Trust the Gene Genie

Friday, October 23, 2015

How do you mend a broken heart?

If we're going to get back into this a full year-and-a-half after my last entry, it's probably best we do it with an Elsa story.

The girl, who is now 9, has an obscene number of stuffed animals. And sure, we're definitely the ones to blame. It's not like she's sneaking out on Friday afternoons to score more Build-a-Bears at the mall. She has a supplier and it's us. 

Still, it's an impossible number of animals. Where some kids grow out or move past and even use up their stuffed animal collection, Elsa has preserved, curated and guarded her menagerie with the fastidiousness of a 73-year-old Beanie Babies collector. 

And for this, more than any reason, we knew it was time to take action. Over the last couple weeks, the two nets we have strung across the corner of her bedroom both ripped out of the wall sending the billion or so stuffed animals that resided there tumbling to the floor where they completely buried Elsa's laundry hamper. 

Becky and I talked it over and decided five animals could stay in her bedroom and the rest we'd transition downstairs to the basement storage room. It's a Becky signature move, one she's used on every member of the family. Remove clutter from sight and when it's not noticed and then forgotten about, throw it away. 

It was the perfect plan for the stuffed animals. Outta sight, outta mind. And then gone for good. 

I made sure to prepare Elsa for it. When she got home from school earlier this week we talked about all the stuffed animals and how they needed a better place. We then moved to talking about picking her favorites and keeping those really fun ones on her bed and taking the rest downstairs and out of the way. 

She threw no fits at the plan. She seemed to take it more like I was asking her clean her room. It was all quiet resignation and moderate annoyance. So after snacks and homework, I sent her off to her room with a big box to move her collection through. 

And that was it. For 30 or 45 minutes she stayed in her room going through all her stuffed animals. In fact, she was so on-task, I'd almost forgotten she was out there working on it. That's when I heard quiet sniffles from the kitchen. 

Elsa was done with the dirty business I had tasked her with and had quietly -- and slowly, with the most downcast, hangdog expression -- left her room and wandered back to where we were. I looked at her and my heart broke. She was clearly devastated. I hugged her and we talked about her feelings. 

Turns out, she had been sobbing the entire time. Sobbing as she picked up animals and placed them on the bed. Sobbing as she picked up animals and placed them in the box. Sobbing as she sat and contemplated which animals would stay and which would leave her room forever, merging with the infinite. 

So I explained to her the animals we were taking downstairs weren't going for good. They would just be downstairs and she could go see them and play with them anytime she wanted. But she's 9. And smart. 

"But when we move them downstairs," she said, tears still dripping down her face, "we forget about them."

Yeah, I know. Brutal.

But I wanted to hold strong. Like when we weened her from her blanket. Steadfast and immovable. So I stuck to the five-animal rule and told her that pretty soon she would get along just fine.

When I began telling the tale to Becky later that night, she looked at me asked, "Obviously, you let her keep her stuffed animals?"

Was it that obvious? Maybe it was. So Elsa and I sat down the next day and I told her that her mom was pretty sure she needed to keep a few more stuffed animals in her room, that only the ugly and mean ones had to go downstairs.

And that's how Build-a-Bear Twilight Sparkle came to live in the storage closet in our basement.

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