In July we stayed near Bend for a couple days and spent an afternoon floating on the Deschutes along with, according to one of the shuttle drivers, at least 2,000 other people on that particular day.

I’d never seen anything like it: once we piled into the water we joined a truly jaw-dropping amount of floaties and humans blanketing the river, and we slowly moved along like a gigantic collection of colorful, music-blasting flotsam. It was like watching cells divide, then merge together, over and over as people gently bumped up against one another before moving in other directions.

It had all the trappings of a good time — hot sunshine, cool water, lots of people enjoying themselves and their access to floating coolers filled with beer and those spiked seltzers I like to make fun of but who am I kidding if I still drank I would LOVE those stupid things — but the kids had been arguing with each other for hours and kept at it while we bobbed our way towards the take-out. I had that feeling I sometimes get, where I look around at other families and everyone seems to be getting along, while my children are busy trying to one-up each other in some sort of Who Can Be the Most Toxic, Insufferable Jackass contest where the prize is parental ennui.

I tried valiantly to keep our foursome together, that day on the river. If we draped an arm or foot over each other’s tube, we’d float side by side, but if we let go, we drifted apart. While I’d pictured us spending the whole float locked together, no one wanted to be that close. It was impossible not to think of metaphorical actions as I had to relinquish my grip on a grumpy child’s float and watch the water swirl to fill the space between us.

If they were little, we would have stayed together, for safety. But they’re older now. They’re capable. They’re becoming more and more independent, they have their own preferences.

Riley will be 14 at the end of the month. Dylan is 11. Everyone said those early years would go by so quickly and it’s true, it has. The future seems to be hurtling towards me at faster and faster speeds, the last fleeting wisps of their childhood fading away even as I reach for them.

I wouldn’t go back even if I could, really. (Or maybe I would if there were some complex Starbucks-order method of cherry picking the past: Yeah, could I get, like, the total lack of cynicism and all of the cuddles, but with no sleepless nights, diapers, or paralyzing anxiety about choking hazards?) These boys are complicated, slightly smelly china shop bulls, funny and infuriating in equal measures, and I could not love them more. But this always-changing landscape is so challenging. It’s easier than it used to be in some ways, harder in so many others.

My arms used to be so tired, from carrying and coddling and guiding. Now there is a new ache, from the staggeringly difficult business of letting go.


30 Responses to “Currents”

  1. Stephanie O on August 20th, 2019 10:24 am

    Did you ever imagine?

    If you ever find the secret to letting go, please share. My kiddo is only six, a single, and for as much as I revel in each new phase, I can’t believe it’s gone so quickly.

    (It doesn’t help that I woke myself up today saying, “Pepper! Pants!” whilst dreaming she was headed to her first day of *work.*)

  2. Penne on August 20th, 2019 10:34 am

    Once again, I finish reading your words with a lump in my throat. I’m watching my boys, 19 and 22, set up apartments and go back to school. They don’t always remember to tell me if they’re coming home or not. They never remember to tell me they drank all the milk (or beer). But they do remember to hug me sometimes and thank me for donated dishes and big tubs of Tide pods. And last night they texted for the recipe of one of their favorite childhood meals so they could make it for their friends. “The staggeringly difficult business of letting go.”

  3. Elizabeth_K on August 20th, 2019 10:49 am

    My 11 year old went on a two night sleepover followed by a sleepover the next day and I know how important these friends are and I know how valuable his freedom is and I. Miss. Him. Thanks for writing this. I don’t want to go back, and I don’t want to freeze time, I just want to cherish and share the wonder and horror of letting go.

  4. JennB33 on August 20th, 2019 10:53 am

    I am so ready to let them go. I’m tired of the bickering of the 14.5 and 11 y/o – one of each gender. I have a special bond with each of them, and the last year has really sealed the deal, but I am ready to move along with my own life now. Fly, my children. I will always be there for you. Now it’s time for me.

  5. Suzanne on August 20th, 2019 11:23 am

    This made me tear up. My daughter is only six and I am already feeling that strain of letting go. It’s what we’re supposed to do, as parents, right? Then why does it hurt so much?

