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An Emotion I Don't Know the Word For: on Time and Daughters Growing

When my kids were newborns, I cried a lot. I would look at them, their tiny toes and perfect skin, their unscarred-by-the-world innocent smiles, and cry. I loved the experience of mothering my babies, and I knew it would be fleeting, that the tininess and the gentleness would end. I wanted to hold on to them, to make them stay forever small, but at the same time I wanted to know them, to speak to them, to listen to the story of their day, to bake them their favorite cake.

1995 haley newborn with amy 4x6

I was so happy in those sweet, blissful moments, even with the diapers and the spit up and the exhaustion. The clean-baby smell, the long hours spent just rocking or holding a tiny human, singing Yaz songs to them quietly in my awful voice. I loved them so much and I wanted to protect them and I knew I couldn’t, not fully, not completely, because they were here to grow up and become a part of the world, the world that would need them but also sometimes harm them. I knew they would have their hearts broken and be betrayed, that they would have illnesses and broken bones and all sorts of struggles. I knew that life, no matter how good, also holds difficulties. We can’t be human without them and yet I wanted to keep them away from every type of pain and damage.

My mom told me it was just hormones and I would stop crying eventually.

And sort of, I did. I learned that there is joy in all of the phases of parenting. It’s never the same as that first rush of newborn love, but that is just fine. There are a million different types of love you are blessed to feel as a mom.

But even as I loved each phase, I still, in the moment of it, was deeply aware that it wouldn’t last. This joy—the magic of her reading her first words out loud, his absolute bliss the first time he ran across the beach toward the ocean, the pride infusing his whole body as he managed to ride his bike without wobbling, his concentrated admiration of an orange flower as he struggled to balance in the green grass. At each good moment I still felt the tug, that same sorrow right in the middle of happiness.

I don’t know if there is a word for this feeling: The awareness, while in the middle of happiness, that the happiness itself is ephemeral, so that part of the happiness is always a deep sadness over its ending.

I don’t know if everyone feels that, even.

But it is a feeling I have had ever since they first put my daughter Haley into my arms.

20210228_125758 haley amy porch 4x6

Yesterday was Haley’s 26th birthday. We got an email from our health insurance company letting us know that a life event had happened to change our policy: she aged out.

And I confess: It made me cry. That same kind of crying that I did when she was a newborn, barely seven pounds, and I was terrified I would do everything wrong but I knew I loved her too much to ever make any mistakes and I would do whatever it took to protect her all her life.

All her life. Pediatrician visits and immunizations. Broken bones. Eye doctor and the dentist. The dermatologist for her plantar warts. Stitches. Physical therapy for her shin splints. All the way up to adult medical needs: I’ve taken care of that, taken care of her in those ways, for every day of her life.

And now she’s on her own.

The feeling is the same, but my understanding of it is different. When they were newborns, the feeling was about them being newborns. Now they are adults, the feeling is about them being newborns and toddlers and schoolkids and teenagers and who they are right now. The feeling is about knowing the feeling will never go away and that I wouldn't want it to.

Right in the midst of birthday happiness, of taking the day to think about all of the things she has accomplished and the good things that are happening in her life, I was reminded there is no holding on to any moment. Time just keeps passing. All we have is now, and now is infinitely precious because in a second it will be replaced by another now.



Oh wow so emotional, Im sure I don't have words of comfort. I missed all those early years, becoming a stepmum at 45, when the children were 9 and 7. I missed all that stuff, but I am there for them now, I feel everything, and when SD recently was being awful and thought I hated her, I had to tell her I would take my last breath for her, it shocked her, but not me, because it's the truth. I can't even begin to think about a time when they are so grown they don't "need" us. Xx

Aoife Brown

So touching. All the stages are so different and yet so wonderful..and challenging. The only constant is change I guess.


You are a beautiful writer.

Deb M

We have a vast ocean of emotion around our children, don't we.
Your description of feeling that happiness but knowing it will end makes me think of bittersweet.
Happy Birthday to your young lady and healing to your for your foot/ankle?


Happy birthday to your daughter. And happy belated birthday to you.
Time just keeps turning whether we are ready or not.



When my son turned one, I cried and cried, because I knew in 6 more months I would have to send him to church nursery, and not be able to cradle him in church much longer.

There's a line from Shadowlands that your feelings reminded me of. I'll look it up and share with you.


Tears flowing as I read this. I missed out on the sweet baby feelings because I had Post partum depression. My mother rocked and fed my baby while I cried and cried, not knowing why. I'm glad you enjoyed your babies and wanted to protect them. I love how you expressed it all in your wonderful words.

Cheryl Turtlemoon

What a beautiful post! It’s hard to adjust as they grow! I hope you both had good birthdays!

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