Our family has a tradition of leaving love notes on post-its scattered around the house, especially when one of us parental units is leaving to go out of town. We stick them on doors and bathroom mirrors, on (and in) the mudroom shoe rack, on cookie boxes in the pantry, under her morning cereal bowl. They go in her piano and in her school books and backpack and pencil case and under her pillow. It eases our guilt when we have to leave her, and she pesters us over the phone the whole time we’re gone, wanting to know how many we left and wondering if she should keep looking. We’ve gotten pretty creative, hoping to stretch the search out over the time we’re gone and, in turn, keeping ourselves relevant even in our absence.
She collects them on her door, and her door is nearly full now, a neatly-gridded, brightly-colored collection of notes that tell her to behave and to have a good time at this function or that event and practice piano and don’t eat too many cookies and remind her that we love her and to take care of the parent staying home. Some have little inside jokes on them. M’s are sweet, while mine tend to be punny. The week she gave her Mozart presentation I left a note on her Mozart poster that said, “Mommy loves Mozart and Zoe. She loves Zoe more. Sorry, Mozart.” She still laughs at that one. She also still has the one I stuck in her mitten that says, “I gLOVE you!” and another from her shoe that says, “Peeee-yew!”
But she’s growing up and for her birthday this year we are redecorating her bedroom to bring it up to middle-school standards and so she’s looking at everything with the critical eye of a discerning almost-eleven-year-old. Thankfully, she has inherited from her parents the chuckit gene. After two weekends of both of us working on her room, I took four bags of clothes and six bags of toys to St. Vincent de Paul, and we have a few special items pulled out for hand-me-downs for family. Her room is open and clean and ready for its make-over, which will consist of new bedding, a lamp or two, throw rugs, possibly a new overhead light, and a tetraptych of Space Needle images she made with her iPhone when we were in Seattle over spring break (her idea, which I think is awesome). It’s a bit disconcerting to me, this “new” room. Even without the new stuff yet, it looks so different. The clutter is gone. The little-girl detritus that surrounds all grade-schoolers was bagged and donated or throw out. Her room already looks different, more grown-up. I’m simultaneously proud of her and sad for the ending of that phase, because it means she is also growing up.
In The Great Purge, she decided to clean the post-its off her door. My heart shattered but I said nothing, because it’s her room and her decision and I have to let go because that’s what we’re supposed to do when our children are gaining independence and learning to live as their own people. Then she said she wants to get a book to keep all her notes and my mama-heart instantly mended itself and I acted like my allergies were flaring up and wiped away the tears and gave her a bear hug and danced her around the great room while she laughed at the ridiculous of her mother. I love that she wants to keep the love notes. Sweet girl. And then later, in our bathroom, she saw the two notes on my mirror from M to me, and the two notes on M’s mirror from me to him, and she graciously determined, “Just because I’m taking my notes down doesn’t mean you have to. You can keep yours!”
When I’m old(er) and gray(er) I’ll be able to read this and laugh all over at her precociousness, her willingness to indulge my whims and to reassure me that I can, indeed, make my own choices.
Clearly, she’s letting me grow up.