I’m reading a story (begrudgingly, because I’m not enjoying it but I rarely give up on a book, even the terrible ones) about a mother and her teenage daughter. The mother is hair-tearing over the daughter’s eye-rolls and secretive pot stashes and general state of repugnant teen angst while the daughter is constantly strutting around in jeans with three-inch zippers and doling out blowjobs and everyone’s just miserable all the time.

I don’t much care what happens because I’m so irritated by every character—go ahead, kill off the daughter! Impregnate her, give her an STD, fell the hand-wringing mother with a stroke, leave them all weeping on some blackened beach shore after bombs decimate their city!—but I also find myself grimly reading it in bed at night and after some particularly rebellious scene in which the daughter causes more heartbreak I want to sit up, toss back the covers, and go creeping into my sons’ bedrooms in order to inhale their innocent sleep-sighs. Curl around them with that oddly comforting smell of pee and pajamas, ruffle their soft hair and whisper that they should never, ever grow up and away.

The children no longer exude the pure animal need of babies and oh, I’m so glad to be done with that. They’re still bottomless in what they will take, though. You can pour in energy and attention until you’re teary-eyed with boredom over playing Legos or lining up stuffed animals for an endless squeaky-voiced tea party and they will always want more, more, more.

It isn’t lost on me, though, that this time is drawing to an end. Right now they want nothing more than for me to focus on them, play with them, give them snacks and listen to them. They allow me to hold them, kiss them, fold them into my arms. They crawl over me like puppies, giggling.

The other night the boys were getting ready for bed and they ran shirtless from one end of the house to the other and I realized that Dylan’s baby pudge is long gone. He’s still irresistibly soft to the touch, his skin a pillowy expanse over those funny rounded joints toddlers have, but his belly is lean. His legs are getting longer, his butt is a tiny sideways letter B with no dimples in sight.

And Riley, my god. I stared and stared at him—not, obviously, seeing him unclothed for the first time, but somehow really seeing his small body, how he’s suddenly looking so different. The incipient V-shape of his chest, the tight navel, the actual dents and visible fibers of his muscles, the tender cords of his neck. The only infant-esque curves left are the planes of his face. He’s made of bones and blood and perfection and a thousand paths that shoot off in all directions. I don’t know where he’ll go. I’m terrified by it, sometimes.

There are times when I feel nearly crushed by the gravitational swirl of being at home all day, the children siphoning away my last bits of patience. Those times are real and valid and can’t be dissolved by cross-stitched reminders that I should cherish every moment, feelings can’t be ordered around that easily. But there are other times when I want to spread my arms wide, float on the surface of this fleeting year of us being home and together, just us, before school and friends and sports and music and everything else. While they still want all of me, any of me. Before they grow up and away and maybe I, too, am a helpless mother tearing out her hair and hoping to God that everything works out in the end.

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H
H
11 years ago

I have a 19 year old and a 22 year old, both college students. I don’t want to wish this part of their lives away either, but I do sometimes wish we could go back to the moments you described. Just every now and then, go back and rock in the rocking chair together or chat as they’re strapped in their car seats.

Jessica
Jessica
11 years ago

Exactly.

Kirsten
11 years ago

This made me tear up because I feel the same way about my time at home with my boy. Sometimes I feel the monotony of working/playing mommy from home will make me crazy…and other times I am so grateful to have this time. Before he grows up, or before another one comes along and he has to share me. SIGH

Mel
Mel
11 years ago

EXACTLY! I have a 14 year old & a 2 almost 3 year old. I look at both of them every day and want to shout,”STOP! Just stop growing up!” It’s all moving much too quickly for me. In a blink of an eye, our eldest will be going to college and his younger brother will be going off to kindergarten. I want to bottle this time up, so that one day I can shake it out and still have these innocent days with them. Sigh…..

Maxine Dangerous
11 years ago

Wow.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

This is really lovely. Thanks for sharing.

Liesel
Liesel
11 years ago

Beautiful post…you have a gift with words, Linda.

Give up on that book, sans guilt! Just like precious calories are not worth wasting on something that is not delicious – precious minutes, seconds, hours are not worth wasting on a book that does not inspire you, touch you, make you better. Time is valuable and important. Be careful who – or what – you give yours to.

wm
wm
11 years ago

Beautiful post.

Gretchen
11 years ago

I don’t have kids, but see my friends children the same way. I can’t even imagine the exponential freaky/scared-as-hell/terrified feeling it is to actually BE a parent.

Jen
Jen
11 years ago

Beautiful Post. I have two boys, 6 1/2 and 9 and I feel exactly the same way. I love the people they are right now and can’t wait to see who them become but I so miss the little babies they were. Thank you for sharing your amazing words with us.

