine), she said:
“Mom? When you take my toys away, can I keep Ekko? I love him. ”
Ekko is her stuffed pet squirrel, made to be so natural looking as possible, and I know she truly loves him – he’s even with her in kindergarten today. Of course I’d let her keep him.
But this, then, meant that she had actually taken the time to reflect on the possibility of having all her toys taken away from her – and she was still perfectly OK with it, as long as she could keep Ekko. And we talked about this some more, and her only wish for her room was
Oh. OH! I really want some new play dough!
The excitement, the actual RELIEF in her voice..!
I spent all day up in her room yesterday, while she was in kindergarten, determined that I wouldn’t let her down. It felt scary and a bit sad at first, to be quite honest. Out went the baby doll I was playing with as a child, out went the crib my grandparents gave me one Christmas, and out went the doll cloth diapers I made her.
But as I went on, it dawned on me… these were my issues, not hers. Up until now, I had imposed my stuff on her. I wasn’t a tad bit better than the rest of society, making her relate to my memories and ideas about recycling and reusing, too.
But now, I was setting my beautiful daughter free.
Free from all the “shoulds”. Free from all the expectations of what she’d like to play with, free from all the ideas of who she should be – free from all definitions that are not her own.
By the time I was done relieving her of all her stuff, I felt as purged as the room I was standing in.
Only for her, to create her art. To create herself, her life and her own definitions of what that should be.
On top of her bookshelf sat a bag of craft supplies we bought her on the last family holiday, and which she actually picked out herself (as it turned out, this is her dearest holiday memory – never mind the lions we saw or the bear cubs, oh no, it could never outshine the wonderful fairytale of her in a hobby store!). In this bag there were also some art she’d created, and I took all this out now. Her supplies were neatly placed on her shelf, with her table just underneath. Her art was pinned to the wall above, for her to see and to remember.
I gave her a basket of yarn of different textures and colors – she always borrows mine anyway, and besides, she’s getting big enough to have a go at stitching soon. And I gave her a box of cones, sticks and bark from the woods, as I know she’s always gathering this if she’s out walking.
She absolutely loved it. No time for dinner, even, between kindergarten and dancing (I take her to a class for four-year olds, in creative dance and play). And on the way home, she asked me…
Mom? When I come home… May I please make some more art in my room before I go to bed? Pleeeeaaaase?
Of course you can, my love. Of course.
Today, we’re buying her some new play dough, too. One she picks out for herself. And when she does find out that she misses her toys eventually, I will know that she actually wants them, for her own sake. They are just downstairs in the basement, ready to move in again on her request.
But as for now… My little girl is perfectly happy with her new space. Not to mention the endless possibilities of creating her art.