  6. Monique on August 20th, 2019 11:36 am

    I’m in the middle of all this – I have a 25 and soon to be 21 year old, both girls, and a soon to be 11 year old boy. The girls bickered and fought when they were younger, and are now each others’ best friends. Who still bicker and fight, but quickly and quietly. I’ve let them go, they make their decisions, yet they still flutter around, helping and loving me. The 10 year old is so loved and enjoyed by all of us, but is also showing his adolescent angst and at various times we’re all ready to put him up a tree. He’s gone every day after school, hanging with friends in the surrounding houses – like antelopes migrating, they move and graze from house to house for drinks, snacks, games and fun. I’m letting go, and as his sisters did and still do, he flutters back.

  7. Jen on August 20th, 2019 11:43 am

    Gut punch. We’re having some really difficult times over here and I just miss those little kiddos. Problems were so easily solved. I know it is such a selective memory, but oof, this is hard. Thanks for your words, they heal a lot :)

  8. Lori Sekera on August 20th, 2019 1:52 pm

    My oldest and Riley are only six months apart so I’ve been reading all along with the same stages. My oldest is ready to fly and I am already nothing more than a cheering section and a shower reminder app. I LOVE it. I will be sad when he is not home and I won’t have access to what he does but I don’t miss toddler years. Then the 12 and almost 10 year old girls are following rapidly behind. I am also a much better cheerleader and planner than a baby nurturer for them.

  9. Heather on August 20th, 2019 2:32 pm

    My “babies” are 19 and 24.

    You know Roberta Flack and KILLING ME SOFTLY?

    That’s what you’ve done with this post.

    “I felt all flushed with fever
    Embarrassed by the crowd
    I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud
    I prayed that he would finish
    But he just kept right on
    Strumming my pain with his fingers
    Singing my life with his words
    Killing me softly with his song
    Killing me softly with his song
    Telling my whole life with his words
    Killing me softly
    With his song …”

  10. Kelly on August 20th, 2019 2:37 pm

    I have twins age 12. I feel this so hard. My friend said when my kids were born that being a mom is just a series of painful separations, beginning with birth. She was so right. But right now, this 12 year old year, while they still have so many little boy qualities, Imma try to soak up every last cuddle and kiss. I know those days are numbered. Thanks for this!

  11. Melinda on August 20th, 2019 4:24 pm

    Linda, this is beautiful. I really hope you never stop writing.

  12. Andrea on August 21st, 2019 8:49 am

    Lovely post, very touching. I have a 1.5 year old and expecting another so in the thick of it but your entry is a glimpse of the future….

  13. Bridget on August 21st, 2019 9:55 am

    I have a baby and a toddler, and normally parents of older kids talking about how hard it is make me want to scream – I am exhausted from MOTN wakeups with the baby and tantrums from the toddler, from all the butts that need wiped, from all the various types of foods that need prepared (nursing, pumping, purees, adapting regular meals for the picky toddler), from wiping faces and cleaning up spills, from “Mommy, watch” “Mommy, tell me a story” “Mommy, do you want to see something?” “Mommy, be the monster and chase me” “Mommy” “Mommy” “Mommymommymommymommy” – but let’s face it, mostly I’m exhausted from the MOTN wakeups.

    This is the first time I’ve read a post about how hard parenting older kids is and felt something other than rage and jealousy. :)

  14. Barbara on August 21st, 2019 9:58 am

    Wow. I love your last line! My boys are 7 and 9, and I love how you’re always giving me a glimpse of the next stages… and the next struggles. Thank you for still writing.

  15. Mary Clare on August 21st, 2019 11:00 am

    I enjoy your insights! I vacillate between being excited about the newness of each stage and the sadness of leaving behind the tenderness of young childhood. One moment I’m cheering on my rising 6th grader who is so excited about lockers in middle school and then furious when she stomps off to slam a door. My eight year old is still a big cuddle-er and I’ll take all I can get.

  16. Lori on August 21st, 2019 6:16 pm

    Right there with you. I do have the added bonus of having nieces and nephews who are still small. I love those little ones, but my husband and I high five after we spend time with them bc that stage of diapers and Disney jr is in the past. Big kids are way harder (who knew what you say matters?!), but their sense of humor and ability to enjoy grown up movies makes it worth it.

