Trying Not to Freak Out Over My Baby Growing Up

Once, when our firstborn was an infant–just weeks old and snuggled into a forest green velour sleeper embellished with red and white Christmas decals–he was asleep in my brother-in-law’s arms. My brother-in-law, whose eldest children were teenagers at the time, stared into my tiny child’s face and said, “I can’t remember my son being this small.” I was horrified.

After 32 weeks of a tumultuous pregnancy involving two extended hospital stays, weeks of bed rest and near constant fetal monitoring until the forces of maternal nature could no longer be blunted, there was a disquieting birth. And my tiny child was whisked away to the neo-natal intensive care unit where he stayed until his little baby body got into the habit of regular breathing.

IMG_2511I cherished every second spent holding my newborn child, my gift and blessing, so fragile yet resilient, my joy. I could not fathom how any parent could forget. So whenever our baby would wake in the night, I’d rock him in the dark and sing to him–old hymns or Stevie Nicks songs–anything I knew by heart. And I would close my eyes and resolve to commit each moment to memory. I never wanted to forget.

Yet, like the lyrics to After the Glitter Fades, only bits and pieces of my son’s infancy seem to remain a part of my brain’s permanent record. Like my brother-in-law, I gaze upon our now 15-year-old son and can hardly recall him once being so tiny.

I have made every effort to be the best mother I can be. I am not perfect. None of us are.

Older women would tell me how it all goes so fast. But when our kids were in diapers and didn’t always sleep through the night or allow me five seconds alone in the bathroom, I would wonder, “WHEN is it going to go faster?!”

DSC00428_0070And then, after years of wooden trains and Legos, superhero costumes and storybooks, I stepped through a time warp. Now I have to reach up to hug my son, who was once a 5 lb. completely dependent baby boy. I’ve tried so hard to hold on and not forget, that now I have no idea how to begin letting go.

DSCN1565Other mothers tell of how they cried on their child’s first day of kindergarten. I didn’t shed a single tear that day. I was relieved whenever our son showed signs of being able to navigate the world on his own. Milestone after milestone always brought a sigh of relief; we were doing something right. The kid was going to be okay. But wait…

He is now a freshman in high school and we (probably) only have four years left before he launches into the world for more than just a day. So I promised myself I’d speak affirmation to him every single day until he leaves for college. But then, he aggravated me, like all teenagers often do to their mothers. I don’t remember what he did, probably left wet laundry in the washing machine, something trivial but maddening, and I went all loose canon bitchy mom in need of wine or hormone injections. I’d blown my affirmation pledge after a single day. And unlike when he was tiny, I don’t have much time left to make everything right. It’s all going so damned fast!

And now, those tears I didn’t shed when he was a kindergartner come regularly. I cry whenever I consider the mistakes I may have made as a parent. And I well up as I struggle over how to best parent a man-boy who wants to travel across the country on a summer mission trip but can’t find his socks. Is he going to be okay? Am I going to be okay?

I remember being pregnant and frustrated that my pregnancy wasn’t going smoothly. I asked my doctor, “WHEN will I stop worrying and enjoy this?”

She told me the awful truth, that I would never stop worrying but that there also would be joy. Admittedly, I worry less. I’ve gone from checking on an infant every five minutes to make sure he’s breathing to trying to envision a future with grown children. I remind myself to breathe. There is definitely joy. So much joy. And yet, I haven’t been this emotional since giving birth. Just like no one can describe the crazy mix of emotions involved in becoming a new parent, no one could have prepared me for what I’m feeling at this stage of life. It once seemed so far off, and now here I am with growing boys ever closer to being grown up. I hope to remember most of it.

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12 thoughts on “Trying Not to Freak Out Over My Baby Growing Up

    • Thank you for reading Amber. I know you get it, how a mother’s heart swells with an overwhelming love for her children. I probably miss the footed fleece pajamas the most. 😉

  1. Wendy says:

    Awww….Angela. You are so blessed. Try to enjoy the journey. We all want our kids to remain “Just like this forever.” But then the next awesome, rewarding, and fun stage is upon us. You definitely are moving into the some of the most stressful years of raising kids and I totally understand the longing to have them little again. But, the foundations that has been laid up to now will carry them, and you, through the rough spots. Soon your quest to raise people who can go out into the world, thrive, and take care of themselves and others around them with faith, love, and understanding will come to fruition.

    And….that too, will bring tears to your eyes as it now does with me regarding my own offspring!…And I’m a tough old bird!!

    Remember there are people close to you who enjoy watching your family’s journey and know how special, yet tough, it is. So you know where to find me…I make good cocktails…and there is always a bottle of wine open!

    BTW…leaving wet clothes in the washer also means that he actually washed them!
    I love those boys of yours!!

    • That’s right! I actually DID teach my children to do their own laundry. So maybe, there’s a chance I’ve done other things right too. 🙂
      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and excellent cocktails. You’re one of the best!

  2. Angela. I’m sitting at the office. Crying. I’ve been feeling this same thing coming on over the past year. My little girl, maturing in all sorts of ways. It’s good. But, oh man, slow this life train down. This letting go is dang hard. {hugs}

    • Oh my sweet friend. I sniveled ridiculously while writing this post. A recent story in The Atlantic about the biology of mid-life crisis includes a line I’ve been clinging to lately as I struggle through the “difficult yet natural transition to a new equilibrium.” Sigh… [hugs back]
      Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing. ❤

  3. Donna Trump says:

    Oh, Angela, how I loved reading this (on blog-lovin’, no less!) I’m sorry if when I’ve said to you “It all goes so fast” I did not also mention how I promised myself (on about the 1-millionth occasion of pitching for a kids’ driveway baseball game) that I would NEVER forget how boring it could be. What’s funny is that as long as I’ve known you you’ve embraced the role of the less-hovering Mom. Little did I know what that meant with your 1st-born arriving at 32 weeks.
    Here’s my diagnosis, friend: You’re finally allowing yourself to believe he’s going to make it. And now that you believe it, you know he’s on his way.
    Here’s my advice: Keep losing it when he forgets to finish his laundry. Make him make his bed, every day. Be a pain in the ass when it comes to the things he really needs to know, and be. Hold him accountable. He will find ways to make it look like he doesn’t care, or worse, resents what you say. No boy at 15 or 16 wants to look like he needs his Mom! But he WILL be listening. And watching–you, your life, how you live it. When my kids were teens I never felt so entirely examined, and believe me, judged. But they were just trying to figure out the world, and they were looking to me (and their dad) for a place to start. One thing I think can be really quite useful is to (try, anyway) to show them what a good marriage looks like, what an independent, self-respecting woman looks like. I have no doubt he’s taking that in.
    Most of all, have mercy. Your boy’s got a big job ahead of him–too big, really. But he can’t admit that, not now, and certainly not to you.
    The best affirmations, I think, are not that a kid is great, or rotten, but that you’re in their corner. Always.
    Looks like I had a lot to say, but you know it all already.

  4. Pingback: I’m A Conscientious Objector in the Mommy Wars | Words by Angela

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