We were talking about Halloween recently and when I asked the kids what they were thinking of dressing up as this year Riley gave me one of his patented Looks and was like, “Uh, I’m not trick-or-treating, Mom. I mean … c’mon.”

It’s true that he’s crossed the size threshold from adorable to, I don’t know, maybe menacing, depending on the costume. Plus his voice is so deep now (when it’s not cracking like that one Simpsons character) that alone might seem weird. Honey, there’s a large man at the door demanding candy, but he says no Milk Duds because they’ll get stuck in his braces.

I suppose he might change his mind or find some friends who still want to dress up, but in all likelihood last year was it for him. No more knights going door to door. Or cowboys. Or pirates. Or mummies.

You know that saying, “This too shall pass”? I feel like I used to hear that a lot when the kids were really small, and it would always chafe a little: like yes I get it sunrise sunset etc but this shrieking toddler is rabbit-kicking me in my C-section scar right now.

Pretty much everything does pass, of course, but what really gets me is that I never know when something is the last thing until it’s already beginning to fade in the rearview. At some point you realize you haven’t wiped a butt in so long you can’t remember and barring any unfortunate life events there will be no more butt-wipes, and okay that one isn’t much of a heartbreaker but how about being able to cradle your child in your arms, or carry him down the hall to bed, or run your hand over a pillowy dimpled elbow instead of that sharp pokey business.

It’s so hard to find balance between appreciating what is and what was and what is still to be, I feel like the older I get the more I focus on how things get lost and there’s no point to that — after all, no matter how hard you try to hold on, time just keeps pouring through your fingers. Pint-sized cowboys grow up and can use their own bank accounts to buy their own candy and that’s how this all works.

Oh, but it’s hard. I know you know, you with your own kids, your own life rushing along. It can be so hard to say goodbye to what was, even when what’s here is so good.


26 Responses to “Goodbye tiny cowboy”

  1. Scriptor on September 20th, 2019 10:38 am

    Oh gee, THANKS for making me cry! Totally true though. My son is 12 and he chose not to trick or treat last year but then this year he was like, screw it, I can still do this for one more year. He’s being Dustin from Stranger Things so he’s excited. (And so am I.)

  2. caroline kleban on September 20th, 2019 10:50 am

    I think about this a lot. That one day I put my kids down and I never picked them up again. And at the time, I didn’t know that would be the last time. I guess I could pick them up now, but I’d probably throw my back out.

  3. Chris on September 20th, 2019 11:00 am

    Oh gosh. SOBBING. My boys are 4 and nearly 8. Some moments I still get with the 4yo have already passed with my big. As always, you put this into words better than I ever could.

  4. Suzanne on September 20th, 2019 11:07 am

    Yup. Nodding along with a lump in my throat.

  5. Kate on September 20th, 2019 11:22 am

    I really cherish when I’m walking with my kids and we approach a crosswalk and my almost-8-year-old instinctively takes my hand. He rarely does this now because at his age I know he knows to look both ways and how to cross safely, but sometimes we hold hands and when we do I squeeze his hand.

    Also “rabbit kicking” is the PERFECT WAY to describe what my baby does to me, also in my CS scar.

  6. JanShamberg on September 20th, 2019 11:24 am

    Linda, I can’t tell you how much I love your posts. What was and possibly what is to be fits any age. Many memories flood back daily as we get older. Thanks for bringing back to almost forgotten seasons.

  7. Jenni on September 20th, 2019 11:34 am


    We have boys around the same ages (12 & 8). It’s always so interesting to feel like you’re the only one out there with the FEELINGS but turns out there’s a million others out there experiencing the same thing. My big one wants to stay home and scare the other kids. I want to put him in a little monkey costume, and have him WANT to walk around the neighborhood with me. Oof.

  8. Becky on September 20th, 2019 11:38 am

    This is what I get for slacking a bit on a Friday afternoon, how am I supposed to write an exam now with ALL THESE UGLY TEARS?


  9. JennB33 on September 20th, 2019 12:02 pm

    I’m glad for all of it. The cringy and the butt-wiping and the holy shit she’s bleeding… and dealing with it… and now she has a boyfriend? And he had his first kiss this summer? What the?

    Yeah. It’s getting good now. I did pretty ok. They are doing pretty ok too.

