The End

By Beck

I’ve started –Β I noticed today with a little shock of possibly amusement – started watching for mentions of families with children older than mine. My oldest will soon be eleven, and so I look for mentions of children who are 12, 13, 14, for stories of people happily parenting children who are the same age mine will be in the next couple of years.

I always wanted babies, wanted a houseful of little children. And I had them. And now my youngest child is on the cusp of five and my oldest is talking about high school and parenting is all at once seeming like something that will come to an end. So now I look for stories of parents with slightly older children and peer at their faces, wondering if that mother feels as bereft as I suspect I will feel, if the child her arm is wrapped around is straining slightly to get away.

And meanwhile, while I am feeling this pointless angst over some imagined future loss, my children are right here with me. But parenthood is as much about the way the sweetness of early childhood, of infancy vanishes as it is about the pride we feel in our tall running children, and if childhood was a book there would be a fancy page at the end and then one last page and that’s it, there’s no going back. Which is why of course, I was holding a tiny baby sleeper that had somehow made it into the wash again, and practically doubled over in pain this morning in the laundry room, because while my children are fine and dandy and in the next room, my babies are gone. And this is both completely idiotic because as I said MY CHILDREN ARE RIGHT HERE and on the other hand, they are irrefutably not babies anymore.

Have another one! says the part of my brain that is always trying to kill me. But having babies is ridiculously dangerous and hard for me, and also four kids is a lot of kids and keeping them all in shoes and granola bars would become sort of impossible. So.

The End, that last page says. Oh, there are other books after it, but so far, this one has been my favorite, the thing I have liked best in my whole life. And so now, I find myself scanning the faces of other mothers, the ones with kids who are older than mine, to see how they’re bearing up, to see if I can imagine myself as them someday quite soon. And I flip past the pages for little children and babies likeΒ a brave little toaster, and each page I turn brings me closer to the whole point of parenting, closer to the end.


27 Responses to The End
  1. Nicole
    February 18, 2010 | 7:29 pm

    OH! Beck! You know, I’ve been feeling a little like time is just flying these days, and the sweet “little kid” days are turning into “bigger kid” days, and this made me cry a little.

  2. Julie Bo Boolie
    February 18, 2010 | 7:34 pm

    I must be the odd one. The older my kids get the more I enjoy them. I absolutely adore having my teenaged nieces come to visit. I can’t wait for the next chapter (not that I’m not living this one to the fullest but I do so love the independence that comes with maturity)

  3. Nowheymama
    February 18, 2010 | 7:39 pm

    We DID let our brains talk us into baby number four and yet I am still weepy for my lost babies.

  4. Becky
    February 18, 2010 | 7:45 pm

    There are times in my life now that my heart and arms ache with the pain of not holding my babies anymore. But then … I talk to them on the phone or get an email and I enjoy the adults they are so very much that I get over it.

    I keep telling them the best thing they can give me is grandchildren. Then the circle begins again. And this time I can have the full night’s sleep πŸ˜‰

  5. Jennifer (ponderosa)
    February 18, 2010 | 8:08 pm

    Like Julie I enjoy my kids more the older they get. I found the baby stage So. Hard! I’d have a third if she’d (he’d) be born at age 4.

    Also … they’ll always be with you! If you want them to be, of course. My mother-in-law talks to her two daughters on the phone every single day, and she goes to the movies with them and she travels with them and everything. Don’t despair!

  6. Chelsea Croteau
    February 18, 2010 | 8:52 pm

    “The End, that last page says. Oh, there are other books after it, but so far, this one has been my favorite, the thing I have liked best in my whole life. ”

    That got me. Through much thought and prayer, we have decided to have “just” one and so each day brings as many first times as last times. I know there are great thing ahead, but to say good-bye to this time makes me weep a little too.

  7. Jen
    February 18, 2010 | 8:58 pm

    I do enjoy my kids as they get older, and yet…and yet…my oldest is only 5, but she’ll be 6 soon and in first grade all year long next year, and I’m already feeling so bereft at the thought of her being gone all day long. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when she someday…actually…leaves.

