This summer I found myself watching my kids… really seeing them for the first time in a while. I was caught off guard by how much my oldest daughter, in particular, had changed. And so this post came pouring from my heart… I hope it makes you stop and think about your own children and how quickly time flies. For us parents, the days can be long, but the years always go by way too fast. Enjoy the moments. ~ HH
I can feel it happening. The changes are small, but it’s happening just the same. I can see it in her eyes, in the way her body is taking shape, in her interactions with her friends.
She is slipping away from me.
My daughter will be 11 this fall. She’s in her final year of elementary school (didn’t she just start kindergarten?), and we’ve already had her with us for more than half of her childhood. She’s closer to leaving than coming now. That tiny baby who first made me a mother is suddenly becoming a young woman.
Where has the time gone?
She broke her arm recently, and I’ve found myself taking care of her in a way that I haven’t done in years. I’m tying her shoes, helping her get dressed, and giving her baths again. Only it’s different now. The shoes I’m tying are nearing the size of my own, her clothes actually match, and I can’t help but notice how quickly her body is changing when I’m bathing her – she hardly fits in the tub even with her knees bent.
Where did my baby go?
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, though, and I guess I’m changing, too. Wrinkles are forming around my mouth and eyes, gray hairs are popping up, and my belly is softer after being stretched out and back four times – but I care less about these things now. I guess I’m maturing, too. No longer the college girl or the newlywed or even the new mom.
It’s happening right before our eyes, yet we don’t see it – until we do.
And then we wonder where the time went.
As I gave my daughter a bath the other day, I got to thinking that I couldn’t remember when she started taking showers. Probably the tub had gotten too crowded with three (growing) girls, and so she was basically kicked out since I couldn’t possibly bathe all of them at once anymore. Did she feel excluded then, or was she proud to be old enough to move on to showers like Mom and Dad? I don’t know now.
Like most everything, it just happened.
When we go out to dinner these days, she rarely orders from the kids’ menu. And when she does, she’s usually still hungry – the small portions aren’t enough food for her anymore. Someday she will order from the kids’ menu for the last time. Has that already happened? Perhaps. But I won’t notice. It will be a moment that will blend in with the others.
I took her shopping not too long ago (because she’s growing out of all her clothes), and almost everything she picked looked like something I’d choose for myself. She came walking out of her room last week wearing black workout pants and a shirt with those handy little thumb holes that are popular right now: “Hey, Mom! I look like you!” And she did. She is quickly becoming my mini-me, right down to her mannerisms and the way she runs. It’s like looking in the mirror almost 30 years ago. She takes me back to fifth grade in an instant. I remember it so well.
How can I possibly have a daughter that old now?
At her soccer tournament recently, I watched her during the team meeting in the hotel. She sat with her legs crossed like a little lady while listening intently to her coach (this was her first “away” tournament, after all), and she was clearly enjoying the camaraderie of having teammates on all sides of her. I thought to myself how grown-up she seemed – how she was no longer picking flowers on the soccer field or waving at us when she should be paying attention to the game. (When did she stop doing that anyhow?)
Only once during that meeting did she pay me any mind. Where I used to be the center of her world, I’m falling to the periphery now. But I know I’m still her safety. When the coach said they could wear their practice shirts for the morning jog (which I knew we didn’t pack), I was ready for her eyes to fall on mine. And right on cue, she shot me her “I don’t have that with me!” look of panic. She might be slipping away, but I was still her first thought when something went awry. I don’t think that ever changes between a mother and a daughter. My mom still gets the first call when catastrophe strikes.
My daughter remains affectionate with me in public, and she even goes in for a hug and a kiss in the hallway at school when she’s dropped off after a doctor’s appointment. It doesn’t matter to her who sees us. Will this change soon, too?
I do know that I’m starting to be less saintly in her eyes, though. She moans, “Mo-ommm!” more often now (in two syllables, as only annoyed kids can do when their mother says or does something that makes them want to hide). And I might catch her cringing ever so slightly when I do something silly in front of her friends – she’s no longer sure if she should giggle or be embarrassed. She will openly laugh at these things again one day (let’s be honest, I’m pretty funny), but for now, she’s sorting it out.