  10. g~ on September 20th, 2019 2:04 pm

    I wish there was a way to know what to savor from each stage. When I look back at parenting, I miss the obvious things–baby head, marshmallow legs, zombie-walking toddlers, etc. But I wish I had steeped myself in the way my daughter scrunched her nose and screwed up her face when she was a highly angry 2-year-old, or played more games of the (at the time) mind-numbing game “hand-hand” that my son created and loved playing at 5 am when he was a toddler. I’m constantly surprised by what makes my heart squeeze.
    I know future me will desperately miss parts of this hormonal 14-year-old girl stage and the 16-year-old man-child but it’s hard to know what will nestle itself into the recesses of my brain as a warm memory. Family dance-offs? Absolutely. Teaching him how to drive? Doubt it. Her sassy come backs…maybe?

  11. Angella on September 20th, 2019 3:59 pm

    Yes, to all of this. Graham is in grade TWELVE, Linda. 😭

  12. Nine on September 20th, 2019 5:32 pm


    You might surprise yourself

  13. Maris on September 20th, 2019 9:56 pm

    Don’t forget Dylan in the lobster pot. That was internet gold.

  14. Cobwebs on September 21st, 2019 5:19 pm

    I read something a few years ago: “At some point your parents put you down and never picked you up again,” and it blew my mind. So I went home and picked up my son–who was 5’10” at the time–and staggered two steps and put him back down, so at least I could put a date on the last time I picked him up. (He was somewhat bemused, but is used to his mother having “Sunrise, Sunset” as her internal background music at all times.)

  15. Jennifer B on September 22nd, 2019 1:03 pm

    It’s probably a good thing that we (usually) don’t know *at the time* that “this will be the last time I/he/she/we…”. Otherwise we would all be in a continuous state of emotional upheaval!

    Missing my babies as much as I am enjoying watching my 13 and 10 year olds turn into actual people…

  16. Maureen on September 22nd, 2019 3:48 pm

    I’m the person who really wishes I know when it would be the last time. I try to savor my life, but I wish I knew it was the last time my daughter could ride on my shoulders, or the last time she was on my hip. Those were many years ago, and as much as I know how it used to feel, I wish I knew it was the LAST time.

    I think for me it comes from childhood, my mom had substance abuse problems, and when she left for rehab? I didn’t know it would be the last time she lived with us, or to be quite honest, seemed to care about her 5 children. From that experience, I like to know when something is final. It is kind of hard to explain-this wanting to distinctly remember certain moments!

  17. sara on September 23rd, 2019 1:12 pm

    And here i am.. crying at work lol

  18. TinaNZ on September 23rd, 2019 8:59 pm

    Very sweet and sad, and beautifully written. Sometimes it’s very hard to connect the grown-ups in my house now with the adorably helpless infants they once were. I think it’s possible that someone swapped them out at some stage. Does it help that this blog has given you such a wonderful record of those phases and stages?

    Also I can’t believe I’ve been enjoying your writing for 16 years.

  19. Sarah on September 25th, 2019 6:36 am

    This was really well written as always! I will say that this is one of the (many) times having a later “surprise” baby is really awesome. I get to go through everything again that I miss with the older ones. Also I am less stressed out about the crappy stuff because this time around I know this actually WILL pass.

  20. Donna on September 25th, 2019 7:19 am

    I don’t have kids….and I’m still teary-eyed.

  21. Dawn on September 25th, 2019 11:40 am

    So much truth to this. I appreciate now, 12 1/2 is such a fun age and he’s still sweet and cuddly, but the “lasts” sting more somehow.

  22. barbara on October 1st, 2019 9:00 am

    Time keeps pouring through your fingers….beautiful way to word it Linda.

  23. Alex on October 5th, 2019 1:12 pm

    Linda, this is beautiful.

  24. Jess on October 7th, 2019 5:15 pm

    Loved this so much❤️❤️

  25. CLAUDIA MARTIN on October 22nd, 2019 12:14 pm

    It’s funny what makes you completely stop down. All your beautiful words about life moving on and kiddos growing up, and the “pillowy dimpled elbows” got me.
    Mine are a 6′ tall freshman girl in college and a 6’2″ junior boy….today is sweet not only because of who they are right now but also because of the wonderful memories. thank you!

  26. Sarah on November 5th, 2019 2:21 pm

    This made me teary. I went out trick or treating with my 11 year old just in case this was it.

    As always your writing is sublime.

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