Family

I'm Already Missing Those Motherhood Moments

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My 12-year-old son looked sad. "I don't want him to go to college," he told me when I asked what was wrong. In less than two years, his older brother—his idol, his only sibling and his best friend—would be going to college. And he would suffer. It had happened to me back in elementary school, when my older sister left for college. "I know, I know," was all I could say to my son, and I offered a hug.

"But aren't you going to miss him?" he asked.

Before I knew what I was saying, I blurted, "I miss him already."

Long before my last child stopped believing in Santa, I already missed the milk and cookies on the coffee table on Christmas Eve. Months before he began commuting to high school by train, I started missing my older son's bobbing head amid the dozens of middle school kids walking toward the car pool line. Even today, years before it will happen, I miss the sound of my husband and two sons coming through the back door together after shoveling and snowblowing the driveway and walks.

Don't all mothers do this? Anticipate future departures, coming changes, the unavoidable wonderful and awful shifts in family life that pull us apart, bring us together, alter the family structure and routines we know and treasure?

My husband says I torture myself with my anticipatory losses, and I'd be much better off simply savoring the current moments. He's right. And maybe it's just the writer in me who can watch a family scene unfold and wonder, a bit sadly, how I might one day describe it when those moments, those scenes, exist only in memory.

Maybe I'm just preparing myself for what's ahead, or perhaps I'm just the yin to Frank's yang: he's spontaneous and silly and carefree and I'm the planner who worries and tries to see six steps ahead. Yet I don't feel as if I'm missing out on the now just because I find it so easy to spring ahead to then. If anything, I'm often glad that I know just how fleeting it all is, even while it's still unfolding. When It Comes To Parenting, Does One Size Fit All?

I was reminded of this recently when I was sorting through old letters (yes, the hand-written kind!). One was from a friend I met when we were both 14 and sharing chores at a tiny stable where we kept the horses we'd begged our fathers for. We both thought we'd ride together for years. Instead, the stable was sold within months, and we each moved on to different places, though we stayed in touch, even when she married and moved to the next state. Jean had two sons and so did I, but she was a few years ahead of me on the motherhood journey. In one of her letters, written when I had just had my second son, she wrote, about the early days of motherhood, "It goes by in an eye blink." An Empty Nest Forced Us To Be A Couple Again

I recall that when I first read that line—with a toddler and a newborn occupying my every moment, and the notion that the days were one long, tiring drag—I thought she was exaggerating, and that motherhood was the longest slog imaginable. Then I blinked.

I miss those interminable days that flew by, and I miss these days too, when my teenage and preteen sons fight over the remote, need rides everywhere (especially when I have a conference call scheduled) and complain about how much they wish the other would just go away.

I miss it all already.

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