When my kids were little, I used to have to label all the clothing they wore to daycare. As they got older, I would label everything they took to school: coats, hats, mittens, backpacks, and school supplies. Even labelled, their things had a way of disappearing on a regular basis to some place where even the Lost and Found bin couldn’t provide assistance. Money was always an issue and it was frustrating (and for me, stressful) when they could not remember where they had left something. On a few occasions, some other Mom, finding the item in question among her own children’s things, would return it many months after it had gone missing. And of course, I did the same when I found other children’s things – usually labelled too – among my kids’ mishmash of ‘stuff’.
I don’t recall where I purchased the labels: it is one of those mysterious bits of random knowledge that all parents of young children have but just as mysteriously lose when their children are grown. I had to sew them on: over the years, it must have taken me many hours, all told, to sew those little name tags onto the dozens upon dozens of articles of clothing they carried to and from school.
My youngest child is 25 and even now, every once in a while, I come across a beach towel or an old sleeping bag with one of my children’s names sewn onto it. For some reason I can’t explain, it always gives me a great deal of comfort; those sweet, unexpected reminders of their childhood: a bit like finding a lost item all over again.
Recently, my Mom, who had to move into a seniors’ home when she was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, gave me a big bag of socks. Her legs have been swelling and the socks she gave me are tight on her and leave big indentations in her legs. I was thrilled to accept them: for some reason, I have always been hard on socks and shoes and not being much of a shopper, she saved me a trip to the store, not to mention a bit of money.
The first day I pulled a pair of her socks on, I was going to visit some friends. It wasn’t until I was at their place, shoes off at the door and feet comfortably propped up on a footstool, that I noticed the labels on the bottom of both my feet: each sock carefully labelled with my mother’s name so the laundry service at the seniors’ home could return them to their rightful owner.
I am still not sure, exactly, why the sight of those labels made me so terribly sad. Mom loves being at the home: it was her choice to go there and she hasn’t been this happy in a good many years. They have so much to do there, she tells me. She is content: and she can go many days without calling me at all.
But still, I found myself furtively removing the labels (now the iron-on kind) as I sat with my friends. Not because the labels embarrassed me personally, but somehow, because of how they implied that my mother is once again like a child who can’t go to school without her Mom making sure all her ‘stuff’ is well identified and will find its way back to her.
It never occurs to you, when you’re mothering your children, that the day may come when you are doing the same for your parents. Like my children when they were little, my Mom forgets where her things are now, or what they look like or where she left them.
It was my Mom’s 80th birthday a few days ago and we gave her one of those digital photo frames. She had asked for pictures of her ‘stuff’: the things she had to part with when she went into the seniors’ home. At her request, as we were moving her out, I carefully photographed and catalogued anything she particularly loved. The photos will help her remember, she tells us.
And so, the circle continues: I have unexpectedly found myself a parent again…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com
3 thoughts on “Clothing Labels and Parenthood”
The hardest part of being a grown up is when your parents stop.. I’m glad your mum is happy and still with all her faculties 😊
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This post made me tear up, Patti. All of us are aging and our parents are at that stage where they aren’t far from returning to being child-like again. To know that farewell isn’t too far away is extremely hard.
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True…but also oddly beautiful, somehow…I really am treasuring every single conversation with my Mom now, knowing that they are so finite…Thanks so much for dropping by…🙏❤️
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