This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope.
Robert Fulghum, wrote an essay about his daughter, who once gave him all that she held dear -- love in a paper sack. If a robber came into the house, that person would see the contents in the torn, taped, brown paper lunch sack and discard it. But if the house were on fire, this would be the first thing Mr. Fulghum would grab before running out the door.
As I pack the contents of my house for our next move, I have a few boxes that I want to label "Fragile," though nothing in them could be broken if the box was dropped.
I’m even tempted to move them over to the new house myself because I don’t trust the movers not to damage them. Within these boxes are the items I hold dear, the small pieces of my children’s baby and toddler years, including the scrapbooks that I have spent countless hours creating to document every milestone of their lives.
Many of the items are what mothers and fathers for centuries have held on to -- the outfit each baby came home in from the birth center or hospital, a curl from the first haircut, the very first time they each wrote their name. I’m not the type of person who holds on to too much. Recently when my office moved locations, my boss told the staff not to let me in her office for fear that I’d throw something away. Some people hoard. I purge with a vengeance.
There have only been a handful of times when I have regretted giving something away. In general, I have a theory that if it’s broken or doesn’t have more than one purpose…then I don’t need it taking up space in my life. There are a few exceptions to this rule, of course. For example, the crystal vase my childhood music teacher bought for me as a wedding gift. I am since divorced but she died two weeks before my wedding and I can’t seem to let go of this last piece of her. She wouldn’t be pleased to know that I use it to store cleaning brushes under my sink.
Another exception to this rule is Shawn. We use to live in Seattle, WA and on a trip to the East Coast to visit family, I convinced my mother to clean out her attic with my help. My mother leans toward the hoarding side of the scale. Within the contents of the attic were many toys from me and my sister’s childhood, and L found in one of the boxes a Ken doll. As in Barbie and Ken. On the cusp of 2-years-old, he immediately claimed it as his own and rightfully declared his name to be Shawn. There was no turning back, and the best part was he insisted that Shawn never wear clothes. Now imagine the looks I got as I boarded the plane 8 months pregnant with a toddler in tow carrying a naked Ken Barbie doll.
Shawn never left L’s side for many years. Shawn went everywhere from doctor’s appointments to playgroup to the grocery store, he became characters in L’s imagination and could easily turn into a sword at a moments notice. He was his faithful confidant. Shawn now is forgotten. His legs don’t stay on so well and whenever one of the boys pulls him out from the bottom of the toy box to play with, he’s the toy that looses his head first in battle.
Anyone else would throw Shawn away. But into the box labeled "Fragile" he goes, still naked.
Is there something from your child’s baby or toddler years that you hold dear?