My kids have been nagging to have a yard sale. Well, to be fully transparent, my kids have been nagging for lots of visits to the local scoop shop and ice cream truck for summer treats. I suggested they get jobs to pay for all of the extra desserts, but since they are too young for employment, it made more sense to sell some of their stuff. The house has been in need of a good purge anyway, so we were all happy to make some cash off of toys and clothes they don’t want or need anymore.
We finally scheduled a weekend to set aside items for our yard sale. In theory, it was going to feel good to clear out what just seemed like stuff that was constantly being left on the floor or fought over in a game of “That’s Mine!”
But in reality, as I pulled out old books, toys, costumes and dress-up accessories, I was hit by the emotional whiplash of this parenting journey.
My oldest child is 8 and my twins are 6, and I am constantly being needed and called on. As I am being held hostage by their desire for independence and need for help, I often have a “hurry-up-and-get-older” feeling that is very quickly followed by a “but-not-too-fast” feeling. I am very aware that I will blink and they will be driving or in college or getting married. Older, more experienced parents are quick to tell me how fast it all goes. But when I am in the fucking middle of it, of the slow, mind-numbing tasks of raising little kids, I sometimes daydream about kids who need me less. Then my heart hurts from missing them before they have even left my side, let alone the house.
I am one of those parents who keeps certain books and toys or stuffed animals that have sentimental value—yes, mostly to me, but my hope is that my kids will someday appreciate the handful of well-loved and well-read books I have stashed in a plastic bin. Certain books are more than words; they are quiet moments after a long day. They hold space for giggles, curiosity, and reminders of why parenting is so beautiful; there are a few books I just can’t get rid of. Whether my kids appreciate that I saved them or not, I can’t stand the idea of someone else handling the worn edges of a book that also carries my worn heart.
As I pulled books off of my kids’ shelves, I made “keep” and “get rid of” piles and when I was done, I was eager to move on to an easier task. Puzzles, miscellaneous toys from McDonalds, and board games meant to teach toddlers how to follow rules and parents how to survive new levels of tantrums were easy to remove from toy boxes and bedrooms. Next, I made my way to the three bins of dress-up gear. Scarves, old Halloween costumes, head bands, discarded phones, butterfly wings, and capes have kept my kids engaged in imaginative play for hours. They don’t get lost in these imaginary worlds as much as they used to, but they still dip into the stash of costumes enough to only get rid of what doesn’t fit anymore.
It was pretty easy to box up the too-small dresses and broken tiaras, but then I picked up the faux leather boots that slipped over my son’s feet; they had completed his Jake and The Never Land Pirates costume. For two years, my Ben was obsessed with Jake. One year Santa brought him a spyglass, real pirate map, and headband. If those were the only gifts he had received that Christmas he would have been more than happy.
My heart tightened.
When I stayed home with my twins before they started school, Jake, Cubby, and Izzy filled the living room through episodes of Jake and The Never Land Pirates while I cleaned, worked, or spent time connecting with friends online to feel less lonely while home with twin toddlers. Jake Lego sets, figurines, and dolls littered the floors and were gripped by chubby hands that had adjusted pirate hats and faux pirate boots. My son doesn’t play with his Jake gear anymore, but it broke my heart to think he was beyond the age of innocence of pretending to be a pirate. I wasn’t ready to get rid of any of it, but my son hadn’t played with his pirate stuff in months. I put it in the pile to sell.
My heart squeezed again.
“Hey! Don’t sell my Jake stuff!” Ben wasn’t ready either. My heart healed a bit when he told me how much he loved his pirate costume and wanted to keep it. He may not pretend to be Jake anymore, but he is still my sweet boy who believes in a world where he could be. He grabbed his tattered map, spyglass, and his walkie-talkies—that last one wasn’t very Seven Seas of him, but my soon to be 1st grader was 3 again. My little boy is still little.
This parenting gig is tough. I know I will miss their littleness, but why does it have to be so exhausting? And, yeah, yeah, I have been told “the bigger the kids, the bigger the problems.” This isn’t a competition, though, or something to constantly compare. It feels like a very fast ride with stops that will put the brakes on time as time stops my heart.
Don’t ever grow up.
Hurry up and get older.
Always be my little boy.