The monogrammed towel was given to Baxter as a baby gift. It was sent to him by two of my all-time favorite speech pathologists, both of whom were instrumental in my grad school training in Boston. It wasn’t one of those tiny, thin newborn towels, but a thicker, heavier, toddler hooded towel, with his name in bold block letters and a sailboat on it. It was a beautiful gift.
He started using it as a toddler, when it fell far below his little feet. Hood hooked over his head, he used to trip over it as he walked down the hall in our San Francisco apartment. For at least 7 years now, it has been the only towel Baxter has used at home. Despite its million washings, it’s in wonderful shape. Over the years, I have smiled to myself as it has grown shorter and shorter again.
Last weekend I helped him take a shower and when he was finished I reached for his towel. He hooked it over his own head for me to towel-dry his hair and I realized with a shock that it barely clears his rear end now. Suddenly it looks like, well, a baby towel on my very big boy.
I started browsing in catalogs and websites for cool towel sets for big kids that weren’t too pricey. Pirates, sports, and sharks seem to be what bigger boys are supposed to want. Tonight as I put him to bed, I mentioned gently that I was looking around for a new big kid bath towel for him because I noticed how small his was. He looked away from me and was quiet.
“Is that okay?” I asked.
“Can it have my name on it?” he asked softly.
“Yes, sure it can.”
His voice started to quaver. “Will it have a hood?”
I paused. “Well, probably not. Towels for kids as big as you tend not to have hoods.”
And then the real tears started.
I looked around his bed at all the security objects he sleeps with: his baby blanket, the large collie who protects him, and various other stuffed animals that hold meaning for him. I remembered that he was sad when Matt threw away his old toothbrush after his last dentist appointment. The baby towel is just another one of those things for him, I realized.
Our kids are pushed to mature and work so hard out in the world. Baxter has responsibilities that I know I didn’t have when I was 8, and he’s a grade ahead of his age so I know he’s stretching all the time. Why, in his own home, should he be asked to put away his creature comforts just because they are starting to look a little funny to me? He shouldn’t.
“I’m sorry. You don’t have to have a new towel, your old one is just fine if that’s what you want.” I paused, and gave him a kiss. “There’s no need to grow up so fast, is there?”
He shook his head no.
“You can just tell me when you think you want a bigger one, and I’ll get it for you. I’m not in any hurry. Okay?”
Baxter nodded, still wiping his eyes.
All in good time, this growing up business.