Lessons From My Daughter: Loving Without Judgement
She has a decent amount of toys, some from us and some from generous grandparents and other loving friends and family. These toys seem to go through a rotation of popularity, and right now she’s very into stuffed animals. She cares for them and treats them like her own babies. Care giving and imagine play are very important to her right now: she feeds them, pats them on their backs and covers them with a blanket during “naps”, etc. Her daycare teacher caught her doing this with her classmates as well!
One day, She noticed my old stuffed Hello Kitty sitting on the bookshelf. I had placed it there more for decoration than anything. It has significant sentimental value for me. The story is this: when I was about 5 or 6 years old, we were visiting my grandma out of state. I entered a coloring contest put on by a store near her home, and the prize was the Hello Kitty. It was unusual - shaped almost like a pillow, flat but large with a very large head, a bright yellow hair bow and pair of suspenders embroidered with a big "K". When I finished my (of course, perfectly executed within the lines) coloring job, I exclaimed, "Now Grandma, when I win, you can just mail me the prize." A couple weeks later, the kitty arrived at my home in a box!
My mom had held onto that kitty in her closet stash that my father preemptively labeled "DO NOT open if you don't want to cry". She chose to give it back to me at a particularly low point in my life: when I was diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor during my residency training. The kind of time in your life when you could really use help taking care of yourself. It was the key to transforming into the "little girl" I needed to be during a slow convalescence period of serious recovery.
Getting back to present day, the kitty (now renamed "Lammie", aka "Meow-meow") has been carried around everywhere for a number of weeks. Lammie has slept in the bed, ridden on the tricycle, been in the car and in the grocery cart and even to a few restaurants. Lammie had rapidly transformed from slightly dingy and stale but still in good shape to ragged, ripped, and about to fall apart. She had loved this thing, this 40 year old pillow of foam covered in yarn, to the point that its head was about to fall off. She had loved it more than I did when Lammie was my kitty. Already grooming myself to be a pleaser, I did what was expected by coloring the "perfect' picture, with perfect strokes and perfect colors, to win the toy. I then treated my shiny new Hello Kitty (a very trendy brand in the 80's) like a trophy. She knew nothing of its past status. No matter that Lammie had already started out old and crusty, or that it was quickly degrading in appearance and structure; She had embraced Lammie, unconditionally and unwavering, without judgement. As I grow older, I care less about brands and appearances and newness and status, but this has taken years of deconditioning and doing the work to learn what I value most in life. My daughter gets it already, and I admire her for it. Maybe I understood too as a very young child but was lured by the commercials and displays in the stores.
I took some sutures home from work and fixed Lammie's neck. One of the button eyes is missing, lost in the internal sea of foam, so I sutured the socket shut and covered it with an eye patch. I doubt the toy will survive the washing machine, so it will stay dirty. Nevertheless, Lammie is an integral part of our present family dynamic.