This morning, my 2 year old son was looking for a toy, something he hasn’t played with for months. I remembered that it might be in the diaper bag and realized something.
It’s time to retire my diaper bag.
It has been months since I felt that I needed to take my blue and brown diaper bag into a restaurant with us. I don’t need to send it with either boy, even the newly potty-trained 2.5 year old, when they go to their Sunday School or mom’s group classes. There really is no good reason why I haven’t emptied it of its small toys, wipes, and spare clothes, except that I can’t bear to part with it.
To the outside observer, it’s just an inexpensive bag with straps and a funky pattern, but to me it is much more. It has traveled with us in good times and bad. It has given me relief, when a crying child could be soothed by a package of crackers hidden in its pockets. It has provided me with security, knowing that whatever milk-stained disaster may befall us, a spare change of clothes is never far away. I’ve often felt like Mary Poppins with that bag — “What else does Mommy have in her bag to make this better?”
I have given away the boys’ baby clothes, sold or repurposed their old crib and toddler beds, and their bedrooms are undergoing a gradual transition from baby’s room to boy’s room. Like their surroundings, my babies are becoming little boys. Their diapers have been exchanged for tiny patterned underwear, we’ve traded Elmo for Phineas, and chapter books are our book of choice in the afternoon. My oldest is in preschool.
They’re simply not babies anymore.
It’s a truth that I’m not ready to acknowledge or accept. Their interests are evolving and our conversations include more than confusing references to Buzz Lightyear and friends, but they still believe Mommy’s kiss can heal any wound. They don’t need me to spoon pureed carrots into their tiny mouths, but every day I cut their sandwiches into small triangles and open their yogurt cups at their request. And in the middle of the night, it’s Mommy that they want, not for nourishment in their bellies as in their early days but my warm arms encircling their small bodies.
My head and my heart battle over this revelation, that though they are small, they are no longer babies. My head says that they need to experience independence and learn to do more for themselves. It tells me that they are still young and their childhood is not giving way to adolescence overnight. My head reminds me that different, possibly better, days are ahead as we grow into bigger struggles but also greater relationships.
My heart, however, wants to keep them in a perpetual state of early childhood. My heart feels every new skill and milestone as a bittersweet wound, both victory and defeat. I want them to grow, but I don’t want them to go.
The neglected diaper bag serves as a marker, one I’m not willing to move just yet. It’s the bridge between where we’ve been and where we’re going, infancy and toddlerhood now fading into the new realm of preschool and school age. It’s as though by hanging on to the crumb-lined bag, I can stop the inevitable from happening. When I look at the diaper bag, time has stopped and ceases to move on until I’m ready.
I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to part with the bag and that part of my life, so for now I’ll leave it in its place where it can ease my transition. Both reminder and memento, the diaper bag has served its purpose for us and I suppose it always will.