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The newborn announcement pictures are precious. The new pastel-colored onesie that doesn’t quite fit the baby with pockets of fabric that have to be folded back to peak at the little, wrinkled fingers tipped with translucent nails. The little hat that covers their soft, fuzzy head will never be worn again, but it completely makes the outfit.

We often love to capture our little ones’ adorable moments and milestones. However, it can be quite challenging and costly to keep up with the expectation of dressing them in fully styled outfits, especially as they grow from babies to toddlers and then to kids. The pockets of those once perfectly fitting clothes soon begin to bulge out as our children continue to sprout up and fill out.

The matching tops and bottoms that make our children look like baby grown-ups sometimes last a week in the early months. If you are lucky, you might be able to stretch it to a month. Next, you’re rifling through your child’s closet looking at these miniature-sized clothes that just don’t quite reach their wrists and ankles like they used to.

RELATED: To My Friends Who Shared Their Hand-Me-Downs, Thank You For This Precious Gift

In the early years, it can feel like you’re constantly folding and tucking clothes away into the growing pile of “no longer fits.” The back of the closet seems to produce more outfits that your child didn’t even wear once.

Memories of a specific event or moment can often be tied to an outfit. I have a cherished memory of a faded pink and purple Lion King bathing suit that proudly displayed Nala. It takes me back to a warm Michigan summer and days spent in a refreshing swimming pool. However, I eventually outgrew the suit, and it had to be added to the pile of clothes that no longer fit. My hope for these memories is that they won’t get tucked into the back of the closet among forgotten clothes, but that they will be passed on to the next family.

As our children grow we realize how quickly the sleeves no longer need to be folded back to allow a glimpse of a tiny hand. For this reason, I thank every friend, family, and neighbor who donated their second-hand clothing to my child.

Each person who handed me boxes and bags of clothes had a memory tied to their child filling out that piece of fabric. Remembering the red stain as the night they giggled through their slurps of spaghetti dinner. Reminiscing on the spot of green covering the well-worn knee in the pants that kept their child warm through winter. The holiday outfit the baby only lasted a few hours in before they decided they wanted to tug and tear at the lace, twill, or wool. I know it took days and maybe even weeks to find that deliciously cute baby outfit, but they never seem to want to be worn past the picture taking.

As a parent, I truly appreciate the value of hand-me-down clothing. It’s not just about the practicality of saving money or reducing waste, it’s more about the emotional connection we have with the clothes our children wear. When my child wears a piece of clothing that was passed down from someone else, I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia and warmth. It’s as if I’m continuing a legacy of memories that have been woven into the fabric. And when my child inevitably adds her spots and stains to the clothing, I feel like we’re adding another chapter to the story. The clothing lives on, and so do the memories.

RELATED: It’s My Turn to Be the Hander of Hand-Me-Downs

Parents are acutely aware of the cost of raising a child. Costs keep going up and up just as often as my child outgrows another pair of pants. Outfits and pieces of clothes don’t have to be brand new to be adorable. It’s the child who makes the clothing come to life. The glimmer and drool on a toothless grin look just as good in a dress or jumper that has been gently used.

I thank all the other mothers and fathers who donated their “no longer fits” piles. The bags and boxes of clothes were given life in the form of another child who added their stains and spots alongside your child. It is my wish to pass along the secondhand clothes to other growing families. They can mold a new memory with a slightly worn hem or gently faded fabric.

So, as we continue raising babies, toddlers, and kids, know that your secondhand clothes were embraced, loved, and well-used.

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Samantha Jones

I was born and raised in Michigan but moved to Arizona when I finished college. My husband and I met as teenagers and moved out West together to start our life. I started my teaching career as a middle school English teacher. I have two small puppies and one beautiful daughter who is about to turn one.

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