  17. Jenine on August 22nd, 2019 6:33 am

    This reminds me of a moment at the St. Louis City Museum that had a different mood. My foursome (spouse and I have two teens) got our tickets and the other three promptly headed off in different directions in this chaotic 10 story building that bans maps. I watched the brownian motion of the good sized crowd and wondered how/if we would meet up again. I felt bereft and mad and why doesn’t anyone else CARE? I had to let it go and have faith. Of course we met up again just fine later on.

    Best wishes with your ‘china shop bulls’. I want that phrase on a shirt.

  18. Shawna on August 22nd, 2019 7:59 am

    Kid who was my daughter has been replaced by a young woman in this last year – at 12 she was still pretty much a kid, but at 13? She’s a grownup who can watch all the movies and get all the jokes and has some really cool interests. I am enjoying her SO MUCH! I really am not looking forward to the day she leaves for university, though I remember a lot of friction with my own mother by the time I turned 18, so maybe I’ll be happier to see her go by then?

    Our 11 year old son is still in the kid stage for now and I can’t even picture the ways in which he’ll change over the next couple of years. Well, I can picture him physically changing I guess, but what kind of teenager will he make? Who knows?!?

  19. Alissa on August 22nd, 2019 8:26 am

    Please PLEASE keep writing!

  20. Victoria on August 22nd, 2019 9:29 am

    Your last paragraph made me tear up. My kiddo is 6 and it’s true: the days are long and the years are short

  21. anne nahm on August 23rd, 2019 7:46 am

    As always: <3

  22. Dawn on August 23rd, 2019 11:07 am

    Very well said, as usual. So many little pluses and minuses to any age, it seems.

  23. Laura Schneider on August 23rd, 2019 11:47 am

    Linda, your writing is the most real thing that I read on the internet. I love checking your site in the anticipation of a new post from you. Please, please continue!

  24. AmyH on August 23rd, 2019 2:33 pm

    This. Exactly this. My sons are also 14 and 11, and somehow, somewhere in the last year, we’ve completed this slow, inexorable pivot from a count-up (he’s already 2! he’s starting kindergarten!) to a countdown (he’s starting high school! oh my god we only have him home for 4 more years!) and sometimes those glimpses of the future spark joy in my heart and sometimes it feels more like terror. “The staggeringly difficult business of letting go” indeed. Thank you for writing this beautiful piece.

  25. Kimberley on August 24th, 2019 8:44 am

    You have a gift for articulating, so eloquently, your thoughts (and my feelings!). “…the last fleeting wisps of their childhood fading away”
    I just totally get this. Thank you Linda. I’m right there with you.

  26. Donna on August 24th, 2019 11:00 am

    I love you so hard. Also totally jealous of your vacations.

  27. Jill on August 24th, 2019 4:01 pm

    I just moved my oldest kid into her college dorm on Thursday. That final paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks. I love how you can take exactly what I am feeling and express it so beautifully. You are such a talented writer

  28. Kimberly on August 25th, 2019 1:43 pm

    Gorgeous, Linda. So compelling. Absolutely stunning.

  29. Pat on August 27th, 2019 7:52 am

    Linda, you are such a beautiful writer – I get excited when I check and there’s a new blog post. This was particularly poignant for me today. I have 4 kids, 3 boys born in just over 3 years. They fought ALL the time. The teen years were incredibly hard; times where I thought if I had the choice I’d go back and not have kids. Daughter is now a beautiful mom of 2 (boys – argh!!) and sons are 28, 29, 31 and the best of friends. I dropped the 2 youngest at the airport this morning to fly home 3000 miles away. I already had a lump in my throat but reading this sealed the deal. ps for those in or approaching the teen years, just know that you will survive and they will eventually grow into beautiful kind adults. Be patient.

  30. Melissa on August 29th, 2019 6:07 am

    This is just beautiful and painfully true. Mine is 14 too and some days I think I would take all the sleepless nights and blow out diapers over fickle friends and hard teachers and Algebra and his need to grow up. I miss when new teeth were the hardest thing but it is all somewhat fascinating to watch.

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