Holding on to the past

The new furniture and bedding has been ordered.

With the arrival of an accent pillow, we’ve been able to choose a new paint color.

This room that started out as a nursery filled with ladybugs, fireflies, bumblebees and butterflies has had subtle transformations over the past 9 years.

From toddler princess…

to American Girl princess…

to “I’m a big girl now, no more princess stuff” room.

About a year ago, my soon-to-be 9 year old daughter announced that pink was no longer her favorite color. Her room was way too girly. I’ve resisted the change for as long as I could, but over the summer, all remnants of this pretty in pink room will be gone. We’ve found new homes for the bed and other pieces of furniture that once resided in this very girly little girl’s room.

In the negotiation process, my daughter agreed to certain terms. We’ve been at odds for the past several months because her room is often a disaster area. She suffers from what many of us suffer from: too much stuff and not enough space to put it all. She finally agreed to part with a sizable collection of My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop Pets, Barbies and all the various and sundry paraphernalia that accompanies said collections. This includes a large fold-out Barbie castle with a horse drawn carriage, furniture, clothes, etc. (LOTS and LOTS of etcetera. Two large boxes of etcetera, actually.)

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks going through and sorting toys to be given away. We’ve redressed all the naked Barbies and returned them to their original personas of Barbie Princesses, separated the ponies from the pet shop crowd, and threw in some DVDs to go with the different collections. Β We wanted her old toys to seem as new as possible so that the little girls receiving them might enjoy them as much as she has.

She’s been a real trooper. Of the sizable collection of Barbies, she only asked to keep two dolls (one given to her by her cousins and one to keep the other one company I suppose) and a small Barbie car. As I was boxing up the rest of the stuff, I asked her repeatedly if she was sure she was ready to part with her stuff. She assured me she was.

There were a few items she pulled out of the box. I reasoned that she was taking a last stroll down memory lane and I was fine with that. The first item was a blow-up swimming pool complete with slide and diving board, which I found in her bathroom filled with water. This was quickly emptied, disassembled and put back into the box. I’m as nostalgic as the next person, but I’m not a big fan of indoor water toys.

The other item was a tiny, plastic recreated scene from the movie Barbie Fairytopia:

Since she had spent many hours playing with this particular toy, I asked her if she wanted to keep it. “I don’t care”, she said. “Are you sure? Because I really don’t mind if you want to hang on to it”, I said.

“No, Mom. I don’t care. I don’t really want to talk about my room stuff right now.”

Fair enough. Into to the box it went with everything else. That was Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning, I loaded up the boxes into the back of the jeep and headed to church. One friend’s daughter would be the recipient of the ponies and pets, another friend’s granddaughters would be getting the giant box of Barbie stuff. All was well.

Until…

We got home from a late lunch after church. My daughter, tired and cranky, went straight to her room. Moments later she emerged asking where her flower thingy was. I reminded her of the conversation we had about whether or not she wanted to keep it. With tears in her eyes, she told me she did. “But I need that back. I didn’t mean to give that away.”

Uh oh.

In separate conversations, her father and I both explained that we had already given her things away and it wouldn’t be right to take it back. She said how sorry she was, how that toy reminded her of when she was little. She went on to say she didn’t know how much it meant to her until she didn’t have it anymore.

After a couple of hours she was still upset. I conceded to a point. I told her I would call Mr. Randy. If he hadn’t given the box to the girls, I would ask if I could stop by and get one item out of the box. But if the girls had already opened the box, its contents belonged to them.

I think I was almost as relieved as she was that the box was still sitting in the back of Randy’s truck unopened. I don’t know if it was the best example to set as a parent. The best thing to do was to probably just tell her you can’t give something away and then ask for it back.

But I know what it’s like to have something and lose it, never understanding how important it is to you until it’s too late. This time it wasn’t too late.

She’ll be 10 years old in 2 short months, and I’m happy she has something special to remind her of when she was little. I’m even happier that she wants to hang on to being a little girl a bit longer.

It all goes by much too fast.

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17 Responses to “Holding on to the past”

  1. JoAnne Bennett May 30, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Oh, my, your cute post brought tears to my eyes. I have three grown daughters. One of my daughters has a very large brand new garbage can (the size you put out on the street for the garbage) full of childhood memories. My husband and I often tease her that she must find a place in her garage soon for all her stuffed animals. Chelsea says she wants to save them for her children. Many are stuffed lambs, from Lampchops to one who sings, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Recently, she decided to part with one stuffed animal. I was commenting, “Oh, I remember how you use to always sleep with your puppy.” She must have had a change of heart; the next time I went to visit her, sitting beside her bed was her puppy–always my little girl at heart. Thanks for sharing :)!

