I just gave away my daughter’s play kitchen. This may not sound very monumental, but in our house, it’s huge. She’s about to turn 11. The play kitchen is the correct height for a 3-year-old.
A few years ago, I first broached the idea that if she got rid of it, she might have room for something else in its place…something she’d actually use.
“But I love my kitchen!” she exclaimed. OK, I thought, she’s not ready yet.
Some time later, the subject came up again. She set her face in one of those stern looks that signals no room for bargaining.
“OK,” she said. “But only if I can sell it for $100.”
In case you think this sounds reasonable, let me describe the kitchen: Once upon a time it may have cost $100 from one of those fancy European kid stuff catalogues. However, it had been through a few children before my daughter took over. Every time we glued the handles back on, they’d fall off. She put stickers on it and then peeled them—mostly—off. With new kitchens sporting microwaves and faucet handles that turn, this one harkened back to the days when kids were supposed to use their imaginations. In other words, no one was going to pay $100.
So I gave up again.
Sometime last year she started to complain that she had nowhere to put anything. Please note that this kid is not hurting for storage space. She has an enormous closet, a dresser, a set of shelves, and three huge drawers that pull out from under her bed. But her room was filled with the details from every stage of her life. She not only had every baby doll she ever got, but also all the clothes she’d bought and made for them, their broken stroller, and medical equipment from surgery she had when she was four (now used when her babies were sick). She won’t let me give baby books away, so I one time I put them all up on the highest shelf to make room for books she was actually reading. Over the next few weeks, most of the baby books came back down, one by one as she felt the need to read them for the thousand-and-fifteenth time.
This is a person who places great value on remembering her past, which is something I definitely understand. (Heck, I wouldn’t keep this blog if I didn’t get that!) But while I am a particular culler and documenter, she is a pack rat extraordinaire. When I attempted to get her to throw away two plastic water bottles she’d brought back from Greece, she said in exasperation, “But they’re Greek! I have to keep them.” She wants to keep pretty much every piece of paper she ever does a scribble on, and doesn’t see any harm in keeping broken toys “in case I need them someday.”
But along with double-digits comes a new practicality. She has started to be more selective in what she keeps. The Greek water bottles, yes. The broken toys, cheap stuffed animal from the dentist, and great numbers of pieces of string that might come in handy someday went without complaint.
And now the kitchen. It was taking up a small but important piece of real estate in her room, and it was clear that if she were going to be able to make changes, she’d have to part with it. You may be expecting that I will now tell a tale of tears and fond goodbyes, but that’s the magic of growing up. As we hauled pounds of her past life out of the room, I asked what she wanted to do with it.
And received a shrug in return.
After it was loaded into the car, she didn’t even bother to ask where I was taking it. The kitchen that could only be sold for $100 was given away to a nice little girl my daughter doesn’t even know.
I find these periods of punctuated growth one of the most fascinating aspects of parenting. One day you despair that your child will never do some thing that you desperately want, then months later you realize that he’s been doing it and you didn’t even notice when he started. Our kids’ growth charts may show a smooth, steady line, but their personal growth is all jigs and jags.
Yesterday, hang onto the kitchen at all costs. Today, enter the big girl.