This past weekend I dug into one of the parental chores I dread the most: purging my kids’ drawers. It’s not the task itself that bothers me; it’s the emotion that comes with it. I approach it only out of necessity, right around the time that I notice that my boys are running around in pants that don’t quite qualify as pedal pushers, but are toeing that very delicate line. Usually, this observation occurs hand-in-hand with Stuck Drawer Syndrome. Inevitably, there comes a point in the year when I have a nice, fluffy basket full of clean white t-shirts, cargo pants with pockets full of (now clean) rocks, and t-shirts well loved past their prime. I go to open a bureau drawer and it gets stuck not because it is an old dresser, but because it’s overflowing with outgrown clothes that have accumulated over the year.
So, this weekend, I faced down those bountiful drawers and went in for a true purge. By the end, I was a wreck, complete with tears, defiant whining (“I’m NOT giving that away — no way!”) and left in a mood that was an odd combination of melancholy, dread and pure exhaustion.
What gets me every time is the misalignment of my idea of how little my children are and their actual true size, which is proven out by their enormous clothing. I look at my 9-year-old’s pants and I think to myself, “How can this be? These are almost as big as mine! There is no way he is too small for these.” I haul said 9-year-old upstairs and force him into aforementioned pants which allow for two inches of white sock to show through. Darn it!
And don’t get me started on the 4-year-old. I knew his pants were getting short, so I pulled up the bin of 5/6 year-old clothing passed down by his older brother. I took one look at those big kid pants (they were ginormous!) and stashed them into a drawer in another room, thinking, “Yup, this time next year (I don’t have a baby THAT big yet).” Something was nagging me, though, so I summoned for my pre-schooler. “Here, let’s try these. There’s no way, but let’s see how big they are.” They fit. Nearly perfectly.
I slowly replaced all of the 3Ts and 4s with the Shaq-like 5s. I made two piles of clothing: 1) Give-away; and 2) Sentimental = Keep (FKA, Save for Next Baby). Since there isn’t going to be a Next Baby, I had to retire clothes that both of my boys had played in and loved. UGH. I did the emotional math in my head. My eldest is almost in double-digits and sometimes borrows my snow boots (I borrow his, too). My baby is almost out of nursery school, exiting the toddler clothing. And now I need to deal with the certainty of knowing that I won’t ever have another child that size, that age running around? I just wanted to create some space in the drawers for goodness sake!
The memories those clothes conjured — little dudes jumping in those soft pants, those big, round faces, grinning like monkeys in those little old man sweaters, sleeping peacefully, pink cheeked, totally wiped out from the day in those white t-shirts. The sum of it all was painful. Yes, I am moving out of the baby phase and there won’t be another.
And about that Sentimental/Keep pile. Who knows if my boys will want those adorable old clothes. Maybe one of them will have two boys and they’ll want the matching Christmas sweaters and PJs that I picked out with equal parts pride and excitement, photographing the two of them side by side — brothers. Maybe, but I’m not counting on it. My husband had very little interest in the clothes he inherited for his kids. All of this was playing on my psyche two hours in: What if their future partners didn’t like the clothes??? No one is ever wearing these again!!!
So, I buried my face in those footy PJs, had a good cry and sorted the clothes and memories with purpose. I mourned, remembering all the joy wrapped up in those little person garments — the warm vacations, gleeful climbs and slides, tumbling over one another, a tangle of arms and legs, chocolatey faces, hand-in-hand walks, belly laughs and slow, mellow baby days — the ones that feel so long in the moment, but combined all 365 together go by in a flash.