Bags and boxes surrounded me as I pulled out one article of my kids’ clothing after another. My wife was away with the kids for a few days, and I was taking advantage of the opportunity to get some things done around the house. One of my projects was organizing the basement, and with three kids of my own plus clothes from my neighbor’s two children, the clothing situation was getting out of hand.
So there I sat amidst piles of small clothes. As I folded and sorted, I reached into a bag and pulled out a tiny dress. It was a dress I saw while at a store one day, and I immediately had to buy it for my baby girl. It seemed like only yesterday that I would pick her up and spin her around in that dress. Now she’s 7 and picking her up and spinning her around is increasingly difficult.
I opened another box and there were my older son’s clothes, all folded and looking ready to wear. I unfolded a shirt and could see the stains from his first ice cream cone. More boxes were opened and I came across gymnastics uniforms, baseball uniforms, and soccer uniforms. I remembered watching him wear his small clothes and thought he was getting so big at the time. Then I opened another box and found the clothes I had most recently stowed away after going through his drawers. They almost seemed adult-sized compared to the tiny baby clothes from the previous box.
With tears beginning to well up in my eyes, I opened and organized some more. With each shirt or dress I unfolded and refolded, a memory rushed to mind.
The hat my younger son wore on the way home from the hospital.
The pants with the hole in them – evidence of a first skinned knee.
The dress my daughter had once insisted wearing every day for a week.
I looked out over the boxes and saw the ages written on each one. They went from newborn to 8. Soon there will be a 9 and then a 10 and then an 18 and they’ll be gone.
Time literally advanced before my eyes and I missed my kids terribly at that moment. I wanted them to stop growing up. To somehow stay in an innocent state and hold onto their childish behaviors and youthful instincts.
Before I even realized it, I was staring down my own mortality. As I packed away years of their lives, I was faced with the crushing realization that time is not only pushing my children towards adulthood, but it’s pushing me toward the end. Life is moving forward with or without my consent, so I must act fast. Acting fast means taking advantage of this moment, taking advantage of the opportunity to impart something of value to my kids. Not letting any experience or emotion pass by unimportantly.
Life is moving quickly, but it doesn’t mean that is has to pass me by.
Someday, when my life has come to an end, my children will have the sad task of packing away my clothes. I hope that as they fold and refold each item and then place it into a box, they’ll remember the great times that we had. That they’ll hold up my “World’s Greatest Dad” shirt and catalog each stain – the time that they dropped ice cream on it or the time that the little one pooped on it or the time that they were soothed on my shoulder after a bloodied nose.
After they’ve remembered those great times, I hope that they’ll go back to their families and share the lessons that I’ve passed on to them. I hope I’ve provided some worth sharing.
“Babies from Heaven” photo credit: DrinkandSmile.com