Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Show of hands: who had hand-me-downs?

All three of my kids have hand-me-downs, and should more come, they will too. We have two nieces a year older than Madeleine and more than that in nephews older than Dale.
I sometimes worry about what it does to Rachel, if she grows up and realizes how much of her stuff was secondhand. I thought it wonderfully convenient to have had a second girl in September, making it much more likely she'd be the right size to reuse most everything, but I thought it was just practical. Erma Bombeck wrote about hand-me-downs--books missing pages, everything scuffed and stained. Would she think she was second best, too? I vowed she would have some new things if I had to contrive them.
I didn't worry about Madeleine. She'd have new, except for stuff from her cousins. She has always gotten excited when the kitchen bags of clothes come over, too. She even has been a good enough child that most stuff survived to be packed away for her little sister. I didn't think much of it.
Ah, there's the rub. Madeleine has a memory that scares me. As we unpack boxes for her sister, she has asked more than once, "Did that used to be mine?"
Last week, we had a bout of tears. "Where is my yellow nightgown?" I had packed it away already; she was a hair's breadth from outgrowing it and I was clearing out summer stuff anyway; it just went into the box. The tears abated only after I told her she could choose the nightgown's final destination: her little sister, St. Vincent de Paul, or possibly made into a pillow. She chose, to my surprise, a pillow for herself.
So now I have a new worry, to add to those I have already. Is Madeleine feeling usurped by her little sister? Is she going to feel erased, like footprints in the sand? While Rachel is thrilled to be like big sister, will Madeleine feel like she has nothing left of her own childhood, that it all got taken over by younger siblings?

I try to remember the rare piece of wisdom from my sister: You don't get to choose what your kids need therapy for.

It helps. Sometimes.


At 10:11 PM, Blogger The Mom With Brownies (The story of us) said...

Okay! I almost deleted this because I thought it sounded sappy and a little preachy after I read it back to myself, BUT you told me to stop deleting things after I write them so here goes... LOL
My dad had a particularly interesting way of letting me know when I was sweating the "small stuff"=(material stuff) He would say, "Oh poooor baaaaby. Only one mommy and one daddy." In a gentle low soothing voice, as he hugged me and kissed my head. I never quite knew what that meant growing up, though it always made me smile and look at him sideways. LOL Now, of course, I get it.

Pretty much that was his way of saying, Don't sweat the small stuff. He served 2 tours in Nam, he saw what kids in other countries have to endure. And though he knew that my lamb-chop-snuggly meant a lot to me and he also knew that when it tore apart and the music box fell out that my heart was shattered, he also knew that it was the small stuff=(material stuff)

He would weigh my grief over something material against something truly valuable that many kids don't have. The stable home of two parents in love who provide for their children. Life in American, the richest nation on earth...etc

In thinking back, I suppose he gave me perspective, though it took me years to understand it. LOL

Maddie is a very strong and intelligent girl. The life lessons that don't kill her will make her even stronger. :-)


She'll write a book about you and you can sue her for royalties! LOL

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Daisy said...

We certainly did. All told, there are seven kids in my family, five in the "first batch" - my parents had us and then divorced, and my father remarried and had two more. I was the middle of the first batch, with an older sister and a younger sister. I actually had the interesting scenario of hand-me-ups, since my younger sister surpassed me in height while we were in middle school.

Hand-me-down clothes didn't bother me as a kid, but we had much bigger problems to worry about. As for how they make kids feel, I imagine there will be tension about something regardless, so I always figure it might as well be about something as insignificant as clothes. We fought more about discovering a sibling wearing our clothes without permission as we got older. Now we laugh about all of it. I've often thought, also, that all of the fighting we did as kids contributes to how close we are now. All five of us rarely go a week without talking to each other, and four of us live within a 50 mile metro area. So maybe struggles like this would give them something to laugh about in adulthood. :)

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Milehimama said...

I was just thinking about this the other day, as we're getting out the 1 year old clothes and putting the 3-6 month clothes away.
I used to shake my head and cluck my tongue at women who saved every outfit their baby ever wore; who shadowboxed their homecoming outfit, their birthday outfit, the shirt they wore when they got their first tooth.
How sappy and sentimental. How pathetic.
Then, I got out my eldest daughter's first Easter dress, and told my husband waayyy too excitedly, Baby (girl #3) will be able to wear this for Christmas! I can't wait to see her in it! Remember...(several anecdotes of daughter #1)... and then (more anecdotes, daughter #2).
I love hand me downs. I love seeing my kids love the same clothes their older sister loved. If I didn't have so many, and get to see them recycled in real life, I'd probably shadowbox 'em too!

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Heather said...

I think some of the shadowboxing kids' outfits has to do with regret, wishing they'd had more. "I remember when our girl wore this {sniff}"... where if they'd had another they'd have even more memories of it.

Some of my favorite outfits were hand-me-downs. I didn't have many, despite my sister being not quite a year older. We were and are completely different body types, not to mention taste!

At 5:28 PM, Anonymous melanie b said...

I was the oldest, but even so I had my share of hand me downs from my mom's friends and coworkers and second hand clothes from thrift stores. Maybe the dynamic is different when it's from a sibling?

For the most part I didn't mind. But when there was tension, my mom blew it off. Like mom with brownies said, for her it was very much about not focusing too much on material things. I didn't get it then; but I did later (like so many of mom's lessons!)

When I was in high school I went through a phase of spending my allowance and babysitting money on new clothes, trying to keep up with my friends. And in college I went back to thrift stores.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Banshee said...

I was the middle child between two brothers. I wore my older brothers' clothes and my older cousins' clothes, as well as hand-me-downs from my step-grandma's side of the family. It never even occurred to me that anyone could be horrified by having to wear hand-me-downs, until I read all the Harry Potter fan comments about poor Ron.

(I guess the Weasleys don't have any cousins sending them clothes because the Blacks are mad at them.)

Actually, I was only annoyed by the hand-me-downs when they first came, as this entailed having to try stuff on twenty times in a row. So yeah, it will set your daughter against spending time in the changing room when she shops. :)


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