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Riley’s birthday is right around the corner: his eighteenth birthday. Eighteen! Once upon a time there was a small suspicious-eyed baby and now there is a tall handsome easy-to-smile young man. It all went by so fast, just like they said.

Well, it did and it didn’t. You know how it is, how a long time ago and just yesterday often feel like the same damn thing, especially when you’re considering your own child. A mother’s eye always sees the younger versions within, don’t you think? Like nesting dolls, progressively tinier with a pink-and-teal blanket-burrito baby at the Tootsie-Pop center. (Or maybe this is just how I try to look at it, to bear the sadness of never seeing or holding those little Rileys again.)

I can remember the feeling of sitting in his nursery before he was born. The mobile on, with its wistful tinkling music and aquatic-themed lights over the waiting crib, me in the glider. Rocking gently back and forth in that little yellow room and wondering, wondering, wondering.

I suppose we tried to imagine what life would be like when our child was 18. It was such a far-off destination! As he toddled around, we would say, ‘He’ll be going off to college someday,’ but we said it with the same slightly disbelieving tone one might use to say, ‘Humans will be on Mars someday!'”

Now the practical has caught up with the theoretical, or maybe it’s the other way around, and it seems to me that eighteen isn’t anything I could have expected. All those years of loving basketball, but here he is a bona-fide track star now, excelling in the javelin and the triple jump. A lengthy preteen stage of denying most personal responsibility, transformed into a young man who gracefully accepts fault (well, most of the time) and holds himself to strict standards when it comes to his academics and training. Mr. Absolutely NO Onions, Are You Even Fucking Kidding Me with That Disgusting Bullshit now loves onions on nearly everything.

Our tiny backpack baby, now six feet tall and strong inside and out. Working out, working his first job this summer, working on his future plans. Wings unfurling before my eyes. In a way I wish I could go back in time and give myself the tiniest glimpse — look at him now, mama! — but mostly I see that this is all how it’s supposed to be. The way it feels like he has one foot out the door even as he hugs us goodnight: it was all about getting to here.

I love this giant eighteen-year-old Riley so very much. He makes me laugh all the time, he’s genuinely kind-hearted, he inherited every bit of my snark and then some. Like every age before, I wish I could sugar and preserve this time — but it will fly by. Soon it will be so far in the rearview I’ll be having a hard time trying to remember it.

What can we do as parents but catch hold of the moments when we can, and try like hell to hang on. Here’s to Riley, to parenthood, to the overwhelming holy shit wow! of eighteen, and to the (hopefully, hopefully) many more shared chapters yet to be written.

I have always disliked my belly, except during pregnancies.

I was just going to type the first part of that sentence because it felt true enough but then I remembered the way I felt when I was pregnant, like this part of my body that had always been the ultimate big boss enemy was suddenly my closest most beloved friend. I couldn’t stop touching it, I wore clothes that accentuated it, I loved my big bountiful belly right up until the babies were scooped out. (After that: DeflateGate, physically and mentally.)

Two c-sections and eighteen years later, I do NOT love this belly of mine. I’ve got that Apple Body Shape (boots with the fur) to start with, I’ve put about 20 pounds in the last few years, add in the body fat redistribution that’s going on with my aging/menopause progression and my midsection has really expanded its services, assuming “services” include “erupting Mount Vesuvius-style out of any and all fitted waistbands.”

It’s just so SQUISHY. It’s so…floppy! There’s a whole area that is right above my surgery scars that’s like a fleshy fanny pack that FOLDS OVER. I believe the term for this is “apron belly,” which sounds almost kind of nice, like it might be cute and flowery and come with deep useful pockets but NO.

(Also, the rearview! What’s even going on with my back, it honestly looks like someone superglued a whole dog team of Sharpeis on top of a melted pillar candle back there. It’s so STERN looking somehow?! My front says please and thank you and tips at least 18%, my back wants to see the manager right goddamned now.)

Sometimes I am able to big-picture my way out of spiraling over my midsection, sometimes I seem to exist in a state of feeling actively bad about it nearly every minute of the day, and sometimes I don’t care at all.

These varying mindsets likely have a lot to do with how I’m feeling about myself overall and what sort of problematic clothing I might be actively wrestling with, but it does sort of feel like a familiar rollercoaster ride: Here we go into the long coast of “meh,” but now upside-down into the Loops of Despair!! And then straight into the gravity-defying Viewpoint of Wisdom — my gosh just look at how small those other concerns look now — but wait here comes a hard turn RIGHT BACK INTO THE LOOPS!!!

Anyway. This is an area where I am not feeling graceful about aging. It’s a lot like how I feel about my under-chin area and rapidly-dissolving jawline: like, yes I have gratitude for the gift of being alive to complain about it, but also: I’m gonna complain about it.