There’s a cliche parents say so much that I literally can’t go a day without seeing someone write it on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog. It goes something like this:
“Joey starts kindergarten today! What happened to my baby? Tear!”
“You know who has big feet? My SEVEN YEAR OLD!!! This is going too fast!”
“I blinked and somehow my Bartholomew is in high school! Hold me!”
I am almost certain to be in the minority when I say this, but I rarely have those feelings about Annie. If anything, I love to see her reach milestones. Now I’m not saying parents who Tweet/Facebook/blog the above cliche don’t love to see their kids reach milestones too… I’m sure they do. And I also understand why they write it. It’s natural for parents to want to hold onto every moment of their children’s lives; to savor every single one as long as possible. But I’m a little different. What I love the most is to see Annie continuing to grow up… aging… advancing forward in time.
This will sound strange, but I often fantasize about being very old, perhaps on my death bed, with a middle aged Annie by my side. What I like about this fantasy is that Annie is still here. I’ve guided her safely into the future as far as I possibly could, and can pass away peacefully knowing that she is alive and well.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why I feel this way. Losing Maddie spooked me, and its made trying to raise another child incredibly frightening. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that at any moment the boom is going to be lowered on us again. This is why when parents say how sad they are that their kid is growing up I want to shake them and be like, “Don’t be sad they’re growing up fast! Just be glad they’re still here! Be glad you’ve still got them!”
But that’s not fair to those parents. Their feelings are totally normal. It’s mine that are weird. It’s not good to want to fast forward through life just so you can be sure you get your children to the end safely. But losing a child makes it hard to be any other way. Still, I need to work on enjoying the now no matter how uncertain the future may be.
Man, she really has grown up fast.
What a gorgeous little baby!
I’m totally one of those parents and until RIGHT NOW, I didn’t know there was ANY other way to think but as soon as I read part of your blog, I sadly got it. I wish I didn’t… I wish YOU didn’t but of course you feel that way. Lossing Maddie that day not only took away your little girl but, it also took away many things like even little simple cliche. It’s not fair – none of it is. I’m so very Sorry Mike!!!
Your feelings are not weird at all! Even if Maddie hadn’t passed away and you felt the way you feel, it’s just a different way of feeling about your child growing up. I understand the growing up too fast feeling from the perspective of being an aunt because I even sort of feel like a kick in the gut when each niece or nephew seems to change overnight and are just one step closer to being an adult. It’s jarring in a way. But I can’t wait to know them as adults! (hopefully we all make it that far). To see the people each of them become….that’s pretty cool. It’s beyond unimaginable that some parents don’t get to have that experience. But wanting that more than wanting them to stay little longer isn’t weird at all.
I am so glad that you shared this perspective. Will hug my boys tighter in the morning and be happy that they are growing up so darn fast. I know it is also cliche to say this, but I mean it- your Maddie made such a difference in so many lives. Thank you for being so selfless and sharing her with us.
Your daughter is absolutely adorable.
Given what you and Heather went through, it’s a completely normal way of thinking.
Thank you for sharing Annie as she grows and changes.
I felt the same way about my daughter through her entire baby and toddlerhood, looking forward to every sign of growth and development. Perhaps this was a habit I developed during pregnancy and after her premature birth, when every week forward meant a greater chance she might actually live. Perhaps also it is because changing diapers and spoon-feeding have never been high on my list of life goals. When people would say “treasure these moments!” and lament “They grow so fast!” I was mystified, because I could hardly wait.
But as my daughter has grown older, I’ve begun to see their point. She is so lovely, so sweet, so nearly perfect, that part of me wants time to slow just a little. And out of that belated awareness I’ve begun to save the odd bit of outgrown clothing, a special toy or two, so that we will have something to look back upon when she has grown, as mementos of her childhood. But even this activity is future oriented — focused on her *having* a future in which her past will be something to remember and perhaps treasure.
