Letting go of the baby things we don’t need

Cartoon coloured picture of a woman pushing a red jogging stroller

By Cara McDonough
@caramcduna

My husband was cleaning out the garage one recent Sunday, and came across the bulky jogging stroller we’d purchased a few months after our first child, Nora, was born in 2008.

It was an urgent buy on my part when—shocked by new motherhood—I wanted to get out of the house, exercise and engage in some physical release from the constant worrying (How will she nap at daycare when she only naps in a swing at home? How will I continue working if I can’t put her down?) When people ask advice about having children, I sometimes tell them that, yes, having a second made our lives busier, and going from two to three yielded what might best be described as a joyful insanity, but nothing affected me more than that first baby.

The jogging stroller, unlike many of the other contraptions we buy as new parents, was something I used all the time. I pushed its considerable weight down bumpy sidewalks with Nora. I was still actively using it when, two-and-a-half years later, her brother Gabriel was born, and also in 2014, when Adriana arrived.

They all took turns as babies, then toddlers, riding in its deep, reclining seat, casually enjoying Cheerios or clutching a favorite toy as I bounced behind, occasionally checking on my passenger’s status through the clear plastic cover on top.

The stroller’s wide wheels and sturdy build meant that, beyond running, it was ideal for heavy loads and rugged landscapes, so I used it regularly to cart coolers of beer, cheese and crackers when we’d head from our first house to the nearby stretch of grass along the Long Island Sound to picnic with friends on warm Friday nights—and each summer to walk the rock-and-dirt paved road where our family has a house in Maine.

When my husband wheeled it out of the garage that day, asking “Do we still need this?” I didn’t feel the pull of nostalgia I sometimes do sorting old clothes. On those occasions, I would pause over onesies that both girls wore as infants. And wonder if I could really put them in the donation bag, off to another family who won’t remember the tiny bandage Nora sported on her perfect, chubby cheek our first week home, protecting a small cut she’d incurred during an unplanned c-section.

The stroller wasn’t like that. It was an undoubtedly helpful object, but perhaps due to its practical nature, it didn’t carry as much emotional weight. It was well used, yet still had a lot of life left in it. I had an 11-, 8- and 5-year-old, a running schedule that didn’t involve my kids anymore and a husband hell bent on a clean garage.

“Let’s give it away!” I shouted from hedge on the side of our front yard where I was furiously shearing errant limbs. I put the stroller on the curb, snapped a picture and posted a listing in our neighborhood’s Facebook page: “Free to a good home!” I wrote, although I obviously wasn’t going to interview anybody on their intentions.

We went about our day. I moved onto mulching and was joined by my youngest, barefoot with tangled blond hair obscuring one eye as she “helped” me weed, then I got a broom and swept the stone pathway to our front door, pushing torn grass and pebbles from side to side as my daughter belted a song from her favorite show, “Sofia the First.” Gabriel rode his bike up and down the sidewalk and Nora made an occasional appearance from her bedroom, where she was reading or writing or whatever it is 11-year-old girls do when they’ve had enough of their family’s antics.

As a newer parent, I hadn’t envisioned this version of myself or my family, each of us consumed with mundane joys. I looked at my fingernails, black with dirt from the lovely garden we inherited when we bought this bigger, but still charming, house a few towns over a year ago. I watched as my children expertly showed off bicycle skills, despite missed naps as babies. My husband was quietly content while decluttering on a lazy weekend morning, and all of us were thankful for the lack of shouting and last-minute wardrobe and lunch-preparation disasters that characterize our frenzied hours on weekdays before school.

Later, we set out to buy pumpkins and apple cider donuts at one of the plentiful fall festivals that occur at this time of year. We stayed until Adriana, exhausted, had a tantrum, then loaded her, her siblings and our seasonal décor into the car.

When we got home the stroller was gone, most likely taken by one of the families who’d seen our listing. I’d gotten a few excited replies.

No emotional weight, really, but giving it away caused me to think, after all. About the ways we continually adapt; easily addressing a third child’s tears, using tactics perfected over years of trial and error; learning to put the garden to bed so that, come spring, the plants will know where to grow; casting off and passing on the objects we don’t use anymore, like the jogging stroller that—yes, was a practical thing—but had once signaled my slow return to independence.

Our home was now a little lighter with its absence, our finite space freed for something new.

Cara McDonough is a writer who lives in Connecticut with her family. She covers many topics in her stories, but enjoys writing about the everyday moments in life best.

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