Family

Putting Away Childish Things

Nutty guards my books

Nutty guards my books

I have four wonderful and independent children. They are intelligent and know how to make up their own minds. They are growing up, and it hurt in an unexpected way today. I guess I should explain that I have loved books ever since I could hold them. My family was too poor to have many toys, so we went to the library religiously. It was great for me, and I have no complaints. Children didn’t own really books back then (or at least we didn’t). By the time I left home at seventeen, though, I owned maybe five or six books.

After I left home I bought college textbooks, and eventually, books for pleasure. Now, I have a house full of books. The library is still our friend, and we go there for the candy. You know, the books that are quick and fun, like candy. When I want books that feed my soul, though, I head to the bookstore. If we’re going to become intimate friends, I don’t want to give them back. I enjoyed giving my children lots of books that were a candy as well as soul- and mind-expanding. I wanted them to enjoy reading as much as I did, and I thought that owning their own books would pave the way. I bought them paranormal fantasy and science fiction books as well as about their hobbies and interests–lots of and origami, paper airplanes, science experiments, and art. Looking at their books is like a review of their life, interest by interest. Some books were used by several of the children, some were passionately loved by one. There were many books that became family members, because they were cherished so much.

Do birds of feather flock together? Does Ruby like books too?

Do birds of feather flock together? Does Ruby like books too?

I think my oldest daughter has kept every book she’s ever owned, because they are all her friends. She filled her large basement bedroom with as many bookshelves as she could, and stowed the leftover books in her closet! I understand that. I want to keep my books that have been my teachers and friends, too. Now that she’s moved out on her own, her books were left behind like an anchor to her family. They look sad, though, and I avoid going in her old room. I can’t bear to see them discarded and left behind.

Now, two of my children are moving on, if not out. They came to turning points in their lives — their interests changed and it was time to put away childish things. Yesterday, I went through their discarded books, sorting them to give away. It was harder than I thought.

Some of those books were my old friends, too. I read those books to my kids, time after time. After they became too old to sit in my lap or beside me to read to them, I enthusiastically chose books for them to read on their own. Some series were discussed so vividly by my youngest daughter that I wondered at times if she knew the characters weren’t real. Who would have guessed a series about a society of feral cats could engender so much loyalty by a young reader? When I asked her if she wanted to keep them, she was resolute that she had moved on. In high school now, they no longer interested her. I just couldn’t do it. I finally set aside that series to keep, unable to part with it. Ditto for my son’s favorite childhood book, Dinatopia. They were friends of us all, I guess.

Whether I'm reading or writing, Russell Sprout is always up for a cuddle.

Whether I’m reading or writing, Russell Sprout is always up for a cuddle.

I decided to donate many of the books to my youngest daughter’s K-8 charter school. She moved schools this year, but has fond memories of the terrific school she left behind. I imagined how much kids at her school would enjoy finding some of these gems on the shelf. So many of her books were hard to find, unique spirits that these children might not otherwise have had a chance to meet. I held back my son’s paper airplane design books. He’ll graduate with a mechanical engineering degree next semester, and has talked about graduate school for aeronautical engineering. The paper airplanes seem such a tangible part of his childhood.

As the kids set aside their childhood books, I wonder how much they will be setting me aside as well. The hardest part about motherhood is the need to be obsolete. I have no desire to raise children who are dependent upon me. There will be a time when I won’t be here; it’s imperative that they be independent and capable all on their own. I’ve tried hard to nurture and support them in this move to independence. I’m less willing to be emotionally obsolete; I’d like to think that they’ll still love me, even when they don’t need me.

I just didn’t think it would hurt so much to put their childhoods in a box. I had to come to terms with the fact that we’ll never cuddle together for bedtime stories again. I got up early this morning, before the boxes were delivered to the school. I removed a few books that whispered to me during the night. The origami books couldn’t leave. They tell me that someday, there will be grandchildren to love these.

Nutty loves his bedtime books.

Nutty loves his bedtime books.