Anita Winter
11 years ago

I am crying because all that you have just said is exactly where I am with my boys. This is life. Nothing stays the same no matter how much we want it too. I do feel blessed to be experiencing all the raw emotion that some will never experience. Being a mother is the most amazing job in the world. We may lose ourselves for awhile but we come back eventually.
Thanks Linda

Caroline
11 years ago

Rarely am I moved to actually print out a blog post and carry it with me, yet this will be the second entry of yours that I have done so. I’m touched and wish I could come up with something more poignant to say than this: ME TOO. This parenting gig sure is something.

Claire
11 years ago

Oh man, I know this time is coming for me too and it scares me to death. But time marches on and I’d best just appreciate them while I can.

Suki
Suki
11 years ago

You are such an incredible writer, this is truly beautiful! And I don’t even have kids, but man, this one got to me.

Jenny
Jenny
11 years ago

What a beautiful post that exactly captures how so many of us feel. Thanks for the lovely words.

Smitty
Smitty
11 years ago

You just quite literally took my breath away. So beautifully put…and maybe the first time I’ve ever really second-guessed my decision to work full-time rather than home with my two boys (3 1/2 and 1 1/2). I just hope I can keep this in mind during the insanity of the hours between 5 and 7 every night. Stop, slow down, breathe, take it all in. Cherish it.

Emily
Emily
11 years ago

Was it that stupid Ann Lamott book? Because I quit that shit half into it. Didn’t even bother to skip to the end to see what happened.

My youngest is just now out of carrying-in-the-arms age. I so looked forward to the day where I wouldn’t be sweatily schlepping a kid around Target, but the flip side to that is no one to hold. And I kinda miss the pee and pajamas smell too.

You are a beautiful and vivid writer, Linda.

Joanne
11 years ago

It’s true – I can’t even cherish every other moment. There are a lot of moments when you are home all day and a lot of them can suck! But I do try and let it occur to me, when I am holding them, that they won’t be this age forever, that they won’t want to be up my ass all day at some point.

meeeee
meeeee
11 years ago

You must be reading Anne Lamott’s newest book. It’s sad too, because ‘Rosie’ was my favorite book for many years but I hate what she did with the characters in the later books.

nichole
11 years ago

Jiminy, lady. That’s some good and true writing.

haitian american family of three

I second the Anne Lamont books comment-I was sad and scared for the daughter and so annoyed with the mom! Why did she not ask more questions? Demand answers?!
Today at my kiddos preschool, looking around at all the little 3-4 year old’s dancing and singing I almost started to cry. Its such short and beautiful time in their and our lives.

Christy
Christy
11 years ago

Love this, so true! “that oddly comforting smell of pee and pajamas” Hee

Rachel
11 years ago

I know exactly which book you’re talking about. The whole thing felt like an after-school special or a Very Special Episode of a sitcom, except it was aimed at moms. By tne end I was picturing the daughter as Jessie Spano from that one Saturday-morning TV show whose name I can’t remember offhand.

I just watched my 6’1″ 14-year-old son walk through the room and all I can say is oh God hug them tight while you can.

Redbecca
Redbecca
11 years ago

Oh, so lovely. I wish we could make this precious time last a bit longer or be able to savor it full time. I keep having “if only” moments, partly because the job is major suckage right now. Sigh.

I’m with Christy on that smell of pee and pajamas. Nothing quite like it! ha ha

Rachel
11 years ago

This post and the comments remind me of my favorite Zits comic strip EVER, from back in 2005.

http://cst.rbma.com/content/Zits?date=20051218

jennifer
jennifer
11 years ago

it took me 20 minutes to read this because i had to keep flipping away because i. was. not. going. to. cry.

running out the door now to go pick up my 2 and 4 year old from daycare.

You are an amazing writer.

Super T
Super T
11 years ago

Before I was a parent, I always kind of thought that moms who fawned over their 9, 10, or even 13-year-old boys were weirdos. I totally understood the baby thing, but big boys aren’t especially cute and they don’t smell nice at all.

Except mine do.

Because I adore them so much that I still see them little, and I can hold that big, grubby hand with the long fingers and know it was the same hand I held when it looked like a dimpled starfish.

So, now I’m totally one of those weirdos. You will be too.

Thanks for a lovely post. Seems I’m either laughing out loud or wiping tears when I read your stuff.

ZestyJenny
11 years ago

“Curl around them with that oddly comforting smell of pee and pajamas…”

You are such an amazing writer. I loved every word of this, but that phrase? Perfect.

MRW
MRW
11 years ago

Rachel, I’ve had that Zits comic printed out and under the glass on my work desk for a couple of years because it SO perfectly captures what I feel about my nearly 8 year old son. I anticipate this feeling will only get more intense the older he becomes.

jamie
11 years ago

my god this is exactly how I feel. EXACTLY!

