My baby is slowly but surely outgrowing her teeny tiny little baby clothes. And we all know that when it comes to little baby clothes, the smaller they are, the cuter they are. Wee little wisps of ribbons and tracings of embroidery, tiny ruffle bums, miniature booties, frothy dresses which are utterly impractical but oh-so-gorgeous, little footed rompers with faces on the toes. I’ve recycled a number of baby outfits from her big brother and big sister, and every time I dress her in one of the things they wore, I remember how cute her siblings looked at her age. And I remember that feeling of sadness as the tiny outfits are outgrown, washed, and packed away.
Growing up, I had a few of my own baby dresses, which I used as doll clothes. They were the cutest and ruffliest and most impractical of the baby clothing my mother had saved from my infancy. Somewhere along the way they got misplaced, and now all I have is a pink bonnet that ties under the chin, and a pair of baby shoes that none of my children’s feet have ever fit. I don’t know if my own feet ever fit into them, a long time ago.
But seeing these remnants of a babyhood I can’t remember makes me feel connected to my mother, because I know how she must have felt, choosing to keep these little baby clothes. They’re a reminder of a magical, special time when your baby is really a baby, dependent on you for everything, and practically an extension of yourself. The rhythms of your day are attuned to your baby’s needs, and although you long for the opportunity to have a long shower without worrying that in your absence the baby will have climbed out of her cot and wreaked havoc, you also dread the inevitability of their independence.
A friend of mine repurposed her baby’s cutest outfits into a quilt, cutting them into squares and sewing them together in a way that showed off the little ribbons and embroidery. I don’t think I could do that. Because the very little-ness of my children’s little baby clothes is what I find most endearing. When I look at their clothes, I can’t believe how big the former wearers have grown, and I also can’t believe that they’ll continue to grow bigger. Both my brothers and I are taller than my mother; what does that feel like, I wonder?
In some ways I, too, am growing up. As a mother, even the third time around has been surprising and interesting and challenging in ways I didn’t expect, and I’m still learning. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and how I’ve done my best to raise my children to know they’re loved and precious and important human beings. But their little baby clothes, with their inherent memories of sleepless nights and soft heads and lullabies, are a good reminder of how special it is to have a baby. And someday, my children and I will open up the box together and look at their little baby clothes, and marvel.
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