I am the first to celebrate when my children reach a new milestone in their development. My hands clapped with pride when they rolled over for the first time. I showered them with praise as each of them took their first wobbly steps. I made up songs about happy carrots as I slipped their first bites of pureed veggies into their sweet little mouths.
Gratitude fills my heart that they are happy and healthy children. Yet, I didn't anticipate that my heart would also ache so much as they grew up. It seems that just when I get comfortable with where they are in their development, they change and a little bit of their childhood is left behind. I find myself feeling sentimental as I pack up forgotten toys and outgrown clothes.
A good friend of mine recently gave birth to a baby boy. I decided to give her all of the boys' outgrown clothes. It was bitter sweet to go through the boxes of tiny jammies and onesies and say goodbye to each tiny piece that I had been saving for so many years.
Both of my children wore those clothes. They held so many sweet memories of those early days we had spent together. When it came time to sort through the countless boxes, I left the boys with my husband for a bit and closed the door to look at the clothes in privacy.
I touched them all and took a moment to remember my baby boys in them. Memories filled my mind of late night snuggles or playing on a blanket on the floor. After I had smelled them and held them up to look at them one last time, I lovingly folded them and placed them in a box to hand over to my dear friend, who was just starting her journey into motherhood.
I felt the same twinges of sadness when my younger son outgrew his crib. He crawled out of it in the middle of the night and met me in the dark hallway. We both looked at each other like we were surprised to see the other standing there. I sat down on the floor, pulled him into my lap, said goodbye to my little baby, and hello to my toddler.
I know that I have to move forward with them as they grow and change or I will get left behind. The day we removed his crib, I wondered into the room alone and ran my hands along the dark wood. I laughed to myself when I noticed the bite marks my son left behind, rubbing his teeth along the crib rail when he pulled himself up and waited for me to fetch him in the morning. I shed a few dramatic tears, quickly wiped my face, and then celebrated with my son as he jumped and rolled around in his new "big boy" bed.
I have learned to pay my respects to the memories of their youth swiftly. The truth is that it helps me to enjoy who they are now and relish the moment. I also have to look forward rather than spend too much time looking back. Sure, it's emotional to think of my children growing up and needing me less, but we have so many wonderful moments ahead of us.
Like going to the movies as a family on Friday nights when the boys are older, or planning family trips that don't have to revolve around nap schedules. I can't wait to let them drive me around town when they are 16 or watch with pride as they one day walk down the aisle with a beautiful bride on their arm.
I hope always to look forward with excitement as they reach each new milestone. Really, giving their baby clothes away was a milestone for me. too. It marked the day that I decided to move forward with my sons. They needed me to.
Do you struggle with watching your children grow or do you look ahead with enthusiasm? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.