When my kids were little, my daily challenge was to see how much I could accomplish during a single episode of “Doc McStuffins”. This lovely character fixed and mended toys with her magical stethoscope and became part of our family at just the right time. Like brushing teeth or eating lunch, watching that show was something we did EVERY SINGLE DAY. Doc held the attention of my kids for twenty-two glorious minutes while I frantically sprinted through the house trying to do ten loads of laundry and a week’s worth of chores.
But more than entertainment, Doc became part of our lives in other ways- she helped my kids be more comfortable at the doctor’s office, explaining “check-ups” and stethoscopes. She encouraged my kids to try new foods and brush their teeth and this Mama appreciated the backup! Two of my kids dressed like her for Halloween and our Doc doll (along with “Lambie”) became bedtime buddies.
Fast forward a couple years and my kid was cleaning out her room and threw Doc and Lambie in the donation pile. (You know what else was in the pile?? Winnie The Pooh!! But I can’t even talk about that one right now.)
“Why would you give these away??” I asked in horror.
“Well I don’t really play with them anymore…” was the response. I knew she was right but my heart sank. Of course my kids weren’t going to always love a character from Disney Junior. I knew that in theory but seeing the confirmation in our hallway filled me with sadness. Are those childhood days really gone? How did they pass so quickly? Weren’t my kids just in diapers, grabbing things out of our kitchen cabinets and crying incessantly for me to carry them around?
And then I thought- “WAIT. Didn’t I WANT those days to pass quickly?” When diapers leaked into my clothes and sleep was some sort of magic from my past, I confess that there were times I longed for my kids to be older. I longed for them to wear pants without arguing, stop playing “Skidamarink” on repeat and listen to me like angel children.
And then one day it actually happened (minus the angel children part). My kids grew taller and leaner and cannot easily be carried. Their interests expanded beyond cartoons and we arrived at a different stage of childhood/parenting/family life. So here I stand saying “What?? Already??” SOMEBODY STOP THE TIME!
It’s in hindsight that I am now able to view those baby/toddler years and see them for what they really were- a beautiful juxtaposition of good and bad days, enjoyable and difficult hours, pleasant and not-so-pleasant minutes. In one minute my kid would be vomiting all over my shirt… but in another one she would be asleep against my chest as we rocked quietly in our nursery chair. All those moments coexisted to make a beautiful life.
For so many of us, fictional characters or toys or “lovies” symbolize this yin and yang. They witness us running around, tired and frantic and needing a moment of solitude. They also witness us seated on our couches, blanketed in kids, savoring the stillness together. Stuffed or plastic or whatever material, these unremarkable objects lovingly hold our memories like treasure chests. When we see them on the toy aisle or in our storage bins or even in our donation piles, they transport us to those moments in time. And to the memories of those little hands we held so often.
For all the parents in the middle of the beautiful mess- if you scarcely have time to breathe (or shower), if you have had a few rough days (or weeks or months), say a prayer, follow Dora’s lead and keep on swimming. Pick yourself up, clean that vomit off your shirt and wait for the clouds to part. When the sun comes out and you glimpse a baby smile or a sweet act from your toddler, take in the scene and sear it into your memory like a thousand photos. (And if your child wants to play “The Elsa Game” for the 1000th time, know that it won’t last forever, dear sister.😉)
However tempting it may be, try not to wish the ages away. Your children won’t always be this little. I PROMISE that someday you will sleep again and your kids will wear pants. And when you hear people say “the days are long but the years are short” repeat it to yourself. Because the years are VERY SHORT.
At this point it shouldn’t surprise you that when it came time for me to take the donation box to a charity, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Doc and her friends. I, the 40-something mother, wasn’t ready to let them go. Someday I will be, but not yet. 🙂
So like a mature, adult hoarder, I removed those loveable stuffed toys from the box and placed them on display in my adult closet. I DO NOT LIE. Maybe one day they will be replaced with a soccer medal or graduation cap or some other special memento, but for now, it’s Doc McStuffins on display. And each morning I walk into that space and see her. “Why, yes, Doc, I did sleep very well last night. Thank you for asking.”
To all the toys we’ve loved before: thank you for the precious memories.