When I was a new mom, I adored BabyGap. The whole concept was brilliant: Dress your babies in clothes that you would wear, only smaller. The simple fact that these clothes were so small made them cute.
When my son was a baby, I dressed him in BabyGap argyle socks and BabyGap soft knit winter hats — the ones with the earflaps on them. He also wore BabyGap khaki pants that looked just like the ones my husband wore, only the baby ones had snaps down the legs to make diaper changes easier.
My baby daughter lived in her rainbow array of cozy BabyGap onesies and tiny BabyGap sweater dresses, which still let her show off her chubby baby legs in her BabyGap decorative tights. And in the summer time, BabyGap had the best one-piece baby girl bathing suits complete with beach prints, sunshine and rainbows.
As my kids grew, the Gap still had my back, graduating us to their older sibling, Gap Kids. With its help, I could easily outfit my kids from head to toe for school and even special occasions. My son’s closet was filled with Gap Kids jeans, track pants and a slew of long and short sleeve t-shirts emblazoned with the names of made-up sports teams.
My daughter wore Gap Kids graphic tees bearing words like “Sassy,” “Girls Rule,” or “Paris,” complete with a sparkly outline of the Eiffel Tower. Although my daughter has never been to Paris, was not in the least bit sassy, and was perhaps a bit young for the girl power movement, she too adored any item of clothing I picked out for her at the store.
I can’t shop there anymore. My son has almost outgrown Gap Kids altogether, save for a few XXL size jeans and khakis. My daughter is still within the upper end of the store’s sizes, but she has no interest in images of unicorns or ice cream cones on her clothing. And my son would never allow himself to be seen in a fake sports team shirt. He only wears a few favorite beat up t-shirts these days, all representing real teams, usually with real players’ names and numbers on the back. Neither of my kids will let me pick out their clothes for them anymore. Ever.
It’s depressing. I end up ordering a lot of their clothes online as they stand over my shoulder rejecting just about everything I suggest. My son’s everyday look consists of basketball shorts and a bar mitzvah party favor hoodie. My daughter wears black leggings with either a cold-shoulder top or a shirt with purposeful holes in it.
I miss the sparkles. I miss the fake baseball teams. I miss the pants with the snaps in the crotch, and the mini cardigans with the toggled buttons. I miss my kids nodding their heads to whatever clothes I bought and laid out for them to wear each morning.
I miss putting my kids into their fleece sleeper pajamas at night, then reading to them as they sat comfortably on my lap, one on each side. I miss kissing and tickling them until they begged me to stop, all the while knowing that they would come back for more the very next night.
I miss their littleness and their little worlds that seemed so neat and so self-contained.
Of course there are parts of their littleness I don’t miss: the tantrums, the giant diaper and snack bag, strapping them into their car seats against their will as they stiffened up like boards.
My kids are certainly more interesting and relatable to me these days. I’m getting to know their tween and teenage selves as they try to figure out who they are. And I’m getting to know myself as the parent of older kids, trying to figure out my place in their growing up.
Sometimes I suggest they wear a jacket when it’s cold out, but they usually don’t take me up on the idea. When they are struggling with something, I offer my advice about a similar situation I encountered when I was their age. They listen for a little while, but then usually brush me off with “things were different then.”
I offer up my thoughts. I give them direction. But then of course they go out into their growing worlds in their growing sizes of clothes clearly not selected by me, and I let them make their own mistakes. I don’t really have a choice. I hope they learn from them.
Not long ago, I was in the BabyGap store searching for a baby gift for a family friend. Everything looked so tiny, almost doll-like. I couldn’t imagine my kids had ever fit into those clothes.
At that moment, it became clear to me that my children had rightfully outgrown the BabyGap. And in some way — though I may not be entirely ready for it — so have I.