Friday, January 27, 2012
what am i really holding onto?
One of the more daunting tasks I face on a semi-regular basis is the sorting and clearing of Cowgirl's clutter. Make no mistake about it, this girl's a hoarder-in-training. She has gone through phases of saving bottle caps, the plastic packaging from her Hot Wheels cars, pictures from magazines or newspapers (yes, I created this habit - "Mom, we can put it in my art journal!" Of course little makes it into said journal) and now piles upon piles of cut out dragons, sharks, and monster truck drawings.
And I haven't even gotten to her room and the squirreled away plastic gee gaws masquerading as party favors and "rewards" for Caught Being Good. I find these items in boxes, baskets, in drawers and scattered throughout the many grottos of treasure in her closet. I curse you Oriental Trading Company and your cheap plastic junk!
I have no problems shedding these items - of course I must do my dirty work whilest the girl is at school. So far, she hasn't noticed anything missing. She must have some Squirrel-with-memory-loss as a totem.
No, for me the difficult task is shifting through old clothes and toys. Each little outfit seems to have one memory per stitch and I find myself tucking things back into boxes. I mean, clothes don't take up that much room, right? Toys are a bit easier probably because Cowgirl really didn't have that many toys when she was little. We seemed to have exercised some restraint which now that I think about it, was probably due to the fact that Cowgirl didn't express much interest in specific toys. So I was surprised by my reaction when it came time to part with this item:
This plastic Noah's ark was the very first toy I got for Cowgirl. I bought while we were waiting to receive our referral so I didn't even have a specific child in mind when I picked it out. I think it was the first time I had read online reviews and actively researched this toy deciding it would be the perfect toy for my child. Well, for the child who would become my child.
And there is the clue as to why this little Noah carries so much upon his tiny plastic shoulders: for while this toy does hold memories of early days with Cowgirl, she played with it sporadically and found it far more enjoyable as a target for the many sticky stickers mysteriously deemed appropriate for small children (yes, there were stickers on furniture, car seats, walls ...) than as an object to exercise her imagination.
Weeping as I washed each tiny elephant, leopard and zebra I realized my attachment to this object was due only in a small part to the memories it held about Cowgirl. No, the bulk of its meaning for me centers upon the dreams I held for myself and the kind of mother I hoped I would be and the relationship I would have with my girl. You know, dreams of abundant patience, attention and love; golden afternoons spent baking cookies (I don't bake), playing tea party with stuff animals, dancing, singing and in general just floating happily about my clean, cozy, love-soaked home with my happy child.
We do have wonderful times together painting, playing board games, drinking cocoa, snuggling at night and reading Harry Potter out loud with all the proper voices and accents. But the sense of myself as always confident, always generous and loving with the right words, the right advice and solution to any problem - no, that ghost up and left long ago. Yeah, I bought into the whole Buddha Mom ideal for myself and Noah and his ark full of peaceable animals reminds me of the hope-filled if not naive ideas I so ardently believed in.
Not that I understood all of that as I bravely pushed on, packing up the ark and each animal to send on to a dear friend whose little boy is the appropriate age to enjoy this toy. In the back of my mind I knew I could always change my mind even while waiting in line at the post office to ship it off. I even debated holding onto one pair of animals as a memento but my inability to choose one couple suggested I needed to send the whole lot off.
Once it was mailed off, I felt better. With its absence I came to understand what it really represented and somehow the act of letting it go has allowed me to face what it was I was holding on to but had not confronted. I recognize my ideals for myself as a mother are not going to magically manifest, but require awareness, effort and a willingness to keep trying. If I've learned nothing else from years of yoga practice it is this: there are our aspirations, our intentions and then there is the action of attempting again and again to bring who we are into alignment with who we want to become. And just like any balancing posture, we come into and then fall out of the pose. Perhaps holding it for just a split second which is all we need to have a taste for how such balance feels. But that is all we need to inspire us to try again. And again. And again. Hopefully each time staying in our center a little longer, until it is no longer a practice but a way of being.
And now Noah and his friends have found a new home and my friend's boy apparently loves playing with his new toy. Which means one day my friend will have to face the dilemma: does Noah stay? Or does he go now?