18

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.

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Julie
9 months ago

Excellently captured. That’s exactly it.

mrsobnz
mrsobnz
9 months ago

Ooof, that got me good… So beautifully written, you have such a way with words. The nesting doll analogy is perfect. My kids have just turned 7, and 4, and the future them as teenagers seems so far away but at the same time, not far enough. Happy 18th Riley! I remember suspicious baby well!

Angella
Angella
9 months ago

Way to make me cry, dammit. You said exactly what so many of us are feeling.

Beth
Beth
9 months ago

This made me cry. Beautifully written, just as it has been for the last 18 years.

Donna Brubach
Donna Brubach
9 months ago

I didn’t know you were still writing here and now I have years to go back and read!
18. I can’t believe it. He was so suspicious looking….at everything and now look at him. He’s a giant, and when did all this happen?
And then I think about my kids. Dude they’re 45 and 43! They have kids older than Riley but it was just yesterday!
Time is a funny thing.

Lee
Lee
9 months ago

We’ve loved being here these 18 years ❤️
Such touching words. I’m so thankful for the way you capture parenthood.

Amanda Westmont
9 months ago

He’s a man now, dawg. It’s completely fucked up just as much as it glorious. Mine will be 20 in a month and I have no idea how that happened. His baby sister is only 3.5 and getting to raise her through these hard-earned, weathered lenses is a whole new perspective. I call it the grandparent upgrade.

I’ve loved reading about your children growing up. Thank you for always sharing so honestly about them.

Laura
Laura
9 months ago

The sweetest part of parenting for me has been raising kids that I love to hang out with. Every hard part of the toddler and teen years have made these days totally 100 percent worth it!

Meghan
Meghan
9 months ago

Love this! Nobody ever talks about how awesome it is to have adult children! Everybody is always crying about wanting them to stay little, but there is so much to learn and love about your kids in their teens/early adulthood, after the drudgery of childcare has fallen away and they are really coming into themselves. There’s nothing like knowing your kids hang around not because they need you, but because they want to. Happy birthday, young man!

Annie
Annie
9 months ago

Well written as always. I wonder if he really liked onions the entire time….. Happy Birthday to suspicious baby!

mcw
mcw
9 months ago

Congrats on raising a fine kid to AGE 18! Parents should get an award for these milestones. It’s a delight to hang out with my tween and teen, even if bittersweet to look back on the chubby cheeked, younger years.

sara
sara
9 months ago

ONCE AGAIN, BREAKING MY HEART!