My Baby Has Baggage

My baby has baggage, and I’m trying to understand it. BabyC carries around a little mesh drawstring bag for most of the day. The bag initially held a little set of finger puppets. A few of these remain, but BabyC has also added a variety of other small objects. Some have been there for months, while other rotate out on a daily basis. Regardless, they must have some meaning to her, because she has a hard time parting with her bag. When we leave the house or she gets ready for bed, we often have to take the time to find a safe place for it, where she knows she can find it when she returns.

Sometimes, BabyC insists on bringing the bag on our walks. I think she likes having a place to stow her little treasures.

I mean, you never know when you’ll run across an interesting rock in a mud puddle. That’s the kind of thing that you’ll want to study closer later. Or hold onto for the memory?

The other night, after BabyC was asleep, I emptied the bag to wash it and remove choking hazards to a safer place, something I have to do periodically. Here are its contents:

The baby rattles I pulled out a couple of weeks ago to pass onto a friend expecting a new baby, but BabyC slipped them into her bag. Perhaps the plastic farms animals carry some memories of her time with O, because they played with them together. The tongue depressor came from last week’s 18-month check-up with her pediatrician. The plastic eggs are the last remnants of her Easter egg hunt booty. The cards were transferred from her beloved wallet. And the seeds and stones were picked up on a rainy afternoon walk.

We grown-ups tend to think of baggage as a negative thing – emotional baggage, usually carrying self-doubt, shame, or fear; or physical baggage, the burden of too many possessions or a cluttered home.

BabyC reminds me of how much good and healthy baggage I carry with me, even as I have moved across states or into a new phase of my life: relationships built of trust and memories shared over time; photo albums; souvenirs from travel; and precious objects holding meaning to me, like my wedding band, a treasure box from my dad, and BabyC’s newborn cap from the hospital. It occurs to me that holding onto baggage is one of the things that makes us human.

I love sorting through BabyC’s baggage after her day is done. It is a little insight into what my 18-month-old finds special and valuable. I like to think that these are not mere objects to her, but that they are full of meaning. Because if this is the case, her wandering through nature or play at home is not aimless, but full of purpose.

What does your child value?

20 thoughts on “My Baby Has Baggage

  1. What I love most about this post is that twenty or thirty years from now BabyC will be able to scroll through and see what things she held dear – the post itself will be her treasure then.


  2. This is really lovely. Tell me though, does BabyC notice that you remove some items sometimes and how does she feel about it? Just curious. It strikes me as quite wonderful that she is considerate enough toward items that she stowes them, brings with & keeps them safe. I guess I’m interested in whether she reflects on them & remembers them.


    • The only things I have ever removed from her bag without telling her are the little stones and seeds that she picks up on our walks, just because I’m nervous about her choking on them – and also they disintegrate around the house and make a mess I have to clean up later. I didn’t throw them away – I put them in a special container on top of the fridge, in case BabyC wondered about them. She didn’t seem to notice they were gone – though she did go out to find more – and I forgot about the little nature stash on the fridge. But you bring up a good point. I can’t be sure that she didn’t notice – as I said, I imagine that these object are special to her, even if they seem completely replaceable to me. Next time, I’ll sort through the bag with her and we can create a nature box together where she can keep her special finds. Thanks for your thought:)


  3. It’s really great that you don’t have a problem with her exploring like that, too… Some parents would be over-protective and not want her picking up random rocks and seeds, in case they were dangerous.

    I rememer having collections like that when I was a kid, and still to this day will sometimes pick up a rock from a place to remember it. I thought it was something from my family, because my mom and my niece both do it too, but maybe it’s just a common thing we all do, eh?


  4. adorable! my son has a ‘pack pack’ and it usually contains a mix of dinosaurs, cars, and rocks. and he has his ‘blankie’ that goes everywhere!


  5. Maybe it’s the time to investigate schema learning theories? Perhaps she is enveloping or transporting?
    We love the following book:
    Getting Started with Schemas:Revealing the wonderful world of children’s play
    Author: van Wijk, Nikolien


      • My hunch is a combination of transporting and enveloping – but the thing about schemas is that they happen more than one time – what is so awesome about this, is that you have picked up that this is REALLY IMPORTANT to her, and to her learning – she is exploring and testing ideas – possibly about moving things from one place to another, taking things with her, and also perhaps what ‘fits’ in what… There is a Schemas Discussion Group on Facebook, and there are also other things available on the web… I love that you picked this up – I always say that parents are REALLY REALLY good at spotting schemas ( patterns of repeated play with threads of thinking/ intellectual ideas that they are learning about – they are also building their neural pathways….it’s important stuff, play!)


  6. Aww. Adorable. Emily also collects “stuff”…in fact, she has that exact rattle (only pink). She keeps retrieving it from her baby brother’s room and carrying it around.

    (The geneticist in me finds it really funny that the first toy I ever bought for my daughter is basically a DNA rattle….)


  7. We were sort of concerned that a wee Sophia was establishing an early penchant for being a bag lady – we found “collections” of things everywhere. Like you, we found it a lovely window into her world — trying to see if there were patterns to what she had collected. At 8, she still collects, and this week I was exploring why her school backpack was heavier than usual and found a large collection of rocks. For Mother’s Day she gave me a piece of rose quartz she found in the park. We are currently reading Pippi Longstocking at bedtime and Sophia especially loved the chapter about “thing finders.” ;o)


    • Dawna, I love hearing about your daughter and knowing that our daughters have this penchant for “collecting” in common. How sweet! Last night, BabyC insisted on bringing her collection into the bath tub with her, including the fabric finger puppets. I discouraged her at first, but then I thought, “Why not?” So her toys got soaked, and she had a bit of a hard time understanding why we needed to leave them out to dry on a towel rather than bringing them for bedtime stories, but I suppose she now has a better understanding of “wet” and “dry.” And yesterday morning she offered one of her plastic eggs to a little boy she met at the park, who probably had no idea what a gesture that was (or maybe he did – who knows!). Now that I’ve started paying attention to what she does with these special items, I’m constantly fascinated!


      • Parenting is so fun and amazing – – every age and stage is fascinating. I realized after I had written that we have rock collections in nearly every room in the house and Sophia has carefully arranged and displayed them. So far, none of our guests have questioned our decorating style. When Sophia was two, I bought her a great Christmas gift which she still has and still loves, though she no longer takes it everywhere she goes. It was a fabric doll house from HearthSong (which you told me about when you were a girl) with little fabric people and furniture inside. The roof opens, as well as the front door. Both girls still love playing with dolls and have a lovely wooden dollhouse made by a friend, but they also love making shoebox dollhouses. I have told them often about yours and how special it was.


  8. When I was 4, I was playing outside on my mom’s birthday and saw a rock that sparkled with little purple flecks in the sun. I picked it up and brought it to her as a birthday present. In the house, it looked like an ugly rock but I remember even today how special I thought it was. My mom wrote “Happy Birthday 1984″ on the rock and it has been on the windowsill in her kitchen ever since. Every once in a while I look at it and it triggers the memory of what I thought was so special. I really appreciate that my mom saved it all these years. Your daughter will definitely appreciate her nature boxes when she is older!


  9. Pingback: Letting Toddlers Climb: Teetering on the Balance of Exploration and Danger | Science of Mom

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