Categories: Family, parenting

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27 replies »

  1. I really like this post. I dont have children yet but I totally with you about the book. I have been tring to give away my teenager books but I feel attached to the charaters inside the book. Books are good friends that will never go away.
    Great post Kdkh

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  2. This post tugged at my heart…I remember the feeling “obsolete” as you said, when my kids moved on.
    I thought to myself “my whole job was to put myself out of a job!” (teaching them to be independent, productive citizens -then letting them go) OUCH!
    It is a bittersweet time, and BTW I still have boxes of my kids’ books, too. Some of them I just couldn’t let go of. Maybe they’ll want them back someday, or maybe I’ll have grandkids to read them to. 🙂

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  3. Hi Karel! Lovely thoughts. I am so glad that you enjoyed all those trips to the library that we used to make. I enjoyed them as well. It is wonderful that you are donating books to the school. As school budgets diminish, the libraries often suffer. Some schools are going to electronic that they don’t even want books. Hard to believe? Books are the way we visit the world and visit other people’s minds. I am so glad that the legacy of books was something that I could nurture
    in you and that you have passed it on. When I was growing up, we didn’t have any books, a school with no library and no town library. When I
    finally got to a school with a library when I was in high school, I fell in love with books.

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  4. Can totally relate to this. Gave boxes of books to Jon’s Elementary last September. But kept some chosen books that could not be parted with. Am still counting on grandchildren with whom I can share the wonderful stories! As you encourage me to see the bright side of things, I reciprocate and tell you to remember the future can be even better. I hear having grandkids to read to is amazing:) Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Hi, mom. 🙂 just wanted to let you know that I still keep and cherish every book I have ever read close to my heart. We learner our love of reading from you and we came out pretty fantastic because of it. Just because its time to let others experience the great memories we’ve had with the books doesn’t mean we don’t still treasure the lessons and experiences. Same goes with us growing up. We still treasure and love you. We appreciate who you are and what you have done for us. Just because we are gone more doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten you or moved on. We still love you and need you very much.
    Love you!

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    • Thanks for being my only child to actually read my blog! Being a mother is difficult, and I’m glad you think I did something right. There were plenty of things I didn’t do as well. I appreciate the reassurance that I’m still relevant. Just because I let you live your own life without interference doesn’t mean I don’t care. I love you, too.

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  6. I did not have that many books of my own. I felt I never could afford them but did frequent the library.
    I understand about getting rid of our children’s book or even their early possessions. When there is no room anymore or they really don’t want things anymore, I took them to an elementary school. As a former teacher I knew how much teachers would appreciate having a few extra books in their room.
    When I retired I had tons of teacher treasures. I moved them all to our new retirement home. I had dreams of using them to entertain grandchildren. Alas my children are grown but have none. That was over 18 years ago. I finally donated the stickers and rewards cards and the construction paper and crayons and paints and other creative magazines etc to the school. And I do not regret. They were worthless sitting in the back closet.
    I haven’t given up on the grandchildren appearing. But I now realize I will have to entertain them with a computer. 😦 lol

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    • Yeah, I’m not sure grandchildren are a given. Donating felt like the right thing, but it was still sad. I’m glad you felt good about your decision; I’ll feel better about mine as time goes on, I’m sure. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. That must have been very hard indeed. Kids are able to move on more easily but each book must have held great memories for you. My mother kept a whole bookcase of our childhood books as she couldn’t part with them. Came in jolly handy for visiting children.

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    • I hope to pass down the favorites to my children when they’re grown. In the meantime, maybe I’ll read one or two! I never had time when the kids were younger. Thanks for chiming in!

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  8. What a wonderful story. I totally understand, my daughter has graduated from grad school now. I still have some of her books in a box that she left behind. I just could not part with the memories of her little eyes lighting up with delight as we met the new friends within them. Her first word was danger, from Sesame Street’s Ernie. She was very young, and they were her favorite. So yeah, not “mommy” but “danger” was her first word. She loved being read to, it was our special time. This was such a great story. I am sure your children will always need you, they just like to think that they don’t. I still get calls occasionally with “Mom, what should I do?” My daughter is very mature and very intelligent, and we are grown up best friends now. I still miss those days though.

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  9. Sweet and poignant. My daughter is 8. I understand and am grateful for the time I still have ahead of me. On another note, you have nearly as many animals as we do. We have two dogs, one ancient cat, a cockatiel and a guinea pig. Oh, and we are currently growing a tank full of frogs.

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