I have been sorting through the house in small bursts of energy, clearing out board books and toddler-sized shoes my children have long since outgrown; donating mounds of clothing no longer worn; weeding dried-up markers and scribbled-through coloring books; surreptitiously depositing cheap and broken toys into the waste bin when small eyes are not around. (A friend of mine recently said: “Little did I know how much time I’d spend hiding things in the trash as a mother.” It rang deeply true.) January is auspicious in that way: it invites a kind of discipline that evaporates by mid-March.
In the corner of my office, I’ve been collecting infant and baby gear that have emerged as a part of this clearing-out for our housekeeper, who gave birth to a little girl last year. I have accumulated two bags full of board books, one of pastel crib sheets and blankets which I’ve been hanging onto for God knows what purpose (as we moved mini to a big girl bed months ago), and one of assorted stuffed animals and baby toys. Every few days, my eyes settle on these bags and I find myself, almost without restraint, plucking out the red Elmo, or the wind-up giraffe stuffy, or some other toy or book, and placing it instead on my chair in the office.
“I can’t give this away,” I say, as I remember my son rolling around in the crib with that Elmo in his pudgy fingers, or my daughter rocking back and forth on unsteady baby legs, listening to the tinny music of the giraffe.
“No,” I tell myself, firmly, returning them to the bags. “These will be more loved by someone else.”
These are not heirlooms. These are, frankly, items barely loved by my own children. (Trust me, I kept all their favorites.) But oh my God —
isn’t this the way of motherhood?
The way a triviality can pinch?
The way, when faced in some material way with the distance between now and the mornings you laid in your bed with our couple-day-old infant in your arms, it feels as though you might collapse beneath the weight of your love for your own child?
In those moments, I compulsively re-watch a string of videos of my daughter doing and saying funny things in a lispy, balloonish baby voice — each viewing part pleasure, part punishment — and I marvel at everything about her. There is one in which I have caught her after she’s stripped our entire just-made bed of its linens.
“Why did you take the sheets off of our bed?” I ask her. I sound stern.
“Because I don’t like it like that,” she says, her tiny hand running absent-mindedly over the bedding piled on the floor. She looks up at me, and it is clear she’s uncertain whether she is in trouble. Her eyes are wide and expectant. I must have smiled off-camera at this point, because she then smirks and repeats, with smugness, “I don’t like it like that” again, and rolls around in the discarded linens.
I hungrily absorb everything about her in these videos, and I see that she is much the same today. Each clip feels like a piece of a blueprint for the little lady she’s become and becoming. She is funny, but concerned with getting in trouble. She is loquacious, but all eyes — highly, sharply observant with a tongue to match. Her hair is nearly always askew, but she is tidy beyond that: she’s always been gentle on her clothes, far less likely to stain or rip them than her brother. A Magpie reader once told me that mothers hang onto all the versions of their children. It’s all there, inside. I chew on this for a minute, wanting to reject it because I am consumed with a sense of loss. Did I adequately cherish every first and last? Did I drink them up in all their baby glory? Was I too busy cleaning the kitchen to notice the last time she said “yogrette” instead of “yogurt”? Too exhausted to mark the final night my son would whisper (as he did for weeks): “God bless you and God bless you and good night” as I’d close the door? It’s been ages since I rocked him to sleep. One random night I no longer remember, my arms were aching under his weight, and I was semi-numb to the embrace given its routineness — and I had no idea he’d never need me to do that again. It is gutting, the way these tendernesses can disappear in the setting of a single sun.
But I know this is no way to think. Equally, I know there is nothing to mourn. My babies are still my babies. Mini remains funny and precocious and curious and quick to laugh and all those things she was at two. Still, I sit there feeling it all. Missing her baby cheeks, but loving the cheeky nearly-six-year-old humor she brings home each day. Sitting with the Elmo in my lap, and then wondering what to pack them for lunch tomorrow. Feeling the pinch, and then soothing myself back to life —
+Motherhood is a surfeit.
+”Early motherhood — at least for me — demanded a withdrawal, and I was not always at peace with that change. Still, looking back, I am struck by the extraordinary acts of metamorphosis I performed to make my way through. Because during that time, I was becoming. I was spinning myself into the loving mother I have become.” More of this essay here.
+On visiting my high school for my 20th reunion.
+This Zara reminds me a LOT of my Toteme cardigan.
+OMG this Gap rainbow stripe sweater!
+20% off sitewide at Serena and Lily. You can see my favorite finds here. I especially love these embroidered shams, which we’ve used on our primary bed for years now. They add lovely texture and depth to the bed. I put them in front of both plain white european shams and sleeping pillows.
+I cannot stop thinking about a pair of dad sandals for this summer…
+This tiered khaki colored blouse is SO chic (and under $100)! OMG. Perfect for work or imagine paired with white jeans?
+I’ll be needing this $50 dress in both colors, yes indeedy. So cute with sneakers or leather slides!
+Speaking of summer dresses, this Faherty dress is on sale for only $50! I love throwing dresses like this on over swimsuits, or to run after the children. So chic!
+This knit pouch would be cute in a diaper bag for baby items — it reminds me of Louis Vuitton!
+I have a weakness for white blouses. Just love pairing with denim for an easy everyday look.
+Just added this little clip lamp to my cart for mini. She loves to read in bed.
+Really cute patterned blouses from a new-to-me brand.
+Have been hearing good things about this liquid eye shadow.
+Cute personalized plate for a little one.