There is this large plastic container (I mean like 55 gal large) that I have drug around with me for almost thirty years now that contains the precious memories of baby days long gone by. Of course this container grew in size with every child and season but it has been this large for close to 20 years. And if you know anything about me, I like to move, so that is move after move, house after house. This container of keepsakes so precious to me, that when we made our cross country move to Washington, and when the POD instructions clearly lay out for you--Do not pack anything in pod that would cause emotional devastation if lost or damaged--I immediately decided it would not go. My aunt was kind enough to house the container in her garage until we returned last summer.
What is so odd to me now as I think about it is that once it was packed up, I have literally never unpacked it and reminisced through the contents all of these years. It just sat stored in its safe place like precious jewels in a safety deposit box. Until last week.
I made a special date with Kelsey who is now 32 weeks pregnant, to come for a sleepover (just us girls) so we could explore the sacred box. As I sat in the floor and her on the couch ready to soak up my display of all kinds of baby keepsakes, I realized several things.
NO one these days is into keepsakes and memorabilia like we were then, and my mom's generation was worse than mine. Speaking of which, I found an old yellowed paper scrapbook where my mom had pasted every single colored handout and an old school notebook paper where I practiced my alphabet, I'd brought home from kindergarten. Who does that? I'm not kidding. Every. Single. One. And there are so many things that I thought I needed to hold on to for that "one day" when I guess I thought my kids would be so interested to see what I had kept. Kelsey was interested in some of the things but mainly things she could remember either from her own childhood or something she remembered from her brothers that took her back to a memory. She was far less interested in the stacks of baby clothes I have from myself as a baby (yes, I still have them because my mom kept them, so shouldn't I?), and for her and each of her brothers. Or why I kept some white sand in a clear baggie labeled "Coby" on the outside. Honestly, for the life of me, I cannot remember why I kept that.
Why do we hold on to things from lives lived so long ago? Especially things that my mom held onto that I am still housing four decades later. How much past do we keep in a sacred place whether that's in physical plastic containers or the containers of our heart and mind thinking that we can not risk it being packed into the POD because what if something happens and it's lost? I will be the first to admit I am guilty of this. What would happen to us if we decided to let those past things go and put all of our thoughts, energy and space into the things of now? How much clutter could we get rid of both physically and emotionally?
Another thing I learned was how precious journaling can be. I will be the first to admit that I am HORRIBLE at journaling. Some of you out there are just naturals, and I have always envied you. I used to journal in my teens and then early in my 20's but then life got crazy and I left my journaling phase and never really came back to it. I have so many journals that I have purchased to have a "new start" only to get 4-5 pages in and never pick it up again.
What I found deep in the container was a scrapbook I started when I was pregnant with Kelsey. (Can we just all band together here and admit that we started so many things with our first baby that we never did with our 2nd or 3rd? Raises hand) Keep in mind that at this time I'm still in my journaling phase and deep into my "keep everything" phase. When I opened the scrapbook, it all came flooding back. I had written, in great detail, in this scrapbook about everything happening in each phase of pregnancy starting with the day I found out I was pregnant. I kept up with my weight at each visit, all of my thoughts and feelings and it was beyond special to sit with Kelsey and read her each and every detail of what I, as a young twenty year old, was thinking at that time.
Sometimes, your kids, or your grown children, need to have a perspective change on you, their parents. Their entire lives, they have a view of you as their parent and all that parenting entails. You may have had a stressful time when they were little, or a rocky time with them as teenagers or even struggled with your relationship once they moved out of the house, but something happens when they begin to be parents of their own. They begin to see you differently. Hearing my words describe my thoughts and feelings during my pregnancy, Kelsey found herself looking eye to eye with that scared to death twenty year old Paige, and those journal entries came to life for her. There is a wonderful juxtaposition that happens when your children become parents. For maybe the first time ever, they see you not as just their parent, but as an equal. Someone who really has walked the road before them and experienced all the things they are now experiencing. Even though this has been the case their entire lives, a shift has happened and it's a beautiful one.
As we continued to explore the contents of the container, we had so many good laughs. We laughed at the things I held on to, like the only pair of shoes I could wear in my last two months of pregnancy due to preeclampsia which were bright pink terry cloth house slippers. God help me. And then we found my favorite maternity dresses from each of my pregnancies. I have no idea why I kept them. Kelsey enabled all of my mom gushy feels by trying one on from when I was pregnant from Coby. Ok, maybe I begged. In 1995, this dress was everything to me and I was so thrilled to have a Strasburg boutique dress (where are my Strasburg fans?). She looked adorable.
There were also old pacifiers from each baby, hospital blankets and name bands, Beanie Babies (another topic for another day), breastfeeding supplies, ER release documents from minor things, oh my goodness, I could go on and on. After we had it all unpacked, it really surprised me how I had guarded this box to the extent I did, for so long. Sure, I'm not at all saying not to save special things from our babies---I still cannot stand the thought of trashing their newborn cap or baby dedication outfit. But I do wonder what I've been trying to hold onto.
And after processing for the last week, I think I know. Everyone says the old, overused, clichéd phrase--don't blink or they will grow up before you know it (said in my most southern country talking voice). I despise that saying. Mainly because it's older ladies who say it when you're in Walmart... with a 6 year old, a 3 year old and a screaming infant and you want to throat punch those women. But those old ladies knew what they were talking about. From this vantage point, it does feel like a blink. And all of those momentos were me trying my best to savor every last second of that baby stage....knowing that once it was over, I could never recapture it again.
That's hard for us mommas. All of us. It's hard to let go of those babies who made us the mothers that we are today---no matter which stage or season of motherhood you find yourself in. If you're struggling and sleep deprived or if you have a defiant teenager, that may be hard for you to process, but I promise you every season looks like a blink when you're on this side of it.
So all of this time, I've convinced myself that I was saving all of these things because one day my kids would want them or at least want to see them, and I could pass them down as my mother did to me. But I've realized that first, boys will not care about these things so please don't wait to have a container unveiling with your adult sons. Nope. They are not interested. And second, save a few things for yourself....maybe in a much smaller container or box than my 55 gallon one....so that you have your memories of baby days gone by. But don't hold on to the outfit they wore at their kindergarten graduation because one day you think they will want it. They most likely will not. And you've been dragging it around for 25 years.
And lastly, I've realized that what we all need is to focus more on the season that we are currently in rather than always looking backward to a season we wished we were still in. Each age stage has it's precious ups and downs, ebbing and flowing, but we cannot be fully present in the current season if we are always wishing our way out of it. Or by contrast, if we are frozen with anxiety over the fact that one stage is ending and it's all rushing by too fast, we never truly enjoy each day.
Take a deep breath, my precious mommas.....breathe in the joy that only today can bring. Don't wish it away or hold onto it too tight. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in all that it is because THAT is motherhood. Don't blink.