  8. christine
    February 18, 2010 | 9:10 pm

    i came to the realization a couple years ago that i don’t want more babies at all; i really just want my children to be babies again.

    now i will cry. πŸ™

  9. Sue
    February 18, 2010 | 9:39 pm

    I know the feeling. But it passes. And then …GRANDCHILDREN! Who are even more precious, as if that were possible.

  10. Omaha Mama
    February 18, 2010 | 9:50 pm

    Let me see if I can get you here with me (since we’re twins on the no candy thing and on the shrugging off sadness). Because I SO get this. Really. So…we are, ahem, older. And proud of our grown children. Proud of their accomplishments or whatever they are doing. Happy for the people they have become, or helping them as they keep trying. Whatever. But also…we have TIME. For things like sitting. Shopping. Walking. Whatever. So there will be no guilt for a girls lunch out. Or for a cup of coffee drank while also reading twitter. It’s all open to us. And so I summon the selfish me who can look forward to that hard won time, time earned by giving so much to the formerly short, loud people. And also, yes, the grandkids. Lots and lots of visiting/babysitting/kidnapping the grandkids. Can you do that? Can you get there with me?

    My mom always says that each age that she has been as an adult (and is speaking in terms of decades) has been her favorite. So I’ve seen it all just keep getting better and better for her. I’d like that for me too.

  11. Rachel in CA
    February 18, 2010 | 10:37 pm

    My kids are older than yours (My Baby is nearly your Girl’s age; my Boy is about to turn — ohmylord — fourteen) and yes. Yes. Bereft would be a good word, except that usually I keep myself from feeling it fully by just dipping my toes in at the edge of the knowledge that it’s flying by so very, very fast.

  12. cindykay
    February 18, 2010 | 11:15 pm

    I know, yes, I know. I have been crying this week myself, for that exact reason: my babies are gone. All grown up, and turned into somebody else. The hardest at this moment is that my daughter, who has been married for a year and a half, is moving two states away next week with her husband, taking with them my first grandbaby (as yet unborn, but still…). And the strangest thing is that I thought this would be easier than it is. I don’t think I’m handling this stage of parenting very well….

  13. Cristan
    February 19, 2010 | 12:21 am

    I know! Recently I’ve been thinking of my mother in law…how strange it must seem for her little baby boy to be a mid-thirties husband with a wife and a 5 year old boy of his own.

  14. Mary
    February 19, 2010 | 1:08 am

    My mother-in-law says that grandchildren make up for this. But I’m totally with you – my baby is still actually a baby (just shy of a year and not even weighing as much as the biggest newborn ever). But on the cusp of toddlerhood and I miss the infant she was even while I love the new person she’s turning into.

  15. TheOneTrueSue
    February 19, 2010 | 1:20 am

    Four kids IS a lot of kids. TRUST ME ON THIS.

    I love toddlers and babies, and my kids, so far, are pretty great. But – I don’t know how we’ll all do when they are teens. I’m nervous.

  16. suburbancorrespondent
    February 19, 2010 | 1:21 am

    I think it is possible to enjoy your older children (teens, adults, whatever) and still desperately miss your 2-year-olds. At least, I’m managing to do that. But maybe I’m weird.

  17. TheOneTrueSue
    February 19, 2010 | 1:23 am

    Loved this post by the way. As ever.

  18. Aunt Banda
    February 19, 2010 | 12:01 pm

    No kids for me yet, but I live with a house full of nieces and nephews from 2 to 17. It is great to see all of them at their age at the same time.

    Sometimes 2 is so playful and fun and sometimes 2 is SCREAMING about needing breakfast at 5:15 am. But, I will say that the tweenies (my name for the 12-14 year-olds) are very enjoyable people. Full of strong emotions, yes, but also full of new insights and ideas. And, they don’t seem to recognize that we are pretty far apart in age, because 8th grade IS pretty much all grown up, right? But, really I highly recommend them…

  19. Jennifer
    February 19, 2010 | 12:39 pm

    Well, here I am, with the 15 and the 12 (“almost 13”) year old. Oh, yeah, and the 8 year old!

