An elegy to what was and a love letter to what is.

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I have never been particularly maternal, I never babysat, and I never daydreamed of the day I would have my own children. I was as surprised as anyone, then, when I realized that motherhood was the love affair of my life, the subject that found me, the role that made everything else in my life make (at least some) sense.  After Grace and I made it through months of colic (hers but also, I’m pretty sure, mine) and a dark year, we entered a period that I think of now as what Laura Ingalls Wilder called the happy golden years.

But lately, I am in a new season of motherhood.  At first there were isolated events, rolled eyes and crossed arms, flares of aggravation I did not understand.   These moments, each on their own as small as a speck of light in a wide night sky, came together into a constellation that was eventually impossible to ignore.  Something is changing.  Something is different.

For a long time I worried that my days with Grace at home would never end.  I waded through her dark and sleepless first months for what felt like an eternity.  Then, truthfully, I rejoiced that that time had ended.  We dove into the happy hours of early childhood, celebrating all the things we could do together – swimming, tennis, reading, adventures. Grace (and her brother) was my favorite companion and I was hers.  And now, suddenly, the end of something is undeniably in sight.  It reminds me our annual summer trip to the White Mountains: we hike for what seems like forever in the trees and are always startled when, all at once, the summit comes into view.

Grace’s years at home with me are well over halfway done.  The time of me being her favorite person, of my company always being her first choice, are surely almost completely over.  I am so keenly aware of how numbered these days are that I can barely think of anything else.  It is not an exaggeration to say that my every experience is filtered through the prism of time’s passage.

I have said goodbye to sippy cups and diapers and sleep schedules and baby food and cribs and high chairs and even, mostly, to carseats.  I have welcomed yoga pants that I sometimes mistake for my own when I’m folding laundry, a riot of peace sign patterned sheets and towels, a closed bedroom door, and handwritten postcards home from sleep-away camp.

I don’t worry about SIDS anymore, or about whether I’m producing enough milk, or about putting a baby to bed slightly awake so she doesn’t get used to falling asleep in my arms.  Instead I worry about Facebook, and friends who have cell phones, and when it’s ok to get her ears pierced, and the insidious approach of eating disorders and body image issues.

The predominant emotion of this time, as Grace embarks upon the vital transition from child to young adult and to an autonomous and independent sense of self, is wonder.  Wonder upon wonder, so many layers I have lost count: there is awe, fear, and astonishment, and also an endless list of questions.  I gaze at my daughter, coltishly tall, lean, all angles and long planes, and wonder where the last 10 years went.  It is not hard to close my eyes and imagine that she is still the rotund baby or chubby toddler that she was just moments ago.  At the same time I can see the young woman she is rapidly becoming in her mahogany eyes.  And there are so many things I wonder about: separation, mood swings, puberty, boys, technology, school pressures, body image, and more.

I’m reminded now and then of the fears and concerns that flummoxed me when Grace was an infant.  The world shifted more then, when I brought home a crying newborn, but this transition feels second only to that.  Then as now, I’m guided by only two things: love and instinct.

Overnight we’ve gone from a world where a never-ending ribbon of days unfurled in front of us, so many they overwhelmed me, to one where every moment feels finite, numbered, and, as a result, almost unbearably precious.  It feels like as soon as I figured out how to truly love being a mother with children at home, it’s almost over.  More and more, I feel the tension between holding on and letting go.  I want to help Grace find her footing in the uncertain terrain of adolescence, but I never expected it to be so bittersweet.

And all I know what to do as we move into this new season is to pay attention, to look and listen and write it down.  Everything I write, everything I live, an elegy to what was and a love letter to what is.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.


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15 Comments

  1. Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    I just took a deep breath. Lovely. I am a little jealous, I must say – my Emma turned to me on the first day of PRE-SCHOOL and said, “You don’t need to walk me in, Mom.” MOM! I wasn’t even Mommy anymore! But, it’s funny – she circles back. Sometimes I think as they age they need us more than ever, it just has to be on their terms. So we just have to sit back and let them take the lead. And try not to stalk them, haha. And I bet you are still her favorite companion….just not all the time;) I loved this, thank you.

    admin Reply:

    I so agree with you … they need us more than ever, in part to push against, right? A safe place to try out the independence. Sigh!! xo

  2. Posted February 10, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    How you have written the silent words of my heart.
    My oldest son turns 12 in a week, my middle son 11 two days later. One will get his first phone and I feel like I am handing him a ticket to a new life apart from me. I console myself that teenagering is as old as the stars and not so permanent that I cannot handle it. He is still my little boy from time to time, holding my hand discreetly and telling me all his secrets. I am just very very awake, soaking in each tender moment to balm the sting of the sharp words, the rolled eyes and the occasional gulf of separation between us. Thanks for reminding me I am not alone.

