Photo by: Ben Scott

Changing Seasons: A Lesson in Letting Go

Photo by: Ben Scott

Although I feel excited by change, whether it’s the seasons or a different place to vacation, I often struggle with adjusting to the varying conditions that accompany it.

I still remember those “butterflies” in my stomach during the first month of school, when I was a student and after I became a teacher. Family, friends and even strangers often warned me time would be fleeting when my children were born. I never really understood why I heard this comment so much.

Then I realized, until you experience parenting first hand, it’s hard to imagine the brevity of each magical moment. To all new moms and dads, please know baby’s first few years truly are over in what seems to be a mere blink of the eye—so enjoy them as much as you can!

Every year as the weather changes and a new season is upon us, I procrastinate the sorting and storing of my boys’ clothing. “It’s such an arduous task”—-I mumble to myself—-each time I stuff more garments into their already overloaded drawers, all filled with items from last season. Once I finally begin surveying their inventory, my practical side reassures me my children will be able to fit into these outfits for “just one more year,” even though my pragmatic side secretly knows my boys’ growth spurt has been constant, so they will most likely be unable to wear much of their previous year’s wardrobe.

So why do I continue to save their outfits even after they’ve outgrown them? The moment I hold my boys’ clothes close, pressing them against my cheek, a deep emotional process gets triggered and, I believe, it is the underlying reason I dread the season’s end: I am forced to acknowledge my once babies—-now three and almost, five—-are growing and, like the seasons, constantly changing; worst of all, I have absolutely no control in slowing this natural process.

Their clothing has become one of the few symbols that have helped me visit their first years of life. Ironically, it was their first years—-especially all the frenzy given they’re only eighteen months a part in age—-when I was so sleep deprived and somewhat comatose; I often felt as if I was moving in slow motion.

Yet, that span of time now seems to have passed within a few weeks and blinks of an eye. Maybe by holding onto their garments and other tokens, I can hold onto the past for a little longer.

When I heard one of my son’s nursery schools was hosting its annual “Rummage Sale,” I proclaimed it would be a good time to finally “clean out my closets.” Naturally, I was filled with enthusiasm and ambition as I grabbed and piled their clothes high. This time, prepared with bags and boxes, I browsed over these remnants from our past—organized from smallest to largest in size.

Again, once I held them, I was forced to take a stroll down memory lane, a street filled with so many powerful emotions. I thought, “If these clothes could speak, oh, the memories they would share.” The two ivory, woolen sweaters, given to my sons soon after their birth, would boast about how agreeable our boys were when we went to a photo studio to get their first professional picture together. They had to wait over two hours, and still, they were smiling. The denim overalls would giggle remembering how our twosome charged through the pumpkin patch, from a distance appearing as ants running through a maze of orange boulders. And the prim and proper three-piece outfits worn to church events such as Christenings, Communions and Easter Sundays, would share how unsettling it was when our children, now able to walk (or should I say, run)—-and their parents who were chasing after them—-couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes in the churches they made a quick and early departure from.

As I remember my boys’ expressions during these times and the people we’ve shared many incredible and beautifully simple moments together, I am both grateful and melancholy. Can I freeze time for just a little longer?

A few days ago, I agreed to meet my husband and my younger son for breakfast at a nearby bagel shop while our older son was at nursery school. When I arrived, I looked into the shop from the outside glass door, just to get a glimpse of my “boys” (including my husband). I was surprised when I saw my husband but couldn’t find our younger son, so I searched the small crowd again. After a second glance, I was stunned! I gasped! The “big boy” right in front of me opening the refrigerator door with one hand and waving to me with the other was MY SON!

I watched as he selected his own carton of juice, sat down at the table and began tearing pieces of the buttered-bagel with his teeth. Like a director, he motioned for me to enter, and as his dutiful mother, I followed his directive—-lunging toward him—-kissing his sweet cheek and squeezing him so tightly he said, “Mommy, you’re hurting me. Please, let go.” I wanted to tell him it’s not so easy this “letting go,” although I was working on it as part of my growing process as a parent.

But my son would have simply grinned as he always does, so confident I am wrapped around his little finger (well, not so little anymore). His smirk would widen knowing I am in awe of his total being and the simple joy he experiences in living each moment to its fullest. As he ravaged another bite of his bagel, still trying to release my tightly woven hands; he looked at me, all the while smiling with his pearly whites, and ordered me to “let go”. I gradually let him slip away from my hold, trying to hang on to the moment—-like his belongings—-like his toddler years—-as long as possible.

And, so it was a gradual release when I brought some of my children’s belongings, the ones I was able to relinquish, to the Rummage Sale. It was a comforting thought others would benefit from my boys’ “stuff ” and create new and lasting memories. I know these items are material and fleeting; unlike the timeless and precious moments we have shared as a family.

I was reassured of this when I joined other volunteers for the set-up of the sale. Like Macy’s “Preview Day,” shoppers, mostly moms, were putting some great “finds” into their piles. There were a lot of tender words as infant and children’s outfits were held high in the air while stories were shared. Parents were in wonderful spirits as they donated one of the greatest of all gifts: their time.

While I was organizing some books, I found several I thought my boys would enjoy. I discovered the books had belonged to the children of another mom, who happened to be working next to me. I just met her that day and thought she was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever spoken with. She graciously shared how much her kids loved reading the stories and how her sister had given the books to her children as gifts. I truly felt honored there was a piece of history being shared between our families.

Isn’t that what community is all about? Still, if you happen to unpack or purchase any of my boys’ belongings at next year’s Rummage Sale, you’ll have to wash away the tears. Like sad songs about couples “breaking-up,” setting children free to grow-up is so very “hard to do.”

