When Your Baby Turns 24
Sometimes, as I'm sure all moms of grown children do, I just sit back and remember.
The memories crash over me like a wave, salty tears spilling through my lashes.
Their childhood has come and gone in the blink of an eye.
Mixed emotions overwhelm me.
Sadness that I can never go back to that time.
Happiness that my children have grown into strong, independent men I'm so tremendously proud of.
But still, I miss those days. The days when I was the most important person in their young lives.
When I was 'Mommy.'
Back to the days of being needed so completely.
Loved so sweetly.
Wanted above anyone else.
As the birthday of my youngest son -my baby- approaches, I find myself becoming more and more emotional.
A little flaxen-haired boy with a head full of curls and adorably bowed legs.
The blankie he called 'hee-hee', his tiny fingers rubbing the satiny edge along his face as he drifted to sleep.
Even back then, he was a jokester. His laughter and smile like no other, you couldn't help but laugh along with him. (Still true today!)
And back then, I swear he was attached to my leg. He was my little 'Mama's boy'. Only Mommy would do, and I had to be within eyesight at all times.
A three-year-old, determined to wear his favorite cowboy boots everywhere he went -and with any ensemble- sparking smiles from onlookers everywhere we went.
I can picture his sweet round face as I tucked him into bed at night, cuddled up with his favorite stuffed animal, Wolfie.
As is the way of children, he grew.
Five years old. Racing down the block on his favorite scooter, running around with his Power Ranger toys, catching bees in a jar with his best friend.
Ten years old. It was around this time he discovered the world of Harry Potter, and his life was never the same again. I remember the three of us snuggling in bed, reading the books aloud together. We did this with the series. (Yes, bonding over fiction!)
Next came gaming. Runescape. Magic Cards. Pokemon.
Sixteen. Driving lessons. The gym. High school. Fishing and kayaking.
Carpentry at the Career Center. School-to-Work program with Deka Battery (East Penn Manufacturing.)
And I blinked, and he was graduating.
Soon, we were dropping him off at college.
I blinked again, and he turned twenty-one.
And now, blink. Twenty-four.
It hits me all at once in one painful realization: my baby is grown. He doesn't need me anymore, at least not in the same way he once did.
Denial is strong.
How can my youngest, my baby, be nearing his mid-twenties? How did this happen?
Inside, I still have the mind of a twenty-something year old. Right?
As I sit here lost in memories, I know without a doubt that every parent with grown children has gone through similar bouts of missing their kid's 'Mommy' and 'Daddy' years.
So (though I've tried unsuccessfully self-soothing with all things chocolate) I've come to a conclusion.
Be present for every milestone, no matter how tiny. A lifetime passes by in blinks, so savor every second.
"To be in your children's memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today."-Barbara Johnson
I have to remind myself that this is true as much today as it was when my boys were small.
I am not finished making memories just because my children are grown. I've only just begun.
Life is about phases.
Things change whether we want them to or not. It's the way we handle the change that defines us.
It's okay to remember those long-ago times, and even feel nostalgic for those days.
But here's a reminder for all of us mothers (and fathers) of grown children. My 'two-cents' worth, so to speak.
My tiny epiphany.
I need to learn to live in the moment, and celebrate each of life's phases.
It's about continuing to be their 'Mom' long after you've stopped answering to 'Mommy.'
They still need me. Only in different ways than before. And I need them, too.
It's the mutual love and respect that we have for each other that makes me smile and keeps me going. Continuing to be important in each other's lives.
Yes, the parent-child relationship changes when your children grow up.
But the love -the very same love you shared when you were 'Mommy'- remains the same no matter what phase of life you enter.
The love remains the same.
And it will only get better from here.
***I want to give a shout-out to my son, Jeremy, (yes, you'll always be my baby!) as his birthday nears. I'm so very proud of the man you've become. Patient. Self-less. Generous. Always ready to lend a helping hand for anyone who needs it. And funny. You made me laugh then, and you make me laugh now. Thanks for allowing me the honor of being your Mom. Happy birthday, kiddo! Mommy--I mean Mom--loves you!***
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Kristen L. Jackson, Author of KEEPER OF THE WATCH
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