We all hold certain childhood objects fondly in our memories, even if we no longer have them. But until I became a mommy, I didn’t understand the relationship between the parent and the child’s possessions. Lately, Sprout has grown out of a number of things that are my favorites. Even if we have another child who uses them, knowing that he will never use them again makes me a little sad.
Most recently, Sprout got too big for his whale baby bathtub. I had needed to switch him into the real bathtub for weeks. By the last bath, his legs were squashed to the point where he had no choice but to bend his knees. Depending on his position, either his legs or butt were on the slanted section, throwing him off balance. While I kept saying that he couldn’t switch because the bathtub desperately needed to be cleaned (which it did), at least part of it was that I was sad to move him out of the little tub. I remembered picking it out for our registry while pregnant, charmed by the marine mammal theme. (We also got the whale faucet cover.) I remembered his first bath, when I gingerly laid him on the padded section, worried he would slip and drown. He spent the whole time frowning, punctuated with occasional crying. I remember him learning to sit up in it and discovering the joy of splashing. And by the end, I remembered him nearly crawling out of it, pulling up to his knees. So now it’s at least temporarily retired, well-loved, with its padding pulled off and its sides scratched.
Sprout has also grown out of a huge amount of clothing, much of which I was fond of. The first one that I really missed was a onsie my sister-in-law gave us a few days before he was born. It has a picture of the earth and says, “Hi. I’m new here.” The thought of that phrase in my tiny baby’s imaginary voice was so sweet and hilarious. We planned to bring him home from the hospital in it, but it was way too big. Once it fit, I dressed him in it in often because it brought some light to those difficult early days. Although he swam in it at first, he grew into it quickly and then out of it just as fast. He was no longer all that “new here” anymore. It was probably the first thing I was sad to put in storage.
More recently, we had to retire the most awesome pajamas ever. Over the winter, he regularly wore fleece footie pajamas with rocket ships. They were the epitome of everything kids’ pajamas should be – warm, fuzzy, comfortable, a little retro, and fantastical. I actually Googled “women’s fleece rocket ship pajamas” to see if I could find similar, non-footie ones for myself. Unfortunately, they do not design the same pajamas for grown women as they do baby boys.
Packing up these items did help me better understand a conversation I had with my mom a few years ago. I was sorting through a number of things in my old bedroom at my parents’ house, deciding what I wanted to keep and what to get rid of. Having decided not to keep a set of ceramic bear figurines, I told my mom she could give them away. Much to my surprise, my mom got rather upset. To me, they were just some cutesy knick-knacks that had always been on a bookshelf and didn’t reflect my personality. But she struggled with the fact that they didn’t hold any nostalgic value for me because they had so much for her. She bought me one each year for my birthday, so they symbolized all those passing years watching me grow up. For her, they evoked the memories of all of those birthdays that for me as an adult, were hazy at best. The bears had much more tangible echoes of the past for her.
It’s funny how even the simplest things – a bathtub, a pair of pajamas, a ceramic bear – can have such meaning imbued in it when it’s your child’s. I know we have so far to go, with so many clothes and toys yet to be bought, used, and retired. But those earliest things of Sprout’s will always hold a special place in my heart.