Donna Scrima-Black is an author (MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons Derek & Dylan’s Mom (and maybe yours) Never Learned in School) and mom. She is a former advertising executive and teacher who earned her Master’s Degree at Fordham University. Her greatest accomplishment is raising her two boys, her two joys!

Editor’s note: Leave your thoughts and comments below and you could be a lucky winner of Donna’s book MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons Derek and Dylan’s Mom (and maybe yours) Never Learned in School!

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43 Comments

Wow, so true about how fast the moments fly by when children grow-up. I love this story and will share it with my kids, so they know how each magical moment has meant so much to me.

AAAAH. This gorgeously written piece had tears welling up in my eyes. My twin boys are closing in on a year and a half and my husband and I talk often about how we wish we could freeze time..and yet we all only want for our children to grow up happy, loved and successful.

My Favorite Christmas:

Mid-way through the third grade the Christmas Season came upon us. I was forbidden to go down to the basement where my Dad had his workshop.

Baskets of food would arrive at our doorstep from "Santa". The days were filled with the sights and smells of fresh baked bread, cinnamon rolls, homemade fudge, tangerines and eggnog. What I remember most was anticipating what would come from my Dad's workshop...

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Wow I am printing this just because you have described my last eight years with my very precious little boy. When you live in compact housing, saving just this and then just that gets harder and harder. The part that so described these years is the clothes sorting and how they grow and thinking they will fit into them one more year!! I still do that!! You reminded me today to treasure the moments. Some day they will be just memories!!

Thank you!! Patricia

I, too, have a hard time parting with my children's clothing! Storing them away is acknowledging the fact that this season of life has passed and we're onto new joys and challenges. My oldest is approaching 3 and he's learning so much that I find myself wanting to freeze time to treasure the phrases that come out of his mouth. I've hugged him hard enough where he's said the same thing, "Mommy, you're hurting me." It's so hard to let go, and I know it'll only get harder as he gets older...

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I relate totally with your beautifully written story. Each day is SO PRECIOUS, yet they're easy to miss due to the "busyness" of most of our lives! It was extremely difficult for me to let go of the clothes and toys my children had outgrown. The only way I could force myself to do it was 1. By donating them to a charity (so I knew they'd be doing good for others) 2. Allowing myself to keep one or two super precious baby clothes from newborn to toddler...

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So beautifully written. I share your exact feelings and am so glad to hear I am not quite the "mom geek" my nieces say I am. My children are 18 (away at college) and soon-to-be 16 (sophomore in high school) and I still feel that each moment with them is precious. Thanks so much for putting into words all that I've felt over the years.

OMG - this totally hit home for me, as my boys are now 4 years and 21 months old. I've been going through some of their stuff too, relinquishing some to friends and Freecycle, holding onto others for sentimental or selfish reasons. The feelings Donna talks about in this article are just what I feel! The memories, the bittersweet melancholy...and my kids are still little. Letting go is hard. This brought tears to my eyes, beautifully written!

Wow...I just had a good cry over your article. My husband and I have 8 beautiful children whose ages range from 20 years to 6 years. I worked part time when I had the first 5 but had to resume full time employment after the 6th turned 1. So many people told me to "appreciate EVERY moment because time goes all too quickly." How right they were!! If I could turn back time, I definitely would and would reconsider returning to full time employment...

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WOW. I'm bawling... ALL SO TRUE. I couldn't wait to grow up and get out of the house, now so many years ago... and now I'm SO wishing there was a pause/or slow-motion button!! :( I have 5 children ranging in ages 2-11 and I seriously DO NOT know where the time has gone. This past weekend I had our first ever garage sale, where I sold all our baby stuff, and all the clothing that is too small for my youngest girl and boy to wear. It tore me up to go through them and let go....

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The funny thing is that these precious moments, pieces of clothing, and challenges of letting go never end. My son is 18 and at college, and I still want to hug him and kiss his cheek and hold his hand because he is still my son and the years don't change that powerful need to express my love for him, but obviously those days are over and I have to train myself to respect his age. It's hard. But so wonderful.

I totally understand your feelings about the clothes and just "letting go"!!! My boys are 17 and 14, I JUST got rid of the outfits they wore home from the hospital and first Christmas outfits (only because they got ruined on a flood). Even in their ruined state, I was trying to figure out how I could salvage them. Childhood is fleeting, enjoy every moment because before you know it, you'll be dropping a kid off at college--a whole new stagae of learning to let go :)

I needed to read this today. My girls are 10 and 13 and my how the time has gone by. So many projects I thought I would do with them over the years (teach them to sew etc.) I truly feel time is running away from me. Before long, they will will into boys and friends full force, and no longer "have time" to hang out with their "parents". Since we have hit teen and preteen, I am trying to "pick my battles" carefully...

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Yes, I can definitely relate! I only have one child left in high school. Every fall now I go through this. My life literally changes almost every year now. One graduates, one goes away, one just got married. In a few years all of my four children will be gone, and I may even be a grandmother. It's hard to believe. I always had this sense though that the time with them was short. I tried to make the most of it.

Those pre-school days were so fleeting - now in middle & high school I look longingly at the few tiny outfits I've saved, their first walking shoes and even my son's jersey from his first season playing football in 2nd grade. My daughter is 5'10" with the figure of a model and to think that she once wore a precious 2T outfit is amazing at the same time it's sad. Keep the camera rolling and look back wistfully as you run to keep up with them as they dash towards their next stage...

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