The Simple Life
by Michele Meier Vosberg
Ending a Childhood
We put the castle in the closet. The prince and princess and the little plastic thrones are tucked away in a Rubbermaid box to be saved for another child’s adventures. It was an ordinary enough activity, a part of a mundane task. My daughter cleaned out her room. I should have been ecstatic. Secretly, I was teary-eyed.
The castle came at Christmas when Meghan was five years old. We were out shopping and she spotted it. It was a small child’s dollhouse in the shape of a pink and white castle, complete with little turrets topped with flags and a revolving ballroom floor. It was a doll house right out of a young girl’s fairy tale dreams. Meghan was enchanted. We stopped to look at it before I reminded her that she already had a dollhouse. We moved on and continued our shopping.
A while later, I realized that Meg was no longer standing near me. Panic set in; my child was lost. I looked around frantically and scoured the immediate area. She was nowhere in the vicinity. I went back, towards the toy department. I heard her before I saw her. A little voice was calling out, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”
I turned the corner and saw her. The little blond princess doll was in the turret, tossing her golden tresses over the edge. Meghan was oblivious to me and everyone else as she acted out the fairy tale. It was a charming scene and I am gullible where imagination and children’s stories meet.
The toy castle served us well for years. The prince drove around in the minivan from the other dollhouse. The princess lounged on chairs made from Dixie cups lined with felt. As Meg got older, she stopped playing with the dolls but continued playing with the castle. Her artistic expressions filled the castle. She made furniture and potted plants. She added dogs. The walls of the castle were decorated with her original art.
I do not think of myself as the overly sentimental type. My friends cried when, after the births of their babies, they went back to work and took their children to daycare for the first time. I happily handed over my girls to their sitters. I was fortunate enough to have wonderful childcare and I was ready to go back to work. My friends cried on their children’s’ first day of kindergarten. I cheerily waved goodbye and even forgot to take pictures. Now, I surprised myself, getting emotional while the castle went the way of the Barbie horse and the toy xylophone. It was both a physical and a symbolic act designating the ending of a childhood, and it hit me hard.
Teenager-hood is scary. My daughters now have friends whose parents are not my friends. They want to go places where we are not. Posters of obnoxious rock bands and dead rap stars fill the walls of their rooms where the posters of cute puppies used to be. I can’t buy them clothes anymore. Oh, I can pay for them, but I can’t pick them out. They want shoes with three inch heels. I don’t even own shoes with three inch heels. They outwardly reject things I like and they have come to realize that their parents don’t know anything. We argue and cry, hormone levels changing faster than the weather.
I mourn the loss of childhood, of Oshkosh denim jumpers with little pink T-shirts and ruffled socks. I mourn the end of snuggling up for a bedtime story and a friendly game of tickle monster. Now, my daughters stay up later than I do and the monsters in the world are much more real. I worry that the next time I lose them they won’t be lost in the isles of the toy department but someplace far more treacherous.
My friend Teri, mother of three daughters who made it through the teen years, says that just when teenage girls get human again they go off to college. I can only hope so. College is my dream for them, but I know they will have to write their own life story. I can guide them and encourage them, but ultimately they will have to follow their own path through the forest. I can only hope that it leads them to places where there are friendly castles and that they will have the strength to slay the dragons that they find along the way.
Michele Meier Vosberg is a teacher, consultant and freelance writer. She’s doing her best live a simple life in a complicated world. When all else fails you can find her in the backyard reading a book.