My eyes blink wide to see the morning sunlight gilding the baby clothes I’m cradling in my hands. I think to myself, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”
My household has a biannual “change-out-the-seasonal-clothes” event. This is the second time I’ve put away baby clothes, and it’s harder than ever.
I go up to the attic, heaps of clothes in my arms. Clear storage bins are tucked along the attic wall marked “0-3 months”, “0-6 months”, “6-9 months”, “9-12 months”, “12-18 months”, “18-24 months”, “2T”, “3T”, etc. In these bins are the things my children don’t wear anymore, but I can’t bear to part with their baby and toddler clothes. I’ve never been good at letting go.
As I box up precious “artifacts” from my toddler daughter’s infancy and babyhood, I feel a tightness in my chest, a sadness that’s bone deep. I think about all the moments in her life so far – some mundane, others momentous. For each moment, my little girl had on these threads. She played, ate, and slept in these clothes. She wore these clothes in the changing seasons for different reasons…birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc.
I wonder: which clothes will be kept for a lifetime? Which outfits will make the cut and be added to the “special box”, the memory and memento box I someday give my daughter? Which ensembles will I donate or give away?
As I seal the “12-18 months” lid, I wonder will I ever have another baby? Probably not. When I admit I won’t ever have another, it feels like I’m giving up on my youth.
How do you manage the bittersweet emotions of putting away baby and toddler clothing?
- Is it difficult for you, complete with a whole farewell ritual?
- Or do you joyously sprint all the way to storage?
- Bye, bye, baby. Your baby is growing up, but you’re not ready.
- Bye, bye, memories.
- Bye, bye, storage space.
- Unused clothing. Your child has so much (e.g. mounds of clothes), when so many baby girls have so little. (But this is also a sweet moment because you can donate!)
- No more babies (probably).
- Declutter. It’s a great opportunity to weed out what’s uncomfortable, ill-fitting, and impractical.
- Get ready faster. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get ready in the morning when you have fewer clothing choices.
- Practice gratitude. Your child had the chance to grow up. Some children aren’t so blessed or lucky.
- Enjoy newfound freedom. Your baby is becoming more independent, which means you have more personal stay-in-bed mom time.
- No more babies. Sorry, Mom, if you’re reading this.
I remember a poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” Robert Frost (1874 – 1966), as I carefully fold my daughter’s baby clothing.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I hear my husband on the creaking wooden steps, footsteps that match my heartbeats. He startles me and I drop the bundle. My daughter’s bright clothes tumble like laughter out of my hands.
He wraps me in his arms and my grief goes away.
A Final Thought – From the Pillow
Wave “bye bye” to the chunks, coos, cuddles, and curls.
So your little boy or girl is growing up. That’s okay to give yourself a grieving period, Mama and Dada. But move on. You get to wave “hi” to new ages and stages.
What are your thoughts about hanging on (keeping the clothes) versus letting go (donating or giving away the clothes to family and/or friends)?