When Your Child Turns 5 – The Final Goodbye to Having a Little One

Not daycare, not pre-school, not your first, second, third, or fourth birthday. Not even the first day back from maternity leave. None of those days stirred the type of emotional storm that hit me like a ton of bricks this week.  The catalyst brewing this storm of emotion is the birthday that awaits you in just a few short days- your fifth birthday.

The young age of 5 means so much more than it sounds. It reduces me to a weeping mess unable to gain control of emotions because it is having to accept a plethora of things.

It is having to acknowledge that you are changing every day so much right now. It is the realization that certain everyday things are coming to an end.  Like when I tried to lift you and place you into the shopping cart a few days ago and could barely get you off the ground. It’s the not being able to carry your sleeping body out of the car and lie you down in your bed. It’s having to respect the “I don’t want kisses” mantra (really, already?). It’s the end of being Mommy to you and now I’m just plain old “Mom”. It’s the knowing that this is likely the last time we can bring cupcakes and read a book to your class for your birthday. This means I will need to memorize the glee on your face when it’s taking place because I know you’ll be bursting at the seams with excitement. And honestly, I don’t know what’s worse-knowing this could be our last birthday visit to your classroom or that you want your dad to bring the cupcakes and read the book to the class on your birthday instead of me.

You will start Kindergarten in 8 short months. You are our last baby and we’re trying with every ounce to hold onto that before your “little” years are gone. Having gone through this once already with your older brother we know that it is definitely the age of many changes.  Shifts in normal day to day interactions start to take place and before we know it, you won’t be considered little kid status anymore.

For the last year, your dad has a running joke that you don’t get to have anymore birthdays. This is of course because he is also sad that you are growing up. He knows what turning five and starting kindergarten means.

When your brother turned five, it was also a very emotional time. The week he started kindergarten, I cried like a baby (this is what becoming a mom did to me, I used to have difficulty crying, and now I cry rivers). I just had this strong sense that things were going to change once he went to elementary school.  I remember calming myself with the thought that I had one more baby to go through all these stages again with.

But now you’re about to be five.

Being the second child means having to share the attention. This has made you an incredible sharer, extremely patient, smart, and unbelievably observant. It also means you get annoyed by us a lot because we’re always trying to pinch your cheeks, hug you, kiss you, cuddle you, etc.

But being the last child we’ll ever have means I’m of course questioning everything I did with you.  I know we gave our undivided attention to your brother since he was the only one for 3 and a half years.  So did I express that I love you enough during your infant and toddler years? Did I hug and kiss you enough? Did I chase and tickle you enough? Did I pay close enough attention to you when you most needed it? Because if I didn’t, it’s a bit late and the agony of not knowing if I did enough is really weighing on my mind. In fact, the more I think about it, the more of an insane person I become. I hope with all of my being that you felt the love my boy.

The other night, while I was lying in your bed reading to you, you were unusually tired and asked me to turn out the light. I stared at your face and in my head asked myself why the heck I often stare at the ceiling instead of your precious face during this nighttime ritual. As I started to drift off next to you, I felt your tiny hand land on my cheek. You patted my cheek and left your soft baby palm there, then you slipped your other hand into mine and fell asleep that way. This was a rare and gorgeous moment. It’s not often that we hold hands at bedtime and the last time I got a face pat as you were drifting off was when you were 3.

It felt as though you knew I was filled with worry. I searched your sleeping face.  Silently through this beautiful gesture, I felt some reassurance and some serious love.  And I felt really sad. Like really, really, really sad. I know I’m done having babies, but frankly, I wasn’t prepared for how hard the realization was going to be. There are emotions that just come out of nowhere.

In your mind, you’ve already graduated to I-can-do-and get-whatever-I-want-when-I-am-five; which you legit said the other day. Life moves onward and we should not stunt its growth no matter how hard it pulls on our hearts-obviously. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why humans have a memory. To frame in our minds moments that are most precious to us. Moments like the one last night; your small hand on my cheek and your other laced into mine. Hands that once fit only inside my palm.

