Growing up and out of things is funny and maybe even a little sad. The days pass without the recognition of any significant change until something casual shared like, “Hey, Mom, Greta and I were talking and these are the only tub toys we need to keep.” Oh, ok. Cool. So the remaining seven dwarfs, various foam bridge building pieces, scoops, snakes, fake fish, and whatever else in the official Toy Tub Bucket can disappear? Awesome. Then I look at what they had pulled out to keep: one alligator (or perhaps crocodile), one great white shark, and two dolphins.
Gram and Pop brought the shark and alligator back from Florida years ago after some winter sabbatical– sturdy, hard plastic they will probably survive decades more. But those dolphins are even cooler– no offense Mom and Dad. Those dolphins once belonged to my friend Janet’s kids who have all left the nest for adventures known and unknown. But that day we visited her, my babies were two and three or maybe even one and two– those years of chaos and hourly survival are certainly grainy and specific memories sporadic. Janet and other various friends’ children kept mine entertained happily while we went on a ladies’ bike ride along the coast, a memory I cherish. When we returned from the ride, Janet passed along the tub toys, probably happy to purge them from her tub also.
And so as they get older, their conversations will change, but I hope they are always able to verbalize the questions, the concerns, the changes they notice aloud to me and their dad. Beyond the questions about pubic hair arriving. I had to reassure our son that the hair that would grow under his arms one day was NOT pubic hair as his sister had told him. But the cool factors of their growing independence and teamwork at 8 and 9 are exponential. For example, the other day they were DESPERATE to be RESPONSIBLE. I tasked them with walking to the post office with our wagon (in case we had a package) and PO Box keys and a list of other stops they needed to make along the way, including a drop off at their grandparents’ house and money for eggs at Wayne’s, our local convenience mart. They returned home with the mail, a dozen eggs, half consumed fudge-sicles from Gram. When I asked about the PO keys, our daughter said, “Oh Mom, I put them in the wagon pocket.” Except they weren’t there. Nor were they anywhere on the path they took home when we re-traced their steps. Our son was emotionally un-phased. Oh well. They were just keys after all. But our daughter was inconsolable. “How can that be? Someone must have stolen them out of our wagon when we went into Wayne’s! Will you ever let us walk to the Post Office again?” Interjection: They have loved the post office since they were toddlers, so it was only natural that she felt devastated having lost the keys.
I reassured her they would turn up, and they did, about 4 days later. Some kind soul turned them and balance was restored to the universe once again. But the point of the story is that we have downsized to only four remaining tub toys. We have reduced our tubby time footprint to just four giant creatures. But beyond that, there have been fewer tubs and more showers. Although it’s summer, so any day they swim in a lake, river, or pool counts as a bath. Please don’t judge. We don’t use a lot of soap in the summer. But we do have 2 dolphins, a shark, and an alligator to get through to the tween years coming up in the blink of our rear view mirrors.
Bearing witness to childhood evolution is exciting, but most change is hard. These tub toys are a tangible reminder of the way we ebb and grow and wander. When we told our son we were looking to leave condo living and buy a stand alone home, he replied, “But Mom, I’ve told you for years that we are ‘Small House People.’ How could you do this to me?” What he doesn’t understand at 9 is that I feel the same way at 44. Change. Growth. Tub Toys. Thank goodness for the dolphins, sharks and alligators which remain.