I used to be the mom who planned her days and nights around nursing schedules and nap-times, who stockpiled diapers and hid pacifiers in all corners of the house. I used to be the mom who put a crying baby in the car and drove endlessly around the neighborhood, trying to induce sleep and quiet. I used to be the mom who made all her own baby food on Sunday afternoons while nap-time settled like a blanket of peace on the house.
Now I’m the mom worried about a new driver, the mom planning my weekend around play practices, basketball games, and sleepovers, the mom who lives in her van. I’m the mom who stockpiles her cabinets with grab-on-the-go lunches and food for the teenager that has decided to “go vegan.”
I used to be the mom who planned crafts for our snow days, read endless parenting books on tantrums and teething, who watched endless “shows” in our living room as kids came out from behind our family room curtains to show us their moves while dressed as princesses and pirates and ballerinas and knights. I was the mom who tried to relish it all as I also tried to make it that last hour until bedtime.
Now I’m the mom having the hard talks about boys and Snapchat. I’m the mom that monitors screen time and homework and whose turn it is to sit in the front seat. I’m the mom who watches my kids out in the world, working at actual jobs and acting in plays on real stages, trying to take in every second as I wonder why these tall people seem to be able to stay up later and later every night.
I used to be the mom they ran to hug the moment I walked in the door. The mom they would run through the yard and wave at as I drove away from the house, even if I was leaving for only 15 minutes. I used to be the mom who could comfort any hurt and soothe any problem. I was the mom who was their best friend, their ultimate playmate, the one they would choose over any other, and who they couldn’t get close enough to.
Now I’m the mom who reminds them to stop for a hug before they leave and who embarrasses them in front of their friends. The one who drives them to the mall, but only to drop them off, and whose opinion might make their eyes roll as they chose the exact opposite of whatever it is I’ve just suggested. The one who still tries to comfort all the hurts, even those that are impossible for me to fix. I’m the mom who is their best friend only when there is no one else around to see.
I used to be the mom who marveled over these small creatures, with their pudgy hands and wispy curls, who both longed for and dreaded their first steps and adored how they pronounced gum as “jum.” Just the other day, I was the mom cleaning marker off of the walls and managing four kids under six with the stomach flu, thinking that they’d always need me to take this intense and exhausting level of care of them.
Now I’m the mom thinking, “When on Earth did these people become as tall as me?” I’m the mom who can’t find her favorite boots in the morning because they’re on my daughter’s feet. I’m the mom thinking about college tuition and kids being left out by friends, and who is trying to figure out how to gently guide these independent people who still need me but in a whole different way.
I used to be the mom who packed a giant diaper bag and would head off to playgroup where babies filled the floor as we fretted over how much they would eat or if they would ever stop needing to be rocked to sleep. I used to measure the road to bedtime in ounces consumed, books read, and miles walked holding a squirming, swaddled baby. I was convinced I would never sleep again.
Now I’m the mom who can’t always share my kids’ problems with my friends because teenagers need privacy. I’m the mom who drives kids to dances with dates, who buys lipstick at Target that isn’t for me, and can just glimpse the future of graduations and college dorm move-ins and (oh be still my heart) weddings. I’m the mom who knows it’s not just hungry babies that keep you up at night, who knows I’ll never sleep soundly again because pieces of my heart are not only out in the world but are now just out of my reach.
When I was the other mom, the one still at the beginning of this unwritten story, the stream of babies and littles and time seemed endless. The cuddles and songs and dance parties and episodes of Dora the Explorer and fights over the blue cereal bowl and the footie pajamas all seemed like they would last forever.
Because, you see, I used to be the mom who thought that I had all the time in the world. I used to half-listen when they said, “Enjoy it, it all goes so fast” and I would rub my face into the downy hair on my baby’s head and think, “Not for me, it will be different for me.” The lives of these precious people stretched out before me endlessly.
I’m now the mom that knows they were right.
It’s happened: now I’m that mom. The one worrying about the future while the past feels both like it has flashed by and weirdly like it’s still within my reach if I squint as I look back over my shoulder. Now I’m that mom who knows that our family years are coming to a close, no matter how I try and hold on, and I’ve learned enjoying it doesn’t slow time down one bit.
It isn’t any different for me, it’s just as it was for those that have gone before me. I now am the one looking wistfully at people with new babies, saying, “Hold on, enjoy it, it will all go so fast,” as if those words can save them. As if they won’t blink and find that they have turned into me.
But there is a secret I want to tell those new moms.
I want to say to not be afraid, even as these babies grow tall and beautiful and independent, you will be the same mom. You’ll still be the mom that walks into their bedrooms while they sleep to check their breathing and fix their covers, even when their legs grow so long that their feet almost hang off the bed. You’ll still be the mom that worries about what they eat and tries to bundle them up as they head outside. You will still be the mom that delights in each and every new experience, even if these take them farther and farther away from you. You will watch them go with the same feeling of pride tinged with sorrow you felt when they took those first steps from your arms.
It will be okay. You will love being this mom too.
Even as the little-people years pass away, you will still be the mom that loves them with all of your soul, because you have no choice but to love every step of this journey. You will resist the urge to be constantly looking back, and you will find what you love about being this mom. Your teenage babies will take your breath away in whole new ways as they tackle the world without you. You will be the mom that lets them go, bravely, with your face pointed toward the future, standing a bit behind them just in case they need you. And they will need you.
You are always and forever their mom. Nothing, not even time, can change that.