Your life and future are going to be so much fun to watch and be a part of.  So while one part of us sadly says goodbye to your little self, the other part of us embraces the awesome big kid you’ll be. You can expect to see a mix of strange face expressions from your parents that include smiles of enthusiastic encouragement on our mouths, yet tears of nostalgia in our eyes.

Happy birthday, my last baby.


Second Chances- 2017 A Year in Review

Driving back from Bradley Airport in Connecticut was usually uneventful. This time I had dropped my sister off to catch her flight back to Chicago after her Christmas visit. My youngest son, then 3, was sitting in his car seat in the back. It was a cold, snowy, day and the roads were wet. I clenched the steering wheel, white knuckled, since my tires were ridiculously bald. Buying new tires has always been a pet peeve of mine-it is such an unfun, expensive thing to spend money on. I had been warned by my mechanic, my husband, and members of my husband’s family, that my tires were in desperate need of being replaced.

I pulled off to grab a quick bite with my little guy and returned a call to one of my co-workers before getting back on the highway. About 5 miles or so from my exit, I completely lost control of the car. My tires hydroplaned on what I assume was black ice, and my car fishtailed for a split second.  From there, we went into a complete spin. I saw faces of oncoming drivers, squeezed my eyes shut, and braced for an impact I was sure would end both of our lives. I believe we spun one and a half times because of the way the car ended up positioned. We were heading sideways into the guardrail. When I realized that miraculously no one had hit us, I frantically pressed the brake and the accelerator. Unfortunately,  my car would only coast. It was in some kind of neutral function and nothing seemed to work with the exception of the steering wheel. The car was coming to a very dangerous slow speed with cars flying around us -honking and flashing their lights. A man in a pick up truck next to me rolled down his window with a look of total exasperation and shouted, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Are you OK? Oh my God! Pull Over! Pull Over! Oh my God!”

I felt paralyzed. I started screaming and talking to myself and everything looked and felt blurry. Not sure if things can feel blurry, but that is the best description that comes to mind. We had just escaped certain death by 20 cars hitting us from every direction. It seemed improbable good luck would strike twice, and I was convinced we would now die going 25 mph on the packed highway in the snow with bald tires while I was going into shock-incapable of maneuvering a car.

Somehow, the car began to pick up speed little by little again and came out of the self inflicted neutral mode. An exit was coming up and I had to cross 3 lanes of traffic to get there. It felt like running the gauntlet in slow motion to get across those lanes. I made it across and parked the car at the bottom of the ramp. I cried for what felt like a really long time. I got out of the car and went in the backseat and hugged my son and cried harder. He stared at me, confused by my tears and unfazed by the whole experience (he had been asleep).

I called my husband to come get us.  Needless to say, new tires were bought the next day. Unfun and expensive new tires, that I will never miss a beat on buying ever again.

Ringing in the New Year felt surreal last year following this experience. No matter how I dissected that incident, it just didn’t seem possible my son and I should have lived given the circumstances.

For about a week after it happened I just kept wondering if we were spared for a reason. Was there something else we needed to do here on earth before leaving it? My thoughts were heavy with what if’s, why’s, and how’s. But there was something else that wouldn’t leave me-the thought that I was going to have to make some significant changes in 2017.

Given this second chance, it seemed whole-heartedly stupid to allow or partake in anything that brought me down or sapped my happiness. If life is already too short, and you got a second chance at it, you sure as hell aren’t going to muddle through the sludge anymore.

I said to myself that no matter what:  I would find a way to leave my miserable job,practice being more present with my family, dance more, write more, call friends more instead of texting them,continue my efforts in training my brain via meditation (still much work to do on this one), stop putting so much energy into fickle people who put in one tenth of the effort, hike more with my kids, give myself a break and realize some things can simply wait until tomorrow.