The teen years are around the corner, and everyone says we need to buckle our seat belts for that stretch of time. Especially with four girls. Apparently that’s really going to be something.
We’ll see. I’ll know soon enough what that’s like.
But until then, I’m going to enjoy this perfect little spot we’ve found ourselves in. She still likes me (most of the time), and I still like her (most of the time). She’s past the diapers, the potty training, and the sweaty tantrums. She no longer clings to our legs when we drop her off at school. We tuck her in bed, and she actually stays there (I thought the day would never come!). That trying, exhausting, emotional, wonderful part of her childhood is already behind us. I’m not sure how we got here so quickly, but here we are.
Her ideal night still involves a family dinner out, a movie at home with all of us stretched across the couch, and then a sister sleepover – with ice cream and popcorn mixed in. Surely that description will change not too long from now. I have a feeling her friends will soon trump the rest of us.
I know the scales are starting to tip the other way. It’s been a long climb in some ways, and yet it’s also been the fastest hike of my life. We are here now, together, at the top of the mountain, and we can see so clearly in both directions – where she came from and where she’s headed. Her future is bright, I can see that out ahead of us – but I don’t want it to come quite so quickly.
Nonetheless, she’s already started taking a step or two down the other side. I have no choice but to go with her. We’ll walk together at first, but as time passes, her stride will pick up and the distance between us will surely increase. As we reach the bottom, she will be running then, and I won’t be able to keep up. She will slip further away until it’s hard to see her… but she will look back, and my hand will rise.
And she will always know I’m there.
I can feel it happening.
A part of me wishes it weren’t so, but how can I wish away her future? I may want to freeze time, but that’s like saying I don’t want to see where her life leads. All mothers are in this predicament. We spend our days preparing our children for the world, but then it’s so hard to watch them go into it.
All we can do is savor each moment along the way.
To read about how we’ve started a “Safe Journal” with our preteen daughter so she always has a place to ask us even the most embarrassing questions, click here.
You can find more of my “from the heart” posts here:
How Having One More Baby Has Changed Me as a Mother
Thoughts on Moving: Missing Home and Finding it Again
Thank You Could Never Be Enough: The Liver Transplant that Saved My Mom’s Life
Don’t Be a Hater: Support Your Fellow Women
If you’d like to keep up with me and my blog (I’d love that!), please follow along via Facebook, Instagram (get to know the “real me” through my Instagram stories), Pinterest, or Twitter.
Thank you for the tear jerker!!! Seemed like yesterday they were graduating preschool… Ugh:/
Beautifully written and so very touching. My favorite post to date!! Thanks for sharing, Dear Friend.
Wow, I feel like I could have wrote this myself! I also have 4 daughters, the oldest one is 11 years old. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. :)
This is great! You have such a way with words and describe, I am sure, what most of us are feeling. I am also a mother of 4 and have put my nursing career on hold to be at home. Love this job I have and wouldn’t trade it :)
Well THANK you very MUCH! You certainly opened MY floodgates! Lol
But, what a beautiful post. It’s true that motherhood is so, so wonderful…but at the age our children are right now, your oldest and my only, most of what I feel is bittersweet. You captured the simultaneous beauty and heartbreak perfectly. Love to you!
Christy, I just loved reading this! It makes my heartache, scared, happy, excited and I could go on! You really captured the thoughts and feelings of what is happening to so many of us now and it is such a great reminder that this is what’s important. Being mindful of the past, esp present and future of watching these children of ours is truly a treasure! Thank you for reminding me to continue to be aware because it is so easy to let it all fly by as we let “other stuff” get in the way!
Love the look of the new btw:)
It’s so easy to lose track of our kids getting older. Especially the oldest one because often times we are so caught up in what the youngest is doing. This post was incredible- and right on time for me. I recently realized that my almost 10 year old isn’t running to kiss me goodbye before she gets on the bus anymore- it’s more important for her to be the first in line to get on the bus so she gets a seat with her friends (there’s a ton of kids at our stop). This is just the beginning, and I know that- but it doesn’t make it easier. I, too, can feel it happening :)
Christy, this was so wonderfully written. I remember when I first realized my daughter was less dependent on me and just starting to spread her wings. Since then I have cherished every moment with her (the great, the good, and the bad). I think you would enjoy the picture book “Let Me Hold You Longer” by Karen Kingsbury. It is a poem she wrote about her son, but it applies to every parent-child.
