The Boyhood of the Traveling Pajamas


The Boyhood of the Traveling Pajamas ‘I’m getting taller and taller to reach the shower head!’ my son used to excitedly declare this quirky phrase, each night at bath time. He’s always been tall for his age, but the shower head is pretty high up there, so it’ll be a while until he can actually stretch that far. Something tells me though, it’ll happen in a flash.

He has always noticed things up high — ceiling fans, birds, clouds, tall buildings, airplanes — shower heads. Some days, he’ll eagerly say he wants to get bigger so that he can drive. Or touch the ceiling. Or reach that shower head. Lately, he wants to be as tall as the Emperor Penguin statue at the Tennessee Aquarium. He only has a few inches to go for that one.

In a ploy to get my son to fall asleep faster, I’ve told him many times that he only grows at night — when he’s asleep. Sleep has always eluded him. It’s like he’s allergic to it. Most days he whines about going to bed. Sometimes he’ll actually say he doesn’t want to get bigger. (Surprise surprise, he just doesn’t want to sleep.)

Occasionally, I think of those fleeting newborn moments when he seemed to grow by the second while he actually slept snuggled in my arms. Now, when he wakes up in the morning, I ask him if he grew overnight and he declares, quite seriously, that he has. The truth is, he IS getting taller and taller and bigger and bigger and there’s nothing I can do to stop him from growing up.

A while ago, I set aside his blue and red airplane pajamas. I found them online late one night and ordered them for a red-eye flight overseas one summer. The airplane pajamas survived that flight, a summer in Scotland and an entire year afterwards.

Then suddenly, they looked very small.

I’ve heard countless stories of moms who wept as they packed away the last of their baby’s clothes. I never really understood why. I’ve moved and traveled enough in my life to not really get attached to things and I have tried to instill this blasé attitude in my son as well. He doesn’t need to hold onto every earthly toy. In fact, he helps me pick out things of his to sell at consignment sales.

But those ridiculous pajamas got the better of me.

My son has always had an affinity for things that fly. Even though his dad is a ship’s captain, this child has never shown much interest in anything that floats. Something in the sky though? That has always captivated him. Even when we are actually at the ocean, the Sailor and I will count ships at anchor while our child instead watches the airplanes take off and land. He has always said he’s going to be a pilot one day. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer, so I never discount the dreams of a child.

It seemed silly to me, but I hesitated to get rid of the pajamas. They weren’t the first pair of pajamas my son has worn on a plane, but they were the most memorable. My pragmatic side took over though and I decided to sell them. I took a photo of the pajamas, posted a sentimental little note about them on Instagram (very unlike me), then I promptly threw them in the consignment bin for a whole dollar.

Nobody ended up buying them. While the other unsold clothes ended up destined for a donation pile, the airplane pajamas traveled back into my son’s closet. I didn’t tell him though. After all, they were too small and I’m not even really sure why I kept them. One evening though, a few weeks later, after bath time, and after bragging about how he was going to reach that shower head one day, my squirmy child wrangled himself out of his towel, looked at me and with a little tremble in his voice, said, ‘I just want to wear my airplane pajamas. Can we get them back?’

I paused — he didn’t need to know they didn’t sell. Children are so impressionable. I over analyzed it, as we moms do in such seemingly ridiculous situations.

Now he’ll expect to get all of his toys and clothes back every time I get rid of something.’

He’ll become a hoarder.’

He has enough other pajamas.’

Then I realized how silly all of those notions were, so I told him that the airplane pajamas had miraculously come back. You would have thought I’d let him fly an actual plane. He grinned nonstop while putting them on, telling me that they were too short, but he was going to wear them anyway. In the morning, he didn’t want to take them off. He wore them again the next night, as he piled all of his toy airplanes into the bed and then promptly fell asleep, with his belly poking out of the bottom of his shirt. That’s two miracles, I thought. The return of the pajamas AND my child falling asleep without much ado.

I ended up ordering the exact same pair in a bigger size and now those are also too small, less than a year later. I can’t turn back the clock, even when I try. And why would I? Parenting means a whole lot of letting go, even when my little peanut is no longer a cute, cuddly baby — even when he eventually outgrows his boyhood.

Someday he will outgrow every size of the airplane pajamas, no matter how many more I keep ordering. Someday he’s going to reach even higher than that shower head. Someday he’s going to have wings of his own. I hope he soars. I also hope he remembers to fly his mama First Class.

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I spent my twenties and a good chunk of my thirties living and working in various countries. I met and married a South African sailor and I was quite content to keep traveling without kids. We landed in Chattanooga in 2013 and our son arrived over the summer of 2014. We haven’t really slept since. Sometimes jet-lag gets the blame. Or Daylight Savings, or even a good book. Usually though, it’s the Peanut. You can often find me charged up on caffeine, chasing after my son at Coolidge Park, the zoo or the library. You can also find me online on my blog.