My mom has always turned a negative comment into a positive. Growing up I would complain my eyes are hazel and I want them to be blue like my best friend. My mom would say be thankful for eyes to see out of. As a mom and I would wish for my boys to be young again my mom would quietly remind me to be thankful they are healthy and here. She hasn’t lost a child but she lost her mom at the age of 14 and now reading your perspective, it makes sense. It definitely is not weird. I, too, am thankful you shared your angel Maddy with us.
Still Playing School says:
I think there will always be things that “normal” parents say that we take differently for the rest of our lives without our baby. The other day I read a comic that said, “I’d like to be a stay at home mom, without the kids.” Totally get the humor and yes, I want days off, too, but it stings if you ARE without even one of your kids and would give anything to have them back.
My sister got me a book this summer called “If I Could Keep You Little,” which is about just this. It talks about what you would miss by keeping them little. I can’t read it without crying because one of mine will always be little. Hopefully I can watch the other two live out their dreams, but I’m equally as proud of all of them and all they accomplished in their lives.
Still Playing School says:
Also, Mike, as always I really appreciate your perspective as it makes me feel normal, too.
That’s all I want, too. Not to outlive another child.
I have been following you and Heather’s blog for a very long time and have rarely commented….just a silent reader
I don’t think your feelings are so rare or unusual…I get very annoyed with ‘where the time has gone’ or ‘slow down on growing up’ comments I read . While I have not personally lost a child I have lost a sister at the young age of 17. I have witnessed dear friends lose children at birth and watched a child get ‘saved’ from SIDS only to live a life for 3 years in a semi comatose state of being.
I try to bask in the glory of NOW and always careful what I wish for….to wish a child to ‘slow down on growing up’ could be taken literally by the higher power and they never get the opportunity to ‘grow up’.
Heather, I don’t think your feelings are “weird.” Given your situation, I think it’s natural to feel that way. You still treasure every minute you have with Annie, just like you treasure every minute you had with Maddie.
As they taught all of us parents in childbirth class, don’t shake the…parents?
All kidding aside, I don’t think your thoughts and feelings are weird. In reality, I think they’re just not often spoken. If you’re going to think about your own mortality, I think it’s nice to have an image of an older Annie by your side. It’s normal to want to see your child grown and thrive.
Personally, I tend to feel both ways you described at milestones (provided I’m not post-partum because then it’s all just sobs and tears over “my baby growing up!”). Seriously, though, I often start a milestone thinking, “Wow, s/he’s not a baby anymore!” [tear] and end with, “Wow, s/he’s not a baby anymore!” [big proud smile].
“Seriously, though, I often start a milestone thinking, “Wow, s/he’s not a baby anymore!” [tear] and end with, “Wow, s/he’s not a baby anymore!” [big proud smile].” .. That is really cool – and very well said.
Autumn Canter says:
I feel the same way about my kids ever since my little brother died. I also feel the same way about aging. All my peers are bemoaning turning 30 and I am happy to have been here 30 years!
I guess we all experience this in different ways .. I understand loss because we lost our son Gavin at 10 weeks old in 2010.
I have an almost 10 year old and I remember always being so excited and wanting him to reach new milestones .. I was in such a hurry for him to sit up, crawl, speak, read, ride a bike…
We now have a rainbow baby, she’s almost 5 months old. I love watching her grow and develop but I’m not in nearly as big of a hurry for her to reach milestones. As far as I’m concerned she can take her sweet time growing up and I’m going to savor every second of it.
Each milestone is also bittersweet because it’s a reminder of what Gavin would have probably never been able to do, even if he was still with us. And also a reminder that he is gone, and unable to attempt to reach them.
So yeah, I still post those “How is my baby 10 years old and in 4th grade?!” Facebook status updates .. but it’s in no way because I’m not thankful he’s still here… it’s because it’s going by so fast, and I deeply, deeply understand how much I want to savor all of his moments here with us.
I don’t think your feelings are weird. I feel the same way & I haven’t watched a child die. My absolute favorite part of parenting is watching my kids accomplish new things & reach new milestones. Especially something they have struggled with. I have enjoyed every step along the way (some more than others) but I don’t want to hold my kids back.
