I just pulled out my daughter's little fleece elf suit from last year and can't even describe how happy I was to see that it still fit. Sure, it's a bit short, but it snaps up and she looks so sweet in it. She looks...well, more like she did last year. As in, still kind of like a baby, which, at nearly two, she's definitely not any longer. Her little jersey knit cap, stretchy and snug, still fits on her head, though there's a lot more curly hair springing from underneath it now. If I seem overly nostalgic, forgive me. Of all the things that have amazed me about becoming a parent, perhaps the most surprising is how attached I've become to my daughter's clothes. Umpteen washings and foldings and dressings each day have made me feel so connected to her little T-shirts and stretchy pants, her soft striped pajamas, and impossibly tiny socks. At each season's change it takes me forever to remove the shorts/booties/swim diapers from her dresser, many of which she's nearly outgrown, to make room for the new, bigger articles of clothing that will replace them. I don't think of myself as being sentimental, but I guess becoming a mom has softened me into a new person, one who gets misty when I look at photos from a year ago, which doesn't seem so long ago but in terms of growth and the changes I've seen (now she's putting on her own socks!), it's remarkable.
I didn't really recognize any of these emotions until a friend, a mother with an infant daughter, remarked at how difficult these transitions were and how she felt like she was always saying goodbye to things. It's so true, isn't it? If you consider that your baby will double his or her birth weight in their first year, and can nearly double that by their second birthday, one thing is certain: you'll be blowing through lots of clothes. Many parents know the drill--sometimes in the first year your child can get one wear out of something before it's too small, and we all have sweet little garments that remain folded and pristine, still with tags, because our child simply never fit into them. A more practical, or cynical person, might read this and think about all the waste--how ridiculous it is to spend money (hard-earned money!) on clothes that have an active duty window of mere weeks. While that may be true, it's hard to see the forest through the trees in those early months, and it's easier to load up on teeny onesies and leggings than do a billion loads of laundry.
While it gets slightly less hectic in the toddler years, and the clothes get bigger and less doll-like, the wearing window for them is longer--which means you have longer to get attached to that darling sundress, those sweet little overalls, or that mermaid-printed swimsuit that simply will not fit next year. Every time I buy something new for my daughter, whose growth spurts seem to happen overnight, I can't help but try to calculate how long she'll wear it. Should I spring for the 2T and roll up the cuffs for a few months? Or is that utterly adorable duffel coat worth the $65, since she'll only wear it for one winter? Of course, the looming possibility of a second child is always out there in the ether, lowering the cost-per-wear and also ensuring a second term love affair for me. (I bought the coat. Couldn't resist.)
In the meantime, I've found a short-term antidote to this conundrum: friends having babies. Some people hoard their cherished baby items for that eventual second (or third, or--god bless them--fourth) child, but the sting of parting with our beloved things is soothed by the joy of showing and sharing them to an expectant mama or brand-new dad, who will inevitably coo and shower me with thanks. It's a bit selfish, really--maybe I just want to see a baby in my baby's clothes, as it offers me a weird portal back to her teeny days. It's also a way to be sure those expensive baby gifts are not in vain. In fact, a dear friend with a four-week-old daughter is probably strolling her around right now, on this chilly autumn day, in a ridiculously soft Bonpoint down snuggle suit that was my daughter's. She wore it maybe three times, and it broke my heart to put it in storage. Things that sweet, that beautiful, need babies to wear them. And if it can't be my baby, then someone else's heart should squeeze as they fold their little one into it. My only request? That they send me pictures.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?