Saying Goodbye to the Baby Stage


We decided – 100% sure – that our family of four was complete.

Done with diaper duty, tummy time, and night-owl nursing. That means every item of clothing and every toy younger than my youngest can go, right? It’s all boxed up – aside from the few toys the kids identified as their “favorites,” despite forgetting said toys even existed. (Pro tip: evacuate toys under the veil of darkness.)

After the magical holiday dust settled in January, and new toys set up camp in every spare corner of the house, it was clearly time for a purge. First stop: baby gear.

Shape sorters, rattles, four-piece puzzles, duplicate books, and unused blankets. I removed the box from the closet and exhaled at the liberating, open carpet space beneath it (it’s the little things).

And then I paused.

baby stage

I reached in and held a smiling plush sun the size of my palm, the toy that hung from the activity mat where both boys played every day as infants. The toy my oldest reached for day after day, batting at the dangling ring and watching it sway above him until he triumphantly caught it in his grip.

Can I part with this? What would I even do with it if I kept it? Doubts about decluttering crept into my psyche. Item after item, memories flooded in and chipped away at my resolve.

I turned them over and over in my hands, waffling on their destination box: donate or keep. Part of me is beyond ready to say goodbye to the baby stage – the sleep deprivation, the inconsolable cries, the isolation… The other part wants to go back, if only for a day, to bask in baby snuggles.

The timeless and bittersweet paradox of parenthood.

On theme with this enigma of clinging and letting go, there are items that are easier to release than others. Obnoxious musical toy? Sayonara. Little plush pacifier they clung to as their eyes fluttered to sleep? Oh, my heart.

When I finally and halfheartedly gathered a box full, I drove it over to the donation center, handing it over to the volunteer who stood before large overflowing bins. He plunked my memories into the pile, and they became just things once again. Though now they were things that would no longer collect dust in my closet and could bring joy to someone else.

In the end, it’s just stuff. The memories aren’t packed up in those boxes. They’re captured in photos. They’re in the stories we share with the boys about the days they were too young to remember, cementing moments in their memories.

There is still something about the way an object, sound, smell or texture can trigger a memory we forgot we had. It can sweep us away into a moment long forgotten but still treasured in our core.

As you may suspect, a few items found their way back into the closet. Maybe my grandkids will play with them someday. Maybe they’ll be a fun discovery for my kids in a decade or two.

Or maybe they’ll just be there for me to travel back in time, if just for a moment, to the exhausting yet oh-so-sweet baby stage.


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