Erin
11 years ago

So beautifully written! Thank you for sharing this Linda.
I actually enjoyed the Anne Lamott book. Maybe it is because my previous career put me in touch with such teenagers and their parents so regularly, or perhaps because my brother had similar issues in high school, but I actually thought she captured the situation quite well- the push & pull between wanting to trust the children we know and love and yet needing to fight for their healthiest selves when they can’t do it for themselves.

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

When my two were little, I was so overwhelmed that I don’t remember feeling like that so much, but god, with my grandkids I do. The oldest is 15 and wants to take driving lessons. The youngest is 3 and wants to watch Dora. It’s all killing me. I want them little little again. My babies.
Pee and pajamas. Baby lotion. Candy. Milk breath. I miss all that so much.

Carrie
Carrie
11 years ago

What’s the name of the book ??

AmyinMotown
11 years ago

So, so good. Really good. I am very aware of this right now as my 2 and a half year old is on a tear developmentally and almost six year old is getting taller and lankier and more beautiful by the day. I really wish life had a pause and a rewind button.

Eric's Mommy
11 years ago

That was beautiful. Time goes by so fast, my boy is 8 and almost as big as I am. It seems like just the other day he was a baby. He is a little man, a small version of his Dad.

Emily
Emily
11 years ago

Beautifully written.

Ali
Ali
11 years ago

This is why i blog. So I never forget these moments. Love this post.

Jen
Jen
11 years ago

Now I’m sitting in my office crying over my tea! Beautiful and so very true.

Cheryl S.
Cheryl S.
11 years ago

“Before they grow up and away and maybe I, too, am a helpless mother tearing out her hair and hoping to God that everything works out in the end.”

Perfect.

This is exactly how I feel about my little girl. She’s maddening in her desperate want right now. All of my time is not enough. BUT. I try (like you) to remember that I will miss this. There is a great big part of my that wants her to stay this little forever (she’s 5.

Kami
Kami
11 years ago

This hits home. I have a 20, 17, and 5 year old. I just looked at some pictures we had taken the other night and realized my son is a man (at 17). Standing next to my brother who happens to be 6’1 he was a little taller than him. Yes it has went way to quickly– but the “mama pride” I have when I look at him. For some reason I think I’ve noticed it with him more so than my daughters maybe because boys change so much. Great post!

nova
11 years ago

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. You said it perfectly.

Gaby
Gaby
11 years ago

And this is why it breaks my heart every day to have to leave my 4 1/2 month old at daycare. It’s going too fast already, and I hate missing nine hours a day of his life.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

As I help fill out college applications for my oldest I can’t help but wipe the tears from my eyes and wonder where the little boy with the wire rim glasses, mushroom hair cut and lizard backpack went. He is a young man now, but your post brought me straight back to when both my sons were Riley and Dylan’s age. How is was precious and maddening all rolled into one. Now they are young men and it is still precious and maddening all rolled into one. I have enjoyed the entire journey and I know there is more to come.

Erin
11 years ago

i am bawling my eyes out b/c i struggle with this exact same “love me/leave me alone” dilemma daily. not enough reserve energy to play the day away with them (2 & 4). too much perspective not to mourn that it’s almost over. i’ll be that weirdo mom grooming her linebacker son’s face in the middle of the field. and be proud as hell.

G
G
11 years ago

Thank you so much for this post. I have been a SAHM for over 3 years now and have not given myself time to really be away from the kiddos (3 1/2 yrs & 6 months). I’ve been feeling a little burned out. However, your post allowed me to remember why I chosed to stay home rather than work. Children grow up fast and I need to remember to enjoy my time with them.

rachel pomeroy
rachel pomeroy
11 years ago

beautiful post!!!

Tell me you’re not reading that new book by Anne Lamott? I felt the same way about it as you described here…. Love her, but she scares the shit out of me, and I’m pregnant what I think is a girl. Uh – oh.

Samantha
11 years ago

Linda, Please don’t ever stop blogging. Even though I have never met you IRL I have been reading your blog for the past 5 years and I can’t wait to read your post the day you blog about Riley getting married and Dylan graduating college.
Amazing post as always!

Belle
11 years ago

No more baby butt dimples is one of the saddest days imaginable.

Julia
Julia
11 years ago

my boys are 24 and turned 18 today. the 18 year old is giving me a run for my money after an extremely easy 17 years. I miss the cuddles, the baby talk, the unconditional love. luckily I know from the experiences with the 24 year old, that they come back to us as enjoyable adults. I still miss those little boys so much though.

Kristy
11 years ago

My son turns 18 on Monday and….I would kill for a do-over…not for a different outcome but to go through raising him again…it was a priviledge and a joy.