Parenting has a time warp effect. In the beginning, it seems that the sleepless nights will never end, that potty training will never come, that tantrums are a forever part of your daily reality. And then one day you realize everything has changed and you wonder when they ever got old enough to go to school, to ride a bike, to read a book all on their own. You spend the early months and years craving those milestones, the signs of their development and independence. You coax them into rolling over, crawling, walking, saying “mama.”
But sometimes you want the milestones to stop.
Like when they bring you their lovey, all worn from years of companionship, endless hugs, countless outdoor trips and other escapades, and they declare that they are done. And, when this happens, you find yourself holding a pathetic looking doll, nearly falling apart at the seams and with a serious lack of stuffing, and suddenly you want to put on the brakes and call an end (or at least a pause) to the milestones.
Baby has been a part of our family for nearly as long as Kenna has been. Honestly, we can’t remember exactly when she joined us. To my best recollection, she received the doll on her first Christmas when she was just a few months old. Over time, that doll became Kenna’s most beloved item. Until recently.
Kenna’s love for Baby (she chose the name all on her own, can you tell?) has been intense since she first attached to her. You see, Kenna has never been one to form deep relationships with toys or other items. Instead, she gets a few days’ usage and enjoyment out of something before turning her attention elsewhere. But Baby has been the exception. As a toddler, Baby went everywhere with her. She never missed a nap or night’s sleep without Baby squashed underneath her in a choke-hold. If a “bath” ever became necessary for Baby, the washing and drying would have to be timed just right, so she would be properly cleaned and ready to go when the next sleep event arrived.
Kenna didn’t care when Baby’s arms and legs began to dangle pathetically as her stuffing clumped and lost integrity. She didn’t care when her once-white onesie became a permanent gray. She looked past the scuff marks on her head. To her, Baby was perfect.
And then, a few weeks ago, she walked into Addie’s room, placed Baby on a pile of stuffed animals in the corner, walked out of the room and declared she was done with Baby. I asked for clarification: “You mean you are letting Addie play with her?” Kenna shook her head with certainty and said, “No. She can have her. I’m done with her.”
While Kenna was full of self assurance, my heart broke. Perhaps I should mention that I formed strong attachments as a child, especially to a few beloved stuffed animals. I still have my stuffed raccoon Bear (I guess that’s where Kenna got her naming abilities) in my bedroom. Sure, he smells dusty and I haven’t touched him for years other than to move him out of the way when I want to sit in the rocking chair. But, as much as I attempt to simplify possessions, Bear is one thing that I cannot part with.
When Kenna walked out of Addie’s room, leaving Baby behind on a pile of stuffed animals, I called after her. “You don’t have to give her Baby. You can let her play with her.” But, in her typical fashion, her mind was made up and she knew what she wanted…and what she no longer needed.
Over the next few days, I attempted to process the situation. Perhaps she felt pressured to get rid of the toy. With her birthday approaching, maybe she felt that sleeping with Baby wasn’t “grown up” enough. Or, maybe it’s because she is now a kindergartner.
In my mind, she wasn’t ready for this milestone of parting with her lovey. So, I thought I’d help her out a bit. A few days later, while she was at school, I placed Baby on a doll bed in her room, with her head resting on a pillow and her body covered with a blanket. She stared up with that same blank expression, but to me, she looked content. Surely Kenna would see this cute display and decide to reunite with Baby.
Later that afternoon, I went upstairs to find Baby and the bed placed in the hallway in front of Addie’s bedroom door. When I asked Kenna about it, she said, “I’m done with her. I gave her to Addie and she can have the bed, too.” I explained that she didn’t need to give her away, that even if she was done sleeping with her or finding comfort in her, she could still keep her, just like Bear. But her mind was made up. She was done. Case closed. Let’s move on with life.
And, see, that’s the thing about milestones, sometimes it takes the parent longer to get there than the child.
Where is Baby now? Well, she’s packed away safely, along with Kenna’s first outfit, pair of shoes and pacifier. Because as much as she is ready to move on, I’m not. Maybe some day, she will want to reclaim Baby. Maybe when she is grown, married and with children of her own, she will want to put Baby on display in her own home. Or, maybe not. Maybe memories of Baby are enough to suffice her. But just in case, I’ll keep her safe. And, maybe I’ll go give Bear a hug, while I’m at it.