Lisa, I will have to check that out. Thanks for sharing! It sounds like something I would really enjoy…
Stunning prose. Beautiful and true.
Love, love, love this post. I probably shouldn’t have read this after I went through Meadow’s old baby clothes for my new niece. I was already an emotional mess! Time certainly does fly, and I’m going to enjoy every single second I can.
Heartbreaking and beautiful!
Oh man. Parenting is one giant exercise in learning to let go. And it is HARD!!! I complain all the time about how I need time to myself, and how I need independence from my girls, but when they exert their own independence, it nearly kills me. Letting go is the toughest thing about parenting for me. Thanks for sharing!
I agree, Tiffany! I’m finding myself needing to let go more and more with each day that passes… it can be difficult, but I have to remind myself that it’s a positive thing when I can see my girls taking more control of the choices they make in life. It’s a process for all of us, that’s for sure! :) Thanks for the note!
I write this message every week in my head. My oldest daughter is 14, 8th grade. She has stayed close to me until this year. I still get a kiss when I drop her at school, but now her friends are becoming more important and I am the supplier of money and rides. She still tells me all about her day, but our discussions are about how to manage relationships and not which princess costume she should wear today. I keep asking her why she isn’t 3 anymore. I don’t think about the fact that I am training her fly. My second daughter just turned 11 and is in 5th grade. She thinks she is older than she really is. She wants to be grown up right now. I fight the influence of our culture daily and she doesn’t understand. She thinks I am keeping her from being like everybody else. I just want her to be my little girl. My youngest is still 7. I used to think the toddler years were so hard. I was so tired from so much physical work and mentally trying to keep it all together. Now that time seems so easy. Thank you for writing this. I needed to cry about it. These days are harder than the toddler years. I love your blog and I appreciate that you take the time to share your life.
Thanks so much for this heartfelt note. I’m glad what I wrote resonated with you… when I really think about time and how fast it’s going, it makes me really emotional. It’s good to know that I’m not alone on that! Thanks again, Anne, for taking a moment to share your thoughts with me. :) Take care.
Love love love this post! Just love it and live it – so well told. Heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time!
What a LOVELY post, perfectly capturing the complex, bitter sweet feelings of mothering a 5th grade daughter. I am in the same place right now and wonder about the flip side of the coin: am I the one slowly gaining an independence from Her?! I have learned so much about myself over her ten years – lessons of humanity that can only come from parenting a curious, creative & kind little lady. How lucky I have been to have had this “hike” with her, and what lessons of patience & understanding still await me in the next ten? Will I be strong enough to foster her independence & my own? Excellent post. Many Thanks!
Kerry, I absolutely love your point of view!! I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but I think you hit the nail on the head. We mothers (and fathers) are growing and changing right along with our children. I know I am in a better place now after 10 years of parenting, too. We really do get “older and wiser” with each day that passes. Thanks for taking a moment to comment… it really made me pause and think for a moment. Appreciate it!
I LOVE THIS POST! Parenting is definitely not for the weak at heart. I too see and feel the change. My oldest will be 12 next month and her twin sisters will be 10 next month too. What a difference 2 years makes!! I cherish every moment, she too still reaches out to me in the hallway of her middle school and I’ll take every moment since I don’t know when she’ll decide it’s not cool. As crazy busy life is I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thank you for some a touching post!!
Thanks for the note, Michelle – appropriately on Mother’s Day, too! :) I’m so glad this resonated with you – I go back and read it every now and then myself to help remind me to savor the moments, especially when I’m feeling stressed/frustrated by the “joys” of motherhood at times! I know my kids will be grown in the blink of an eye, so I’m trying to savor these years as much as I can… take care and Happy Mother’s Day!
