It seems before each of the boys' birthdays, I always go through some sort of organizing frenzy. I tell myself it's because I'm clearing out space for some of the new toys they will be getting as gifts, but really, I think tidying up is one thing I can do where I'm in full control, whereas I have no control over how fast those little boys grow. De-cluttering distracts me from thinking that with each passing day, they are one day closer to moving out and away from me.
I was cleaning out some cabinets earlier this week and came across a pair of shoes that I had received as a gift for Eli when I was pregnant with him. They were a pair of blue suede Stride Rite baby shoes and were so adorable, that as he grew out of them, I continued to purchase the exact same pair (just in a larger size). Once he turned about a year, Ethan, Eli and I headed off to Stride Rite once again to buy his next pair, the third pair or maybe even the fourth by this time.
When we walked in, I simply showed the salesperson the shoe that Eli had on and said, "I'd like the same pair but a size larger". She redirected me from the "baby" shoes over to the "pre-walker" shoes and said, "I'm sorry, you have the largest size we make in that style, but you can choose something else."
Ethan was standing next to me, while Eli was likely either in his stroller or strapped to my chest but I remember quickly turning away from Ethan and swatting tears away. This news struck me as a great injustice. How DARE the salesperson point out to me that I no longer (and would never again) have an infant!? I felt sad, inane and ridiculous and for one crazy moment, I thought about leaving in a huff. When I turned and looked at Ethan, I saw that he also had tears in his eyes.
"Why are YOU crying!?", I remember asking him through my own tears half laughing, half sniffling.
"Well...I'm just sad. Because Eli's not going to seem like Eli anymore without his shoes!" And with that statement, Ethan's tears spilled over and he was sobbing. Quite simply (and eloquently), he summed up the way I was feeling. It's the way I always feel when either of my boys cross over that very fine, invisible line of growing from one stage into the next.
The line is ever so fine, barely there, and when they start crossing over it, they begin with a light step, a slight tip-toe but yet seem to land on the other side with a clanging, jarring thud that I suppose I will never grow accustomed to. It's a grand and loud announcement of "I'm growing up! I'm one step closer to leaving the nest!" I am caught off guard every single time I'm greeted with one of these new stages, however insignificant it may be (new shoes, the move from a crib into a bed, a lost tooth). I'm never prepared for these moments and yet they don't (and won't) stop.
I assume the trick is to enjoy the moment (which I have to admit, I'm not all that great at doing). In the meantime, I'm going to hang onto those little shoes for dear life. They remind me of my sweet, sensitive boys. And of the Stride Rite lady who looked at the three of us and was probably wishing she'd applied for a job at the Barnes and Noble across the street instead.