We have this problem in our house. Maybe you can identify with it, because it seems to be happening everywhere. My children won’t stop growing. I’ve tried starvation and stacking bricks on their heads but it never works! I’m kidding of course. But it is a challenge to keep up with growing children and their clothes, toys, and interests. I find this to be especially difficult when spring cleaning time comes around. Trying to organize their rooms turns into a battle that goes something like this:
Me: “Aww, I love this dress! Why don’t you wear it this Sunday to church! It’s so sweet!”
Daughter: “Mom. That dress is way too small.”
Me: “That’s okay; you can wear it with leggings or jeans under it. Remember when we bought this? You were so cute, bouncing around the store and singing a little song because you loved it so much. Seems like just yesterday. (Insert sigh)”
Daughter: “Um, mom? That was four years ago. The dress really won’t fit. Please don’t make me wear it.”
Sound familiar to anyone?
Organizing By Letting Go
The situation changes slightly when I pull out old toys or books. The memory of that time takes me back to that stage in my daughters’ lives. I don’t want to forget the little details like what their favorite toy was or how they looked in that precious dress. I don’t want to forget how they snuggled up with me to read their favorite book one more time. The passage of time can dull my memory much too quickly and it’s a bit scary to think that I won’t remember how they stumbled over big words or talked with a cute lisp. I don’t want to forget anything.
I’ve realized recently that lamenting over when they were little only blinds me to who they are becoming. Children grow. There is no way to avoid this fact of life.
If we are constantly trying to hold them back, a few things can happen.
We are missing out on getting to know their growing personalities. How will you know what their favorite song is or what kind of books they like? Are they mature enough to start working side jobs for neighbors or to be a mother’s helper? If you don’t allow their personalities to grow and stretch in your house, you won’t know. It’s hard to watch little ones grow (especially when they grow taller than you!) but so rewarding to see them mature into young people that follow Christ.
We can be alienating them by forcing a toy, book, or article of clothing that they no longer enjoy. I fully understand the struggle and annoyance of buying that toy they adored or the jeans they had to have and then a month later, the toy is never played with or the jeans don’t fit. Now I’m not talking about spoiling our children here. If it’s simply a situation of wanting the next best thing, that’s completely different. But if your child developmentally advances past that toy you thought they’d love for months, it’s time to let it go. Is the dress really four sizes too small or the jeans way too short? Even if it’s the dress your grandmother made for the first of your four daughters and has been passed down through all of them – true story! – if it’s too short, it’s time to put it away.
We are missing crucial opportunities to build relationship. Take time out of your busy day to sit and talk with your children. What kinds of toys do they like? What do they like doing? Is that they style clothes they like? Why? In our house, this doesn’t take the form of an interview like I’ve written here. But during dinner or when they come across something while browsing the Internet. Maybe it’s a commercial or a toy that they played with at a friend’s house. You won’t know what they’re interested in if you don’t take time to build relationship with them as they change and grow.
So while you’re organizing their closets and sorting through clothes, take a deep breath. Those toys they don’t enjoy any longer? Donate them to a family that will enjoy them. That keepsake dress? Store it away for your grandchildren to wear. Make memories not with the things around you but with the people around you. If we can let our little children grow, without making them feel guilty for it, we can develop relationships that are so much more lasting than the doll house or toy truck you wished they still played with.