I found you via Ahalogy and just had to leave a comment as I have ten year old twin girls and can relate to these words oh so very much…
So glad you found me! It hit me hard when my daughter turned 10! I talk about it here in this post where I share how I gave her a “Safe Journal” – her place to feel comfortable asking us even the most embarrassing questions. Perhaps you might like that idea for your girls! It’s really been a wonderful thing in our house. Take care – so glad this post resonated with you.
Oh, Christy, I can totally relate. I have also seen my oldest boy looking and changing into a man and no more baby face, voice deepening and no more mommy in the bathroom when he’s in there. lol He can do all on his own even take care of his younger brother’s. I had a doctor’s appointment with the youngest the other day and I said to the doctor, ” no one told me it was going to be this hard to let them go or else I would of tried to prepare myself”. IWith that being said the only thing that helped was knowing I had 3 more left, flip side. I had to go through this 3 more times. Urggg
I couldn’t even finish without tears in my eyes. It’s crazy how fast time flies and you never see this coming till they do one thing and you’re hit with lighting . Not sure I like it. :(
This brought tears to my eyes. I love the very honest way of taking on the subject of our kids slowly growing away from us. I would like to read more blogs like these! Cheers!
Christy – Love this. It seems like my life as a mom is a never-ending series of these moments. College visits this year with my eldest! I feel inordinately grateful that my high school sons still let me kiss them!
At first I was tentative to read this because of the title…I could tell this was going to strike a cord deep in my heart and the article did just that. What a wonderful and heartfelt read. As I read this I was relating this to my 11 year old and I could barely get half way through this without grabbing my youngest daughter holding her tightly and asking her, will you alway be my baby? Luckily for me she said, yes! So I leave you with this…what will moms feel like when the very last one of your kids reaches this age? Will we feel even more heart tug, is that even possible? I guess for now, I will enjoy them all before they’ve slipped away. Thank you!
I feel this so deeply as well. My daughter, our only child on this earth, is due to turn 10 in two weeks. She decided that instead of a big party and a small gift from her dad and me, she wanted to re-do her bedroom. We’ve been working together on that and I can see glimpses of myself in her style, as well as plenty of her own independent self. It’s hard to watch her grow up and change, but it’s also amazing to see the beautiful, wonderful young woman she’s becoming. Just yesterday she asked if she could call me mom now instead of mommy. I about broke my heart, but I responded with “you can call me whatever you like as long as you call me”. cheesy, yes, but she knew what I meant. Thank you for your wonderfully written words and I believe I’ll check out the safe journal you gave your daughter as well. Sounds like a wonderful idea!
I love that you are redoing her room together! I think it’s wonderful that she chose that! Sounds like you are a very lucky mom – and she’s a very lucky daughter! :) Enjoy all those special moments! Take care and thanks for the note!
I’ve never replied to a post before, but I feel drawn to doing so now.
Thank you for your thoughts… They resonated so much for me that I had to cry. I cried not just because of what you wrote, but because it made me feel like I was reading something from my own heart – I just didn’t know how to articulate it. Any of it. All of it.
I would tell you more, but I think I need to start a journal of my own now because there’s too much I can’t allow to slip away. Maybe I can stop time in it – just for a little bit – by recording those tiny moments that change things forever. Those precious moments are the ones I barely notice or remember during the day, but torment me that they’ve slipped through my fingers when I finally get to revisit them as my babies sleep. I wonder constantly if I’ve made the right choices and hope they feel every day how much I love them.
I know I’m no one to you, but your words just opened up a flood for me. Some things I thought I would always remember about my kids have faded almost to transparency. It’s strange how time does that. Thank you for reminding me how powerful it can be to let go.
First of all, you are not “no one” to me – I can feel how wonderful you are through your heartfelt words! :) Thank you so much for feeling moved to leave a comment for the first time on a post! Enjoy your babies, for that’s what they’ll always be! xo
What an excellent post! It brought tears to my eyes! It reminded me to enjoy every moment with my babies as they indeed grow too fast. You are a very talented writer! I enjoy your blog very much! Thank you! Simply brilliant!
What a sweet comment – thank you so much! The daughter I’m talking about in this post is now 14 and entering high school in the fall. She’s slipping away even faster now, while I try to soak up all the moments! So glad you found my blog. :)