I confess to having been a bit short on time for today’s post, so this is something a little closer to stream of consciousness than well-formed essay. Um, I guess that would make this a blog entry then. Welcome to the world, BetsyG.
I was shopping for underwear for my 10-year-old son; I especially like the boxer briefs and was looking for ones with trucks, airplanes, or superheroes on them in Alex’s size. But after searching the rack, I realized that only the smalls had little-boy patterns on them; the mediums—his size—came in solids, a smiley face on the waistband the only concession to childhood.
I felt vaguely disturbed by this, but it wasn’t until I finished folding the laundry that evening and had tossed out Alex’s outgrown briefs that I understood why. Just a few pairs of little-boy-patterned briefs remained in Alex’s stack. The rest were as serious as the new ones, save the SpongeBob boxers.
The reconfigured pile of panties was symbolic. Of course it said that my little boy was growing up. More than that, it made me realize that after 18 years of folding little-boy clothes, I was just about out of little boys.
While there is some tug on my parental heartstrings as I watch my last baby put his first foot on the path to adolescence, in a sense I don’t mind it. I’m not prone to sentimentality (I know—what a surprise to regular readers of this site), even though I do try to treasure the waning moments of Alex’s babyhood, stroking his velvety, rounded cheeks and studying his perfect little chin and mouth each morning before I wake him. Children are meant to grow up, and I look forward to watching Alex do so.
What bothered me was what saying goodbye to little-boy clothes said about me. (Isn’t it all about me?) Discarding the last pair of patterned undies is a marker they don’t put on the list of passages, and it turns out to be a milestone I don’t like one bit.
It’s not as if I’m not actively aware of how old I am according to the numbered system. My oldest is going to college in the fall, but that hasn’t made me feel my years. If anything, it just seems weird that I—still a kid myself on some level—have a kid going to college. And you know how people say they don’t know where the years went? I do. I was really present as Michael passed from infancy to toddlerhood to childhood and on. Okay, sure: the time has whizzed by, but at the same time, it hasn’t.
What I felt as I folded that laundry is hard to articulate. Maybe it’s just that taking care of little boys is a thing I have done for a very long time, and tossing out the last of the superheroes will say I’m done with that. And maybe that does make me feel just a little bit old.