I sat there on the living room floor. My husband was out of town, so I couldn’t watch “our shows” and binge-eat tortilla chips like we would normally do after the kids had gone to bed. Instead, I shuffled my way through the toys in the living room, pondered how Elsa had ended up topless under the dining room table eating a piece of plastic chicken, and set the remains of a bottle of wine next to me as I plopped myself down. I dumped a massive pile of outgrown clothing that had been toppling over in my childrens’ closet on the floor in front of me.
There I sat on the living room floor. I was determined to finally sift through and organize the clothes that my children had seemingly outgrown at record speed.
I picked up a pair of my daughter’s turquoise corduroy pants. The tag read, “Size 18 months.” I remembered buying those pants like it was yesterday. I bought them off the clearance rack at Target for $2 when my daughter was about 3 months old. I remember thinking that she would never actually fit into them, and I was certain that at this rate, and with my bargain-hunting skills, my children would never be without a full wardrobe of oversized clothing to grow into.
But, there I sat. The outgrown, discarded corduroys laying stained and worn on the floor in front of me. They smelled like fabric softener and had slivers of woodchips from the park wedged permanently between the fibers. I continued to pick through all of the clothing that my children had outgrown, holding up each piece and reminiscing about the ordinary days gone by.
This was not a concept I had prepared myself for. This was not possible. It just wasn’t. My kiddos were never going to grow up. As a matter of fact, I was forever going to be looking ahead, wishing for the next milestone, the next stage. I would forever be looking at the moms whose kids could all wipe their own butts and buckle their own seatbelts with envy. Right?
But, as I sat there, a mountain of tiny clothing surrounding me, I started to cry. I cried tears of happiness for the blessings that my happy, healthy children had bestowed upon me. I cried tears of relief and sadness. I cried tears of utter disbelief that my children had already worn and outgrown so much.
My babies are growing up. My daughter is walking and talking and saying witty little things too cute for her own good. And my second baby? Well, that forever newborn has somehow managed to sneak his way out of newborn-ness without my knowing. I swear, he literally army crawled his way right out of the carrier strapped to my chest. Yesterday, he was waking in the middle of the night to nurse and then falling peacefully back to sleep, snuggled up close to my beating heart, and today, he has no patience for laying calmly next to mama when there’s a whole world to explore.
Maybe I’ll have another baby one day, and I’ll get to open up these clothes bins and tie new memories to each little outfit. But maybe not. Maybe, as I tenderly folded each tiny onesie and said goodbye, it was forever.
They say babies don’t keep and they’re right. I’ve spent a lot of days wishing away the long hours, the long days full of nap-boycotting, tantrums, and permanently soggy spit-up stained clothing. I’ve wished them away and I’ve felt guilty about it.
But, let’s face it, even if I hadn’t wished away some of those days, that wouldn’t have stopped them. I still would have woken up one day, wandered into the nursery to find that my babies were babies no more. Day by day, week by week, the mountain of outgrown clothing will continue to pile-up. I can’t stop my babies from growing.
But, there are a few things I can try my darndest to keep them from outgrowing. There are ways I can keep my babies my babies forever.
I can spend these early days making sure that 30 years from now, my babies will walk through my door, no matter where that may be, and feel at home. I can make sure that they don’t bother knocking, but barge right in unannounced and help themselves to the last piece of cake on the counter. I can pray that they’ll revert to their old ways, retreating to their spot on the couch, leaving their dirty dishes on the end table, and whining when I trap them in my embrace, dramatically smothering their cheeks with sloppy kisses. I can hope that they’ll call me on a Tuesday after an embarrassing encounter at the grocery store, just to have someone to laugh with, or to ask for the lasagna recipe that I made all those cold wintery nights. I can hope that no matter how big their problems, or how heavy their responsibilities, they will feel a bit lighter when their mama is near.
I pray that not a day goes by for the rest of my childrens’ lives that they ever question my steadfast, enormous, unbreakable love. Because, let’s get something straight – no matter how many pairs of shoes or socks or turquoise corduroy pants they outgrow, they will always be my babies.
And If I’m lucky, I’ll find myself here again some day. I’ll plop myself down on the living room floor, my baby’s baby in my arms, and dust off an old box of familiar clothing.