February 18, 2020
From toddlers to teens, children have a knack for growing up too fast.
Years ago, my Aunt Kathy transformed a rarely used small room in her Winnetka, Illinois, home into what was called, “The Little People’s Room.” Here her two children could play with their toys, write on the walls, spill paint on the floor — anything was allowed as long as it didn’t cause bodily harm.
When our two children were toddlers, I followed Aunt Kathy’s example and created a Little People’s Room for our two kids. They spent hours making play dough, painting, and watching a vast collection of turtles, fish, and frogs survive in Mason jars and tanks.
Naturally, when Rylan and Amelia were born I wanted a Little People’s Room in our new home, so Papa and I christened the large kids’ bedroom upstairs the newest Little’s People’s Room. We furnished the room with two sets of bunk beds, four walls filled with Dr. Bob’s art, a comfy chair, and lots of books and toys. It was the perfect room for little children to hang out. Until now.
In November, Rylan became a teenager and Amelia became an official tween. Suddenly, the Little People’s Room looked out of place. So they decided it was time to make the room more teen friendly, or as Amelia dubbed, “a teen lounge.” Out went the collection of Tonka trucks. The 40-year-old rocking horse was put out to pasture. The toy stroller and a Nyx 2015 handbag was rolled on out. A large collection of children’s books was divided up, although I confess I saved a few of my favorites. After all, “Goodnight Moon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” are forever Claverie classics.
We didn’t waste time on the new house-decluttering custom of holding an object and thanking it for its service before we made a decision. Rylan and Amelia are too minimalistic for that. They were ready to face the next phase of their lives — adolescence — and acted decisively. However, I must admit: I felt it was the end of an era. Was I ready to let go of their childhood?
Without hesitation, I picked up a yellow legal pad and pen and asked, “What does this room need to become more teen friendly?”
Rylan asked that the mini foosball set be placed on a table in the center of the room. Amelia asked for some reading lamps, a small end table next to the mini sofa and a coffee table she could put her feet on. They both wanted the bunk beds to remain and thought the Dr. Bob art was cool. For good measure, I bought a groovy lava lamp (complete with Bluetooth) and a disco ball that splashed colorful bright lights onto the ceiling.
As a borderline packrat, I had some pangs of angst as we bid farewell to these childish things. It’s not the letting go, it’s realizing that Rylan and Amelia are growing up faster than I could have ever imagined.
I did fine until we left the room and Rylan looked at me triumphantly and said, “Wow! Can you believe in two years I’ll be driving?” That’s when I lost it. I wanted to put my arms around him, hand him a box of crayons and tell him to scribble away, be a kid, let me read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” once again. But I can’t hold back time. The Little People’s Room days are gone.
Long live the Teen Lounge.
Laura Claverie, also known as Nola Family’s Hip Grannie, is a journalist who has written for local, regional, and national media.