I was putting a package on my 17-year-old son’s bed when I stubbed my toe.
“Ouch! What the what?” I shouted, looking down to see what I’d hit.
Peeking out from under his bed were dirty dishes, school binders, and random articles of clothing. When I got down on all fours and lifted the dust ruffle for a better look, I found the space under his bed packed with shoeboxes bulging with old toys. So. Many. Toys.
Obviously, my teen was long overdue on cleaning out from under his bed. So at my request–okay, several weeks of incessant nagging–he settled into the task.
That’s when an unwelcome chore turned into a surprising and sweet afternoon with my son.
No, it’s not because he convinced me to clean out from under his bed for him while he granted my wish of spending time with him. Rather, it’s because he invited me to relive his childhood with him, the two of us sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor sorting through toys that marked every stage of his boyhood.
There were Transformers, those bendy, puzzle-esque toys that he used to spend hours changing from car to alien superpower. “Autobots, roll out!” my teen shouted from memory. I laughed and shared how sneaking him out of preschool to go see the blockbuster movie was one of my favorite memories. Oh, how I loved watching his face light up on that special movie date! Just like it lit up now, my 6’ 3” teen smiling at me and fiddling with his old pals Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
Then we spied his collection of Bakugans, those little balls that folded out into creatures then back again. My son recalled their powers and fighting abilities while I remembered how happy he was when I surprised him with his first Bakugan after kindergarten one day. He had begged me for one for weeks! All these years later, I both cherish and miss the simplicity of being able to make his day with a toy.
Next, there was his collection of Silly Bandz, those shaped rubber band bracelets. He was in second grade when he started collecting them, obsessed with trading them or buying more packs with new shapes and colors. The passion he displayed for collecting Silly Bandz foreshadowed his enthusiasm for trading and creating the perfect Fantasy Football team now that he’s older.
Finally, my teen pulled out a squashed plastic Beyblade stadium from under his bed filled with Beyblades, diminutive spinning tops that tried to spin longer than each other. “Let it rip!” my son shouted in his deep voice while holding up a handful. Beyblades were his preoccupation in the later elementary school years. Today, he remembered who was an attack and who was a defense. My biggest memory was begging him to clean up their ripcords that I kept stepping on around the house.
Which brought me back to this afternoon and begging him to clean out from under his bed after stubbing my toe. How did we get to this place so fast where he was getting rid of the toys that he had loved–that even I had loved–so much?
And for what? I thought quickly. It was not as if he needed the space under his bed for anything important now. He wouldn’t be putting college applications, his work uniform, or his suit for prom under his bed. A briefcase or laptop would never claim that space.
“I have an idea,” I said, as we sat on the floor surrounded by Transformers, Bakugans, Silly Bandz, and Beyblades. “Just put them back under the bed. Maybe your kids will play with them one day. But no more dirty dishes!”
He grinned, the lines on his cheeks revealing more of the man he was becoming while his eyes twinkled like they’ve done since he was a baby. “Thanks, Mom,” he said. Then we found a place for his toys back under his bed, all the while realizing that they already had a place in our hearts.