    admin Reply:

    DEFINITELY not alone. Oh, I’m right there with you. The push-pull and future and past that exist in every single minute. xox

  3. Posted February 10, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    As is so often true, your words capture my experience so precisely I can barely tolerate it. My daughter is nearly 16. (My son, too.) Infancy was a crucible, but these last few years? Well, I don’t have the metaphor for them yet. They have tested/transformed me and taught me about love in ways so much deeper that I have not begun to articulate it. Sometimes, every day feels like a small death. I suppose because, in some ways, every day is. Each is also, simultaneously, rebirth. Yes, wonder. Almost too much to bear.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, your words about the next few years make me feel afraid, I’ll be honest, but also hopeful, because of the learning you describe. But definitely afraid too. xox

  4. Posted February 10, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I have the same grasping feeling–this continual grasping for something that can’t be caught, like air that slips through my fingers. Several times each day, I make an effort to be in the moment, to savor these times at home. And yet the days still rush by in the same fast pace. Bittersweet, exactly.

    admin Reply:

    Exactly. I can’t hold onto it, even as I try. No matter what I do. xox

  5. Posted February 10, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    This is so beautifully written, Lindsey. Life is a long lesson in learning how to hold on and let go. But I can assure you of this: nothing is ever lost. In your heart, Grace and Whit will always be every age they’ve ever been. This is your treasure. And each day with them adds to your storehouse. xox

    admin Reply:

    Oh, thank you. Just reading this brings tears to my eyes. xoxo

  6. rachel
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It is heartbreaking at times! I just hope all my kids feel the love I have for them even through the tough times! It is so nice to know I am not alone!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, too – the companionship, even out here in the ether, means so much to me as I walk through these days that can feel so fraught. xox

  7. Posted February 10, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    So, so beautiful, as always. And if it’s any consolation… at 35, I still TOTALLY need my mom 🙂

    xox

    admin Reply:

    So do I!!! xoxo

  8. Posted February 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    as someone still in the throes of early motherhood, these words ring true. i totally agree that we’re guided by love and instinct … so true.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. I’m grateful to know that these sentiments resonate, and that I’m not alone. xox

  9. Posted February 10, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I meant to comment on this when I first read it on HuffPo a few weeks back, but I really loved this piece, Lindsey. As someone still very much in the throes of early motherhood, it’s always neat to see a “peek” down the road, and to help me appreciate more fully what is here right now.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. To hear that in some tiny way I’m helping you appreciate your right now is about the highest praise I can imagine. xox

  10. Posted February 10, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I loved this on HuffPo… and I so relate to not feeling maternal and being so glad that babyhood was over… I am really trying to just enjoy these years of ages 4 and 7… before tween drama begins. I so love reading your words. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, thank you. And I yours 🙂 xox

  11. Christine LaRocque
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I do not believe this for one moment:

    The time of me being her favorite person, of my company always being her first choice, are surely almost completely over.

    She may not always show it, but in heart she will always know it. You are everything to her. That will never change. I’m sure of it.

    admin Reply:

    You are so kind (and I am so teary). I hope you are right. I am imagining some rocky years ahead but hoping that we will return, as I did with my own mother. I think what I mean is that this time, which has been relatively simple and incredibly golden, is drawing to a close. xox

  12. Carrie
    Posted February 12, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to thank you and tell you that I am so happy to come across your writing. I often speak/write about how the one thing about motherhood that no one tells you is that is an ongoing grief process. As happy as you are to see your child thriving, growing and changing is as hard as it is to let go of the things that are no longer of use to them. I feel like a horrible person because with each tiny triumph comes a certain sadness for me.

    I am so looking forward to reading more of your posts. You are an amazing writer and mother.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so, so much – this is an incredibly generous thing to say and read. I really appreciate your commenting. xox

  13. Carrie
    Posted February 13, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Awww, my pleasure!

  14. Posted February 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this. You have completely nailed it.

  15. Jennifer Machin
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I feel like you put my thoughts into words. Just came across your blog on Huffington Post. I was drawn in by your post inspired by the Jim Carey post. I hung on every word agreeing with every bit. As I read through some of your archives I continued to feel the same way about many things you write about. You put, so beautifully, into words what I wish I could say. Thank you. (The PDD post brought tears to my eyes.)

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so, so much for such kind words. I really appreciate hearing that you can relate. xox

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