Now that 2017 is almost behind me, I can look back and say it was a year of much personal growth. Quitting the job did actually happen (thank you dear husband), little to no toxic people are in any of my circles (yay because that means my picker hasn’t been off). The people around me-they are there because they want to be, not because I chase them down and put in all the effort.

2017 was a year of reflection. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, from our inspirations, and from our past, then we are doomed. We are the opposite of self aware. We are eternally stuck. Reflection is ongoing and fluid and each year should always be a year of reflection in my opinion.

It wasn’t a perfect year by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a year of change, reflection, and growth. It was a year that in its final months gave the priceless gift of more time with my children. It was the first year I started actively slowing down and asking myself what kind of self care I engaged in that week. It was the first year of noticing the difference between what’s truly important versus what insignificant BS floods the mind. It was the year my husband showed up like a superhero in a cape and helped me not when it counted, but too many times to count (I’ll always wonder if he has any sense of the magnitude of my gratitude…that weirdly rhymed). And last but certainly not least,  it was the year I really started to pay attention.

“Pay Attention To What You are Paying Attention To.” – Howard Rheingold


Hopefully all of you reading this drive safely this New Year’s Eve and New Year. Play a game quickly after reading this and ask yourselves if you were to cease to exist tomorrow, what have you been paying the most attention to? How would you be remembered? Do your friends and family know you love them? Are you doing right by yourself and taking care of yourself in the way you should? Are you putting your happiness on hold in hopes that good fortune will knock on your door one day and rain down upon you? Are you living or existing? Is the effort reciprocated in most, if not all of your friendships? After answering these questions, will you change your perspective going into 2018? Food for thought.

Happy New Year everyone!


Ownership Involves Things – Not People

Today’s article is brought to you by the word “Simmer”.

Enjoying looking through some quotes and anecdotes about children modeling the behavior they learn in the home, I came across one that set my pleasant mood on fire. It stuck out like a sore thumb, and did not belong alongside such positive tones. The title was something along the lines of Rules for Dating My Son.

Pausing, taking a deep breath, and re-reading the list of rules, I tried to turn down the flame of anger and let it simmer a moment. The musing was written by a mother who thought she was writing a warning to future female suitors and a powerful message of unification to all mothers of sons. The words she used made it feel as though she was speaking of her most prized possession. Something she owned and held close for no one else to enjoy or love, like that of a caged bird she fed and adored. It was a message to mothers of sons that no one can take your son away from you. That she will be watching his girlfriend or wife’s every move with a skeptic’s eye. It was a message to send fear into the woman that would come to love her son or perhaps that already does. That the love of his girlfriend or wife would never match his mother’s and she will always be his number one love. That he is hers and always will be.

I don’t feel this way as a mother. I don’t feel ownership over my children. I don’t feel they need to put me first in their lives, because, truth be told, they should focus on becoming the best versions of themselves so they can benefit society as a whole. It has nothing to do with me. They are allowed to love and love freely. I’ll never feel jealous of a girlfriend or a wife, a friend, or a partner of theirs. That would be silly. I’m their mother and of course I always will be until I’m no longer here. I birthed them, but they owe me nothing because they did not ask to be born. Their father and I chose to bring them into this world and it is our duty to raise them to be compassionate, loving, generous, confident, thoughtful, to make sound decisions, and to keep them safe. It is not their duty to make me number one their entire lives.

I know they love me, and that is more than enough.

When and if they marry someday, I will be crying tears of joy and nostalgia. Not tears of insecurity and jealousy. I will not wish harm upon their lovers. They are my children, not things I own or possess. I can only hope the woman who wrote that selfish and scary musing comes across this post to understand she has much work to do on herself and the many roles we each play in the game of life. She is not only a mother, she is a woman, a worker, a daughter, a friend, perhaps a wife, or a sister. My advice to mothers who feel this way would be to diversify and put energy into each of these roles instead of only defining yourself as the doting, overprotective mother.

If you truly love someone, set them free. This is an anecdote I can get behind.


via Daily Prompt: Simmer

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