  2. karenzach May 30, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Uh. oh. The whole time I’m reading this, that was what I was thinking. Don’t. Do. It. While we gave away plenty of toys, there are still boxes of toys and a big dollhouse sitting in my garage, awaiting the birth of grandchildren I may never have. Even so.
    I grew up military which means every 2.5 years everything got tossed. And I do mean everything. I can’t tell you the number of things I wish my mother had held on to over the years. My cowgirl doll. My sister’s Thumbelina. That record we made when Dad was in Korea. My father’s footlocker. His billfold. His wedding ring. Her wedding ring. All gone. As a result I am more prone to hanging on to the nostalgic just because I can and because I know that the day will come when they will want those things.
    Glad you got the Fairyland back… if only briefly. *I want you to come decorate for me. πŸ™‚

  3. mori May 31, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    she is brave – your big girl!to give away her personal stuff
    the new bed looks great!!!!!
    wait and see she will do that again in 2 or 3 years from now!

  4. Candy May 31, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    I think you made your point perfectly by giving away the boxes of toys. Your daughter will never forget that you were able to get Fairyland back. What you did is show her that you respect her feelings and share in the joy of her childhood. In the end it’s your heart she’ll remember – not particularly Fairyland.

    You’re doing beautiful work, friend. Painting and otherwise.

  5. Cathy May 31, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I feel like crap.

    I mean, it’s a GREAT post. But…your 9-year-old daughter has had THREE showroom-quality rooms already?

    My five-year-old son’s walls still haven’t been re-painted from when we moved in five years ago (largely because someone painted crappily over WALLPAPER, which means we have to STRIP it, and I’ve been pregnant or nursing a baby for much of this time…but, still.)

    You’ve set the bar so high, it’s a mere speck to me.

    But I like the post.

    • katdish May 31, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      Don’t feel bad. Painting and decorating was my business until I started doing this writing thing. My daughter’s room (and the rest of the house by and large) has been my place to experiment with new looks.

      • Simply Darlene June 1, 2011 at 9:42 am #

        Okay, I’ll wait. Seems like I’m currently between walls anyway.

        πŸ˜‰

  6. Maureen May 31, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Great post. In addition to a wonderful sense of color, you just … understand.

  7. Simply Darlene May 31, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    So, those hangy-down star things… do you get new ones for each new color scheme or do you paint them to match? What are they? Can you get glow-in-the-dark paint?

    Maybe you should take your show on the road… traveling decorator of sorts. Start out in the pacific northwest, please. (I think Karen would 2nd that motion, err, notion.)

    Blessings.

    • katdish May 31, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      The “hangy-down star things” are paper lanterns. I have since taken them down, but I think I can spray paint the pink one blue and they will go with the room. So thanks for that. I would love to do a decorating tour. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to start in Iowa, though. Candy wants me to paint a giant wall or something.

  8. Jeanne Damoff May 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    All of your daughter’s rooms have been so precious! She probably has no idea how rare that is and what a gift your talents are to her.

    You reminded me of a story. When Jacob and Grace were five and three, there was a Christmas toy drive. They both had overflowing toy boxes and we thought this would be a good opportunity to clean out some stuff and also teach them about giving. Win-win! But I think we explained the cause a little *too* well. After hearing our speech about the needy children, they disappeared into their rooms and before long started bringing out their nicest toys. I was the one saying things like, “That one’s pretty new, and you play with it a lot. Are you sure you don’t want to keep that one?” and they kept saying, “It’s for the needy children, Mommy!”

    And the truth? We gave away everything they brought out and never missed any of those toys. Over the years we’ve gotten rid of most of their toys, but we did keep a few classic things for our grandchildren — wooden blocks, a wooden rocking horse, a cradle and Madame Alexander baby doll that was mine, then Grace’s. Not much, though.

    Grace did hold on to her entire play kitchen almost until junior high. I finally had to shame her into giving it to the church nursery. I guess we all have our sentimental spots. πŸ™‚

  9. floyd May 31, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    My heart was breaking for your daughter! I’m generally pretty firm on all matters of life, but not so much with my daughters… My wife? Not so much. Although admittedly our little one’s room is constantly a pigsty. Of all the bedroom battles we’ve endured, their are two constants, Bunny Bun and Gray Kitty. She’s had them since she was an infant.

    She wants many new and different things nowadays, but right there next to her electric guitar is her old faithful companions, she won’t be swayed by peer pressure to part with. I’m proud of her for that, I’m also encouraged that your daughter doesn’t fall to far from the tree. Great post.

  10. Jonathan B June 1, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I don’t see any problem with your decision, personally. Taking a toy away from the little girl after she’d received it is one thing, but catching it before the box was distributed was fine.

    Of course, this is coming from the person who at 34 still has his Lego collection. I can always claim they’re “collectibles” if I have to; it makes it sound like I’m not a packrat. πŸ˜‰

  11. Louise June 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    What a beautiful story — of growing up and holding on, of stepping beyond the threshold and keeping one foot anchored in the soils of youth.

    And, of a mother who loves her daughter enough to know when a mistake’s been made, it can be fixed with just a little bit of timing and luck.

    Well done!

  12. sapir June 6, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    i love the combination of the colors in the master bedroom! and the princess’s room is a dream for every girl…

  13. Jake June 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    “I know what it’s like to have something and lose it.” I can say this for myself, I can’t imagine watching a child go through something like that. Obviously, I’m not ready to be a father πŸ™‚

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