Sonya aka Glam-O-Mommy says:
Mike, your feelings are completely understandable. I’m already a freaked out, overprotective basket case of a mom to my daughter, so I can’t imagine how much those feelings would be magnified if I had suffered a loss like you have with losing Maddie. I imagine I would be frightened every second of every day. Despite everything, you and Heather keep on living and moving forward and making special memories for Annie and that is wonderful. You are great parents.
I will admit though, I’ve totally made those comments about Sophie growing up on FB. In my case, I think it’s because she really IS big. She just turned four and already wears size 6-7 girls’ clothes and a size 13 shoe! She’s always been off the charts on height and became too big for me to carry much sooner than most kids her age, so I feel a little cheated. I wish she would’ve stayed a small a little longer. Stupid I know. Lately, I’ve just been so grateful she’s healthy and happy…one of my dear friends just found out his six-month-old daughter has leukemia and she’s already been started on chemo. I’m so sad and praying for them so hard. Cancer, as you know, is so awful, and I can’t imagine it in a baby. Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate your blessings until you realize the true hardships someone else is facing.
I totally get where you are coming from on this. My 3 year old has been fighting leukemia since he was 1 and it always irritated me when parents would bemoan the fact their kids were gettIng older and it was so sad, they wanted them to remain little forever. It was hard not for me to snap, be thankful your kids get to grow up not all of us have that option. I get that everybody loves heir kids and just misses certain stages of their lives but I always thought it insensitive to talk about that arduous me. Like really?
Your feelings aren’t weird at all. They are just your feelings. And they are right for you. I can totally understand why you feel the way you do.
When my children were babies (mostly my first child) all I could think about was “I can’t wait until he can sit up on his own” “I can’t wait until he can walk” “I look forward to when he goes to school” and when all of that stuff comes and goes (especially after having your last child) you realize that that’s it. Those milestones are done and gone. Never to be repeated.
Growing up and aging is such a weird and miraculous thing. I still can’t get over the fact that I brought a tiny little boy home from the hospital, unable to do anything on his own (except the obvious) and now he does so much on his own. So much that he doesn’t depend on me for and its only going to get worse… or better… which ever way you look at it.
I still look forward to the next milestones but I find that the older they get the more I want to hold on to them and the more I long for those days when they were babies.
Like many others, I also feel the same way as you, Mike. I was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant and truly had no idea how long I would be able to be the for my baby. I couldn’t even imagine the milestones most parents dream about because it was too painful to think that I might not be there for them. That’s why I’m overjoyed and astonished that I’ve been ale to see her first steps, hear her first words, and why I’m looking forward to many more milestones in the future. That said, I also understand parents lamenting how quickly babies grow up. My daughter may very well be our last, although that was never my plan, and it is very bittersweet to think that I might not get to experience certain things again, even though that had been my “plan.” (We know all too well how the universe likes our plans, don’t we?). But I try to use it as motivation to remind me that all we have is now, so all we can do is savor where we are in the moment.
Jay- The Dude of the House says:
The last nearly 3 years with my Little Dude have felt fast, but I know we have a long way to go. It dawned on me that while I was excited for him to start preschool yesterday, it was also the beginning of (hopefully at least) 20 years of school for him.
Maybe I should have waited…
I feel the same way exactly! I’ll be grateful when my son lives this full year that his brother did not and then, every year after.
I can see both points of view, actually. I love seeing my kid be able to do new things, and the glee that goes along with it. I can’t wait to see her all grown up.
But on the other hand, I do feel a certain amount of sadness watching her grow up, because the bigger she gets, the more independent she will be, which means that she will go out in the big bad world without me. Someday it won’t be as simple as kissing her head better when she falls, or holding her and hugging her until the sadness goes away. That part of growing up, I really don’t like, even though I know that if I do my job well, she’ll be able to soothe herself by then.
