I recently repainted the kids’ bathroom, and in doing so I took down the hooded towels. The hoods are too small for their heads, the towels too short for their bodies. They haven’t used them in ages, except to wipe the floor during excessive water play.
All washed up, I folded them carefully: lion and duck, which came with their own puppet washcloths. How those puppets washcloths were played with! Then frog, the least popular. Kids who couldn’t pick a towel-pal often ended up with frog. And Ellie, the pink cat. She was named Ellie after our friends’ real cat, who is not pink but was so popular with Baby K. Ellie once had a bow, which I sewed on several times before finally giving up.
There’s something about the tangibility of the things kids grow out of that makes me so sad. The way those hoods are too small for them makes me remember little baby heads that did fit, the way the towel wrapped around chubby baby bodies, the laughter of children pretending to be lions and ducks. When calling the pink cat Ellie provoked fits of giggles. When playing with a puppet was the highlight of the night.
Childhood seems littered with these things: strollers, diapers, training wheels, hoody towels. Things the kids outgrown, things they abandon, things I walk behind and pick up, clean up, and put away for someone else. It could be my least favorite part of my job, since it marks the passage of time and the loss that goes with it. Sometimes it is.
But it also marks growth, the development of these tiny mustard seeds into people of God:
“They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)
I am raising strong, beautiful children as best as I allow the Lord to guide me. They will never fail to bear fruit, their leaves will always be green. But this also means that the old fruit will nourish us and fall away, the old leaves must fall to make room for the new ones. Every toy, every towel, every little thing that falls from that tree just marks the coming of a new fruit. I rejoice that they continue to grow strong for their Lord, and that I have the privilege to touch with my hands the tangible marks of that growth, to pass them on to other tiny trees who might use them on the way to their full potential.