I have been working on streamlining things around my house lately -- getting rid of the junk, the old, the worn out. Today I tackled the linen closet. I finally bagged up all of the old hooded baby towels. It looked great when I was done, and it no longer takes excellent hand-eye coordination to open the door and put in the clean towels and washclothes so that the entire contents don't come spilling out onto your head. But as I looked at the pile of old towels I had removed, many of them grayish with the wear and tear of 9 years worth of use and washing, I got a little pang of regret. I mean, these were the towels that I wrapped William in after his first bath, the washcloths that I washed Bella with for the first time, the towels that Lorelei and Jackson played "super-heros" with just last year, and I was bagging them up to give to Goodwill. Some stranger is going to buy these and probably use them to wash his car or his dog. How could I let that happen? These are precious mementos of my kids, of too many "firsts" to count, and they are destined to become someones "rags".
I know that you cannot hold onto everything. It is a lesson that I learned after we moved and I realized that we had too much "stuff." With 4 kids, I cannot hold onto every picture that they draw, every card that they give me, or every cute outfit that they ever wore. And the truth is, why would I want to? I used to think that I would hold onto their "special" outfits and give them to them for their own kids some day. Then my mother moved to a new house and gave me a virtual trunk load of MY old baby clothes. Now, I was a child of the 70's -- there was NOTHING in the things that she gave me that I would ever put on my kids unless the only other choice was that they go naked. The same will hold true for my kids in 25 years or so. They are not going to want to dress their kids in the height of early 21st century fashion. And since I know I am not having any more children, what would be the point of holding onto a bunch of clothes that they will never want and that I will never need?
Memories. Of course I hold onto the things from when my kids were little because they will never be little again. William is already catching me in height, Bella's attitude and wit rivals my own, Lorelei is growing like a weed and Jackson (who was never little to begin with since he was over 10 pounds at birth) is almost as big as his sister. I tell myself to hold on. Hold on to that sleeper, that blanket, that towel, or whatever it may be as if their childhood is somehow magically contained within the fibers. It is a HARD lesson to learn that those things are just things. They are not my kids. They are not even my memories. My memories of those times are not going to Goodwill -- just some old gray towels.
So I paused to think about those precious times that are long gone now as I folded each item and placed it into the bag. I remembered the way each one of them squirmed in my arms all slippery with soap as I gave them their first baths, how clean they smelled as I sang to them wrapped up in those now old towels, and I cried a little as I reflected on how they will be constantly growing and changing. It is one of the hardest things about being a mother, a parent -- letting go. I WANT them to grow and change. I want them to mature, to learn, to try, and to sometimes fail because that is how they become adults. It would be nice to freeze time and hold onto them for even just a little while longer as they are, but it is not possible and it would be going against my job as a parent. My sole responsibility to them in this world is to help them grow up -- to teach them how to be responsible, contributing members of society. I cannot do that if they never grow up. So I am learning how to let go. It is a daily struggle, and it isn't getting any easier.