In the wake of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s essay in The Atlantic, there’s been buzz about the difficulty/impossibility of combining a demanding job with parenting. And you know, it ain’t easy. When our two daughters were little, I traveled now and then for work. No big deal, until the trip I came home to hear that Freddie, then five, had spent most of my week away crying and could only sleep after my husband gave her a picture of our family all holding hands at the Botanic Garden. Still, what could I do? I had to work to keep those peanut-butter sandwiches coming, and that meant business trips.
One thing I always did, no matter how short the journey, was to buy a small gift for each girl (often identical stuffed animals), which I usually grabbed from the nearest kiosk while racing for the plane. Our girls ended up with piles and piles of increasingly bizarre creatures (yes, even llamas). A side effect was a running joke over my misidentification of the poor, stuffed things. It wasn’t so bad when I thought the dogs in bathing suits were bears — but a little unfortunate when I brought home stuffed toy rats thinking they were squirrels. (Okay, okay, we do have all but the bears here in Brooklyn, but it’s hard to examine stuffed animal parts while listening to the last call for your flight.)
Now, at 19 and 22, our daughters are auctioning off their kid stuff. Fine for them, but I get sentimental. I’ve stopped myself from racing after the new owners and demanding return of our old, dog-eared friends, but I’m going to miss the little fellow up there on the fence. (I think it’s a cat?) Each toy reminds me of making it home from as far as Moscow, Prague, even Auckland, to hug my family. I admit, I even hate to see our daughters get rid of the toys I didn’t buy. These giant dolls weren’t from me — I’ll still miss them, but with Freddie living in the basement, we just don’t have room.
A friend says she suspects it’s not really about the stuffed animals — it’s my little girls I wish could somehow stay. And yeah, sure, she’s got a point. But I know there’s no way to stop them from growing up (I told them not to, but they never listen). I can’t hold onto the little girls I missed while I was on the road. Still, would it be too much to ask to keep a stuffed creature or two?