July 3, 2012

Lessons From a 5 Year Old

Kris, who blogs at The New "Normal", has become someone I consider a close friend. Her writing is always thoughtful and always honest, two things that are often hard to come by in this online world of words. I'm so glad she was able to guest blog here today, and know you'll love this sweet post as much as I did.

This past weekend I embarked on a dangerous mission: Enter my daughter’s room and attempt to find the floor again.

She’s five years old and fully capable of cleaning her own room, but this time I volunteered to do it for her. I had an end goal in mind and was serious about getting it done. I was going to purge her room of all the junk, clutter, papers, and unused toys until it looked like a room that could be found in a Pottery Barn catalogue. Well OK, it will never look like that, but you get the idea.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this mission either. My daughter would be spending a week with her grandparents for some summer fun at the lake, leaving me the perfect, uninterrupted opportunity to rid her room of the mess. And I wasn’t going to toss anything that I knew she would miss. So with trash bags and donation boxes in hand, I set about my task.

Every drawer and toy bin was to be emptied, with no object left unscrutinized as to its necessity. (It sounds heartless and cruel to do this to a five year old, but you hadn’t seen her room. It was BAD.) My thoughts were that if it didn’t look important or hadn’t been played with in months, it wasn’t returning to her room. Happy Meal toys – out. Subscription cards from Highlights magazines – trash. I envisioned having bag after bag of trash or donation items, leaving her room in perfect order. I also envisioned this project only taking a better part of an afternoon…or so I thought…

…it took me two FULL days. And I only ended up with one trash bag and a small box for donations. What happened to my ultimate goal of decluttering and bringing organization to my daughter’s room? Well, I still reached my goal of organizing her room, just in a roundabout way. And in the process, and what ultimately slowed my progress way down, I gained something incredibly valuable – insight and a window into my daughter’s heart. Through touching each item that was in her room, and at times wondering why in the world she had kept some of them, I saw a clear picture as to who she is and what she values. What in her 5-year-old heart is important and has incredible worth. Priceless treasures to her, that if I hadn’t slowed down and looked closely, I might have missed the story they told.

- The short notes I had placed in her lunch box with “I love you” written on them with a big heart.
- The ordinary rock that I almost threw in the garden, until I remembered she had thought it looked magical, picked it up and carried it for hours on a recent walk through the park.
- The small certificate she had earned when she finally reached writing to 500 in Kindergarten, which was a daunting task and she was so proud of herself when she completed it.
- Endless drawings of our family, all holding hands and smiling under big suns. There were dozens of these, ranging from the stick figure first attempts to the now much more detailed versions. A view drawn from her own hand of just how much my little girl is growing up.
- And the thing that brought tears to my eyes, hidden deep in her closet – her treasure box. Under toys and behind a pile of other things I found a small shoebox, one that I had seen her pull out on various occasions. Had I not already encountered these other treasured mementos, in my zest to purge her room of its clutter I might have been inclined to immediately toss the old shoebox without looking at its contents. But I opened it and my heart melted. The box contained her most prized possessions - a folded up piece of waterproof, green paper from her dad, sent from Iraq telling her how much he missed her; his Army photo; a Bluebird of Happiness taken from her grandmother’s house; a small pillbox owned by her great-grandmother which was handed down after her passing a few years ago; a post-card sent from me while vacationing during J’s R&R last year; and a few small, torn pieces of paper in a baggie, each one having hearts or small I love you’s written on them that she and I had passed back and forth once while playing “post office.”

There were a few other things in the box, but what was interesting was that while these were her most treasured items, none of the items had any value, except to her. And now to me. Seeing this box made me realize that what is most important to her is not toys and things, it is time and family and memories. At five years old she already has this figured out, while it seems most adults still struggle with this, myself included. When is it in life that we lose that innocence and that insight into life’s happiness? We know what is important, but we don’t always live it. And once we again realize what is important, how to we get back to that?

As adults I think we move too fast and we many times miss the important little things. The fast pace of everything today prevents us from slowing down and we hurry through the simple joys. Technology constantly invades our lives, with beeping phones signaling a new email to having Internet literally at our fingertips everywhere we go, and the distractions are endless. After spending time in my not-so-little girl’s room, I know that I need to set those distractions aside because I’m missing the simple moments with my children. I’d rather be passing sweet notes to them or exploring the back yard for worms, than reading on my iPad about others who are doing just that with their own kids. I don’t want to find out what is important to them through decluttering their rooms; I want to experience it first-hand.

In the end, I did not end up purging my daughter’s room of as much clutter and junk as I envisioned I would. After really looking at it all, I saw through her eyes that what I deemed junk, to her was priceless and I just didn’t have the heart to throw some of it away. Instead I organized the treasures in a way that they would stay contained and I returned her treasure box to its hiding place. I did throw away and donate a fair amount of stuff, items that she had outgrown and things that were broken, but the majority of her stuff is now organized in a much neater way and her room is livable again. I intend to go through everything with her by my side sometime, so that she can decide what is really worth keeping, but also so I can gain even more insight into her heart and hear her words describe why something is a treasure to her. And I can’t wait to hear the story she tells.

3 kind comments from you:

Monica said...

That made me cry. Thanks for sharing.

Chantal said...

This is such a sweet post!

charla beth said...

i'm surprised more people didn't comment on this. it's so unbelievably sweet<3

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