Today we gave away all her dolls.

I have dreaded this day for years. Looking ahead with fear and angst, knowing this day would signify a step farther away from childhood, a step closer to growing up. I have used this day as a caution to myself every time she invited me in to play with her. Someday this will all be over. Someday she won’t want to play dolls with you anymore.

Today we gave away all her dolls, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It was actually great. Today she invited me in to help her solve a problem and I got to be the one to do so. My room is stressing me out, it’s so messy, I just gotta get rid of stuff. As she uttered these words, I realized I’ve said the same thing when clutter overwhelms me and threatens to invade my peace. I knew exactly what she was feeling and offered to help tackle this problem first thing in the morning. Sure, that would be great.

With coffee in hand and her with hot chocolate, we removed every last inhabitant from her closet. As we looked at the crowd of plastic faces staring back at us, she trusted me with the words “I don’t play with these anymore, I really don’t,” and invited me in to see her for who she really was. Not a little, doll-playing kid, but an eleven-year-old who has changed, who is growing, who is different than who she was before. She has new interests, new hobbies, and new pursuits that bring her joy. I saw this girl today and I was invited in to honor her for who she is.

We have played with these dolls a ton. We have dressed them up and dressed them down. They have been in school, on dates, and out at the park. Some of them have gone in the tub, some of them out to the driveway, some of them have chewed feet. A few of them have had hair cuts, some of them have tattoos, and a few lucky ladies now have permanent makeup. These dolls have been around. They have had their hair brushed, their outfits changed, and they have started on the biggest stage of their lives. My daughter’s childhood. They have played on that stage, with that child, who spoke to them, gave them names, and called them her own.

Now that I’m sitting on the other side of this, I realize that I didn’t need to fear this day because this day was not about me to begin with. It was not about me and the check I could or could not mark in my parenting check box for whether I played enough with her. Instead, it was about all the time she logged playing with these dolls. Whether using her imagination by herself or having neighbor friends join in, she has spent a ton of time being a kid with these toys. That’s what is important. She had the opportunity to dream up scenes with dolls in her room and she got to be a kid. That’s what matters. That’s not so scary.