Annie is absolutely precious and she is getting BIG! My daughter is 4 1/2 and I always thought she would have a sibling by now, or like 2 or 3 years ago more precisely. I never thought I wouldn’t get to experience pregnancy atleast one more time. But it is not going to happen, not due to fertility issues (I would totally give my lady parts to Heather as I believe they would work). But that is just not um, practical. For us, its more of a financial thing and the fact that the world is just getting more and more uncertain. (I do need for my child to have a place to live that is NOT beneath a bridge in approx 14-16 years). I work full time and so does my husband. Between working, taking care of the princess, kinda sorta taking care of me (& the hubby) as well as millions of other things, it is just not going to happen. So I totally experince the “MY she is getting so big” thing every single day now. Our realization that princess will be our one and only has hightened that awareness 1000%. I’m all, “where is my baby?” I look at the pics, and its like it was a million years ago. It is sad, but I also encourage and anticipate the awesome changes to come. I am still very on the fence with “Where’s my baby?” and then the “Thank GOD she can feed, dress and go potty herself !” And then I wanna put her back in a diaper and listen to the cooing. Because lets face it, cooing and smiling is much better than screaming and NOOOOOOO MOOOMMMYYY!!! So I am learning each day to enjoy what comes next and to cherish the baby that once was. And the mini me/adult she has become. Time sure flies!!!!!
I felt like that until my daughter approached high school. Then the time to her leaving home felt too short, so short, and made me realize what all those other parents had been feeling. I didn’t turn into them, but I got it.
I get it. I totally do.
I haven’t lost a child in the physical sense…but in some ways I lost the idea of what I thought my child was going to be like. I have 2 kids. One is 10 and the other not quite 3. My ten year old has a rare seizure disorder and he’s on the extreme spectrum as far as how it’s effected him…he’s never been able to walk, talk, crawl. He’s considered blind because while he has everything he needs to be able to see…he can’t. The signals get lost on the way to his brain. From what the Dr. can guage he functions at an infant level and almost certainly always will.
My almost 3 year old is completely neuro typical. She’s sweet and sassy. She hit all her milestones with ease and I celebrated them all. And i continue to. Every single thing she does is amazing and I’m sure my friends tire of hearing about it.
I appreciate it all. I’m not saying the people around me don’t appreciate the things their children do…but to me it’s almost miraculous.
I cherish every single day and I can’t wait to see what the next age brings.
Actually, when I start to feel that way, I often think of Maddie and remind myself to be happy with what I have.
But, as someone who is in the midst of a divorce, I also have found myself daydreaming ahead, just because I want to be at a point where I know my kids have made it through all of this into happy adults.
So I can see both points.
J from Ireland says:
I never thought of it like that. You are so right. I will remind myself of this when I am moaning about my kids growing up so fast.
I feel much the same way, and I think part of it is because for one, I had terrible PPD, and for two, I had a pretty terrible, colicky baby. I love her dearly, but I like her more now that she can walk and talk and doesn’t nurse for two hours straight and then scream for another ninety minutes until she falls asleep. Plus, I love seeing who she’s becoming – that’s more exciting than who she’s been.
Makes perfect sense to me, Mike. And I’ve posted this to Heather many times – you don’t have to feel any way but the way you feel. We all have different life experiences that mold our perspective. You have definitely been through the worst. But your outlook can help others of us see things in a new way – and I am definitely grateful that my kids have grown up and reached new milestones. As sad as it may be that they are no longer babies, or even little kids, I’m happy that they are who they are!
Not odd at all. I look at it from a slightly different vantage point…being able to imagine my boys in high school or later in life means not only do they make it, but *I* beat this cancer thing to see it. Xo
May it be so!!!
I don’t find it odd that you are hold on to the here & now & like to look to the future.
I guess I am weird, too then, because: I want to stop my nieces & nephews from growing so quickly, I want to keep them in the here & now…but I also am grateful for every day they grow older…but I have a hard time picturing the future…but boy do I want us all to be there!!!
I’ve had a harder time imagining the future ever since my nephew died on his due-date…because we had so many unfulfilled hopes & dreams but I don’t want that to stop me from hoping & dreaming for my other nieces & nephews–all it takes is courage! Phew!