Moms seem to fall squarely into two camps: they love receiving hand-me-downs from other moms…or loathe it. When my daughter was born, I was fortunate to have a friend whose daughter was just one year older. As her baby outgrew age-appropriate toys, gear, and adorable clothing from stores I couldn’t afford, I had to play it cool every time she showed up at church with a new box for me. The same happened when my son was born – another friend who was done having children was more than willing to send her son’s wardrobe to us as he outgrew it each season.
But it wasn’t until I had my own “last baby” that realized the truth about hand-me-downs.
All those outgrown articles of clothing signal the end of an era – one I spent my entire life waiting for. Items purchased for special occasions and holidays…for the first day of school or the first day of ballet class…items that make appearances in all my favorite family photos and all my best memories from those littlest years.
Why can’t you just throw them away? Donate them to Goodwill? Sell them at a consignment shop? These are questions I’ve heard from moms in the Loathe It camp. Moms who, admittedly, have been burned by fairy godmothers who viewed their front porch as more of a dump site for old junk than the destination for a special delivery.
Not everything has sentimental value, and not everyone has a new mom to pass goodies along to. Pieces I can’t bear to part with, even though my kids probably won’t want them when they’re older, are tucked away in little boxes. Into the trash go things that are ratty and stained. But what about the items that are too nice (or were too expensive!) to toss…yet, too numerous to keep? The ones that were barely used before they were outgrown? The ones that may even still have tags on them?
When a mom passes those things on to you, sometimes it’s because transitioning to a new season is hard.
A lot of us discovered one day that a ticket into motherhood was a bit harder to obtain than our junior high health class teachers made it seem. Miscarriage, infertility, adoptions that may or may not get a green light: many of us lost and gave and spent ourselves completely before we ever held a baby in our arms. We’re searching for a way to hold on as we let go…to honor that season as we watch the door close. Offering you that white noise machine, bassinet or bouncy chair that made life easier for us means we want to make your life easier for you. And, sometimes, we just want to clean out the basement – that’s OK, too!
For years, I’ve kept tubs of both girls’ and boys’ clothing, waiting for the next little one to join our family. But now that our youngest is 3, we’ve realized he was the missing piece we had been waiting for. We’re complete. And even though it’s what I want, it’s hard to be done with the baby stage; to know I didn’t realize my “lasts” were lasts when I experienced them. I’m putting off the sorting and bagging for as long as possible…but someday, the time will come. I’ll have to decide what to keep (for my own sanity), what to toss (because, ew), and which special items to re-home. Some moms can’t wait to leave the little years behind – they dream of escaping the trenches where they are surrounded by teething, tantrums, diaper bags and snot suckers. But these have been the very best years of my life, and I need a way to ease the pain of shutting that door and choosing to move forward.
So if a box shows up on your porch with a special note from yours truly, please don’t be mad. Humor me? Letting go of these things feels a lot like letting go of the babies and children that wore them.
Just let me think, for a little while longer, that there are a few pages left in this chapter before it closes for good.