Handing Down Their Childhood One T-Shirt & Pair of Jeans at a Time

PJsThere isn’t much in my attic that’s changed in the 12 years since we bought the house. Some updated insulation. Removal of a fan that allowed critters and too much cold inside. That which every homeowner since time immemorial has changed.

And then there is the box.

The box that sits just inside the door, the perfect spot to receive balled up tights thrown on the way downstairs, the right place to catch a pile of t-shirts, fresh from the laundry basket. Technically it is many boxes, original contents distributed, flaps pushed down for stability.

It is the box filled to bursting with the leftovers, the “I’ve grown out ofs” of my child’s room. I know I’m not the only mother to have one of these boxes. I myself have been the beneficiary of some over the years, cardboard sarcophagi of a period of childhood. Sweatshirts. T-shirts. Sundresses. Itty bitty socks. All packed away by mothers who are forced to move on to a phase for which they are not yet prepared.

The extreme cost of children’s clothing – and the short time in which they wear it – is an easy conversation starter among mothers. No need to muddle about for news of the day or parse political leanings. We could talk for hours about the winter coats purchased at school’s start that don’t fit by the time the cold weather hits. According to estimates, parents spend anywhere from $28 to $44 a month on clothing for the smallest kids, and the number jumps to anywhere between $52 and $77 per month as kids approach the peer pressure-heavy teen years.

Children’s clothing is a heavy financial burden, no question. But even the most strapped mother can’t help but give it a titch more significance. It’s a marker of the passage of time, an impossible to ignore sign that our children have grown taller, bigger, older.

Each cast-off has the makings of a good, soul cleansing cry … if you let it.

I’ve let it.

I’ve huddled over a dresser drawer — my own dresser from when I was my daughter’s age — with more emotion than is dignified.

But I’m luckier than many. The cast-away coats and just-too-short jeans go not to a stranger but to a little girl I’ve adored since the day she came into the world, the daughter of dear friends who trails my own by a few short years. I get to see old jackets take on new life, skirts once twirled by my girl be swirled by another.

And each time a once-treasured t-shirt is treated with reverence by a new owner, I’m given a gift: a reminder that growing up comes with its gifts too.

 

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