My step son was 9 years old when I introduced him to his new stuffed robot toy, Kalvin the Kauzbot. This was around the time I decided to get involved with the Kauzbot movement. Before Kalvin came into the picture he was quite the fan of stuffed animals. Whether it was his Pillow Pet or the oversized stuffed animals from Costco that pop up around Christmas time. You all know the huge panda and teddy bears I am talking about, the one that your kid sees on the shelf and pleads and begs for the “I can’t live without” 6-foot-tall stuffed animal. The one that is bigger than your child and is really fun for a few days and then becomes a piece of furniture in the corner of your child’s room before he makes his way to the next shipment of donations to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
My son is 12 and in 6th grade now. In a few weeks he will do the tour around his new junior high, something he seems to be thrilled about and yet very concerned “that he will get lost switching classrooms multiple times a day”. This 12th year of his life has been an interesting one to watch. I have noticed more changes in my son during this “dreaded” pre-teen stage than any other time. This kid has liked girls a lot since he was probably 7 years old. He constantly talked about his new girlfriend at school (they changed on a daily basis) and how they both had the same favorite color, like to do the same thing at recess, and would sit next to each other in class. This had been typical around the dinner table fodder up until about 6 months ago. Now there are no mention of his crushes at the dinner table. In fact, he doesn’t mention girls to me, his father or his teenage older sister anymore. When I ask him he looks at me sheepishly and says, “I don’t like anyone”. I know better because what it really means is he isn’t having the grade school crushes any more, he is actually sorting out these feelings he has about girls he may actually REALLY like. Rejection is a possibility now that he has a smartphone and can text these girls. He is learning the very real lesson of waiting for the text back from that person you are crushing on so hard. Checking your phone every 30 seconds…did she respond yet, did she respond yet?
We are also in the middle of moving. I was just telling my husband the other day after long hours of sorting through the kids clothes and old toys, those big stuffed animals, deciding what to “keep, toss or donate”, that I never knew as a kid what a huge chore it was for my parents to move us multiple times in my childhood. If I could go back, I would give my parents a big “thank you”. I probably would have still gone out and played with my friends and not offered to help but I would have acknowledged the fact that moving is probably one of the most emotionally and physically draining activities adults and parents can do through their lifetime. Kids, thank your parents for sorting and packing away all your keepsakes, clothes, mismatched marker sets and video games and then unpacking them again at your new residence. It is not for the weary.
We got to the stuffed animals pile in my son’s room this week. I called him into his room so I didn’t get rid of any he might want to keep. Not surprisingly the Costco panda bear named “Chubby” was put in the donation pile, the Pillow Pet that had been drooled on one too many times was put in the toss pile, when we got to Kalvin (his Kauzbot that has a heart for the homeless) he gave me a definitive KEEP! I inquired why it was the only one he wanted to take to his new home. He looked at me and said “Kalvin is a robot, he isn’t a stuffed doll and Kalvin brings hope to other kids who don’t have a home. I am never getting rid of Kalvin.” I smiled at him and understood completely. There are those items you have as a child that speak to you or touch the heart a bit more than the others.
The day before we had this conversation I was sorting through my own “keep box” and came across my old Cabbage Patch dolls. I never let my mom donate those either. Why not, because they were more than a doll to me. I had adopted them. I even had the adoption papers I signed when my parents gave them to me to prove it was legal. They had a purpose in my childhood. Sure, the purpose was that I was mothering an adopted baby who grew out of a cabbage field, yet it was still a purpose. My son reminded me what was just so special about Kauzbots and why I got involved in the first place. His Kauzbot wasn't just another stuffed animal, it was a robot, with a heart, and that heart represented a real purpose to him. This stuffed robot contributed to children who were homeless and there was no way he was going to let that purpose go in the “toss or donate” pile.