Those mottled, sagging (and beloved) family sofas

I recently bought a couple of new lounges, actually second-hand leather lounges, to replace our two broken mismatched ones. I couldn’t wait to get rid of those mottled, sagging sofas, although I was a little nostalgic about them going.

But there was a problem. I didn’t account for how attached the three older children were to the old things. Who could guess that our big girl would cry at the suggestion of putting our old grey two-seater on the kerb for council pick-up?

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Naomi was devastated at losing her special reading couch. I didn’t know it was such a thing, the girl reads anywhere and everywhere. She had even named it – “Whitey”.

Who knew that couch was more special than her bed, or the little trampoline, or the back steps, or the car? As the appointed day drew near and I pointed out piles of cast-offs appearing in our neighbourhood streets, her eyes reddened.

Then she rallied her troop and organised a bit of activism. Hannah announced the plan. “You can put them out for rubbish, but we’ll sit on them. Wherever they’re going, we’re going,” she said.

Joachim wanted to spend the night on the red one, his favourite, I guess to maximise the time he had left with it.

Is this what happens when you don’t get a family pet?

I began to wish I could keep the things, but where? Whitey was jammed up against our bed, and the red one half blocked the doorway between the loungeroom and the rest of the house.

In our garage they would get dusty and harbour bugs and spiders and would need to be thrown out whenever we left this rented house anyway.

Was this an opportunity to counsel the children about not letting themselves get too attached to things? But they are so little, and it felt mean to discourage them from being sentimental about them.

Also, I felt hypocritical. It was my attachment to the idea of nicer furniture which had led to this schism in the first place. Still, I tried.

After theology I tried practicality, outlining the space issue. They didn’t care about clambering over couches in order to get around the house.

Then I tried bribery. “How about nice new cushions to go on the new lounges? I’ll get a special one for each of you.”

They looked at me incredulously. “You’re trying to throw out our cushions, too?”

And how did this happen so fast? Suddenly, we’re no longer a couple who can basically do whatever we want so long as the babies’ needs are covered (and that already left us with pretty limited scope). We’re a family where each member has their view and wants to have their say on everything.

As parents I think it’s proper that our wishes carry more weight than the children’s, and we have the final say, but we have to be consultative now, and at least try to take into account the children’s own tastes and preferences on everything from dinner planning to home décor. I don’t think we should have to debate everything with the children before we do things.

But I realise now that the days are gone when I could just go and change something in the children’s room or give away forgotten old toys or even update their drinking cups, without at least giving them a heads-up or being prepared with a very good explanation for my actions.

They seem to be, this year more than ever, their own people now. It’s crept up on us, and it’s requiring us to change gears in our parenting style again.

But that’s a constant in parenting I’ve found to be the case since the first baby. As soon as you get a handle on what you’re doing, the children change and you are forced to adapt again.

That’s the way God forms parents.

I’m not sure why this is so, perhaps it has partly to do with training us to love the children as they actually are today, rather than the way we would like them to be or imagine them to be. It must be part of the way parents grow the space within them for God.

In any case, in the short term I know I’ve just got to make some space for Whitey.