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I Don't Miss the Baby Stage, So Why is This So Hard?

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Photograph by Twenty20

Every time I go into the bathroom, it’s there.

I’ve seen it so many times that it’s become invisible, like the box of old clothes you know you need to move to your car before you donate it, but after walking past it so many times, it just becomes part of the landscape of your hallway.

It shouldn’t be that hard to get rid of it, to drop it off on my next swing by Goodwill. But I keep procrastinating. Once, I even got weepy thinking about letting it go.

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This precious, sentimental item in question?

My daughter’s potty training seat.

I don’t miss the baby stage. At all. I don’t miss the exhaustion, or wondering why they’re crying, or the sleep deprivation that teething brings.

So why is it so hard to let go of something like a potty seat, when being fully potty-trained is something to celebrate? Or the train table they sometimes played with but have thoroughly outgrown? Or the Ergo my son spent much of his infancy strapped to my chest in, his sweet smelling head close enough to kiss?

The hard part is letting my children go, inch by inch, phase by phase, as I watch them become who they are.

I think it’s because, despite being glad to be done with the early years of parenting, letting go of these items reminds me of that phrase I heard so often when my babies were babies: “It goes by so fast.” At the time, I hated hearing it. Because it wasn’t going by fast. To the contrary, it was going by unbearably slow. I couldn’t believe there would be a time when my son would be obsessed with football, or my daughter would be teaching herself to read.

All I could see was what was directly in front of me—a bright and cocooning love, yes, but with that love came overwhelming responsibilities and fatigue, an existence that often felt more like slogging than living.

But now? We’re in the sweet spot. Diapers and teething and first fevers are all behind us, while the hormonal tempests of the tween and teen years are yet to come.

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And maybe, just maybe, I feel sad that I wasn’t able to enjoy those younger versions of my children more. Maybe I’m afraid that without the plastic potty chair or the fading fabric of the Ergo, I won’t remember who my babies once were. Because the most amazing and most heart-wrenching part of parenting has been watching them shed their skin over and over again. It’s the hardest and most beautiful part of parenting—being a witness to another human’s unfolding.

Deep down, I know that these things are just things and in the case of the potty seat, a thing my kid peed and pooped on. But more than that, they’re artifacts from the not-too-distant past which prove my children were, just a moment ago, smaller and less developed versions of themselves.

One of these days very soon, I’ll wipe the potty seat down one last time, load it into my car, and I’ll let it go. Because really, that’s not the hard part—parting with potty seats or plastic toys. The hard part is letting my children go, inch by inch, phase by phase, as I watch them become who they are. The hard part is saying goodbye, over and over again—while at the same time, saying hello to the sweetness of whatever’s around the next bend.

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