    And – It’s REALLY GOOD. πŸ™‚ So far this is my most favorite part. There are moments when I look at a picture of a fat baby, or watch a video and hear their gurgles, and I wish I could step back in time just for a few minutes. I’m convinced I would love them better. But… I don’t really long to go back. This is good.

    But there was this one day when I realized that guess what, it NEVER ends, really, and then I was utterly weary because I had always thought I had 18 years and then it would be over. They would be grown, mature, independent. And now I know: these three will always struggle with the same things, just like I will always struggle with the same things, and for the rest of my life I will probably be giving the same pep talks, only… I guess with more discretion, and less pressure on myself to GET IT RIGHT, for goodness’ sake. πŸ™‚

    I think the hard part about kids growing up (to me) is that when they are babies you can unashamedly bask in pride: these are MINE, you can say with a smug grin. “I made them.” And you can get away with thinking that their good behavior is YOUR doing, their giftedness all your own.
    And then they grow up and you have to be quieter about all that, and be proud from the sidelines, and whisper about it all to the only other person in the world who feels the same way (namely: husband, ha ha!). You can look smugly at each other and know the truth, but you have to learn to let the world see these kids in their own right, as whole people without such humble beginnings as PARENTS. πŸ™‚

    And this is kinda hard. I love them so much I want to CLAIM THEM! I’m not there yet, but I’m practicing! πŸ™‚ And I AM smug, because I couldn’t ask for better kids to hang out with all day long.

    So be heartened! It really can be enjoyable, and I know if anyone will know how to enjoy it, you will, Beck. πŸ™‚

  20. Kat
    February 19, 2010 | 12:40 pm

    Oh Beck. You have me crying. AGAIN!

    I feel the exact same way, except I still have a baby in the house!!! Yet I am already mourning the loss of my babies because I know how quickly it goes. And yes, part of my brain is shouting “just keep having babies!!!” all the while hubby is saying, “NO WAY!!!!”. If it weren’t for him I think I would be one of those women with 18 children and her own television show. πŸ˜‰

    Yes, this has been the very most favorite part of my life. I am so scared for it to “end”. But also excited to see what is next. How can I be both???

    Beautiful post.

  21. Kelly
    February 19, 2010 | 4:36 pm

    I think you’ve done an excellent job, over a number of posts, of describing how we love our children NOW, but we miss the children they WERE. It’s one of the most bittersweet facets of parenthood, in my opinion.

    And yes, another baby delays the inevitable. But even the Duggars will reach The End someday.

  22. erin
    February 19, 2010 | 4:42 pm

    I guess I kind of suck because I am enjoying my children more as they get older (bear in mind they just turned 4, so…). I wouldn’t mind another, but having babies is nearly impossible for me as well and a road we likely won’t be traveling again….

    Wonderful post, as always. You are brilliant every time.

  23. Dana - Are We There Yet?
    February 22, 2010 | 1:00 pm

    With 5 kids (18, 13, 10, 5, 1), I’m literally in EVERY stage of parenting (except the newborn stage, and the grown-up-and-paying-their-own-bills stage), and I can say that IT. IS. AWESOME. They get smart and thoughtful and so stinkin’ funny. Enjoy!!

  24. patois
    February 23, 2010 | 7:21 pm

    Hey, there. How’s it going? Me? Good, good, thanks. My 13 year-old boy is fabulous. Wonderful. My 11.5 year-old daughter is divine. It’s the 7 year-old punk that’s messin’ with my head.

  25. canadacole
    February 24, 2010 | 11:45 am

    I know the feeling so well! So well that I listened to that little voice and find myself with #4 on the way. And having spent the entire month vomiting, I have to say that I don’t think I’ll ever listen to that voice again. The end. (But yay! A baby in the house again!)

  26. tracey
    February 24, 2010 | 10:35 pm

    Thanks Beck. Thanks a lot. I am also in the double-over in agony over not having a baby again.

    My sister just announced her pregnancy. It was all I could do to not cry right then and there from sheer pain and jealousy. And it’s quite shocking, how much it hurts…

  27. Chantal
    February 28, 2010 | 2:08 pm

    oof that is a tough one. I have a 9 week old but I already see it ahead of me. And feel it. I can only imagine what it will be like. I know I won’t like it either. Not at first anyhow.

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