I would love nothing more than to meet the founders of Build-A-Bear Workshop. Find out just what they were thinking when they taught little kids that the best way to build a loveable creature is backwards.
If I ever have children, I’ll set them down and make sure they know a few things. A few things I wish someone had taught me when I was a two-year-old girl, rolling around in the soot from the fireplace after my mother just, I repeat, just washed me.
Covered in black soot from head to toe, standing at the bottom of the stairs. A maniac. An untamed child. An adventurer from the beginning who refused to follow the rules. I would like to have known a few things—and not just that a pregnant mother is not a happy mother when her only daughter plays Cinderella in front of the fireplace.
1. Do not put your teddy bear in the washer. Even the best intentions turn sour sometimes. The stuffing escapes through the tightly tied stitches and floats around; sticks to everything until all that’s left is a soggy white mess. The world’s biggest lint brush can’t make that bear fluffy again.
Sometimes, I will tell my child, when you try to wash away the bad, the good goes with it. Until the shell of what’s left is a little less loveable in this world where we like neat packages and no loose ends; where everything must be fine, just fine.
2. Don’t buy the bathroom mirror with the medicine cabinet. We want to bottle our sorrows and stack those translucent orange bottles with pills in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror so that we can look at our reflection and pretend it’s not there. Out of sight, out of mind. When the little boy stands on the step stool to brush his teeth, he opens the door and all the rows we’ve worked for hours to meticulously stack come tumbling out, spilling onto the floor and into the sink. And we cannot expect the boy to know what to do, but he does. Instinctively, he probably does.
Probably, he’ll gather them up in his arms like daises in a field and try to put them back in order. Shoving them onto the narrow lip of a shelf between the wall and the back of the mirror. When it closes, finally, he might hop off the stool and forget why he was even there in the first place. And pretty soon, he’s got his own house with his own medicine cabinet.
3. When you play freeze tag, remember it’s just a game. People don’t freeze their lives when they’re not around us. I thought they did. Like a time machine that halted everyone around me to preserve it for later. The problem became defining later. Was it later yet? Now? How about now? Later is different for everyone and it’s not fair to expect the world to wait for us to come back to it so we can pick up exactly where we left off.
Time is sequential but it plays tricks on us and we’re all cars moving down a highway at different speeds and maybe when we left the person was next to us but now they’re 100 feet ahead. And we have to be OK with that. We have to be OK with falling behind and ahead and feeling out the space between us since the time when we were last together.
4. Never stop searching for Never Never Land. It’s not real yet, but that doesn’t mean it can never be real. Everything lost was once found. Every place in our imagination seems real to us and if we cheat ourselves early and pretend it’s not, pretend we have to grow up when we’re six years old and the red juice from a cold popsicle is running down our cheeks, that’s too soon.
There will be a new time for learning that the same ocean never laps against the shore twice, but that’s not now. Now is the time for holding onto what’s imaginary and letting it envelop us with wonder and amazement. Letting us believe in the unbelievable. Letting us believe we can stretch our days from sun up to sundown and never lose a moment of time to grow and learn and play.
5. Everyone needs a hug; even if they don’t want one. I am not a hugger. But there is something about running up to someone and latching on because you missed them that much, so much that you need to remember what it feels like to hold onto them, that is wonderful and true. And little kids love to hug. I will make sure my kids know that’s OK. That a hug can change someone’s whole day.
If I am ever a mother, I will make sure my children know this. Not when they are eighteen and leaving me for college or a career, but when they’re two years old and standing at the bottom of the stairs, covered head to toe in soot from the fireplace. When I am ready to strangle them for having a sense of adventure. I will sit them down and tell them the truth without ruining them. And hopefully, they will listen.
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