Happy? Birthday

Today my first born son turned 5.

We did the cake. We did the presents. We did the hoopla.

He was beaming all day and I was making a huge deal out of his ability to have accomplished 5 years of living.

Inside I was dying.

I spent the day in fear. I spent the day in denial. I put on a happy face but inside I was in PAIN by his big boy bike. His wanting to shut the door when he went to the bathroom. His growing up.

I don’t care what my job is supposed to be and I don’t care what sort of label you want to throw at me-THIS SUCKS.

It hurts. I’m not a fan. And I’d like it to stop.

The entire time I was encouraging him to sit on the new bike and test it out, and he was protesting that it looked too big and was too wobbly, I was thinking ‘it’s ok baby boy, don’t be afraid, Mom is here, don’t do it if you don’t want too, just come sit on my lap and lay your head on my shoulder and cuddle with me.’

I suck.

I stood there thinking to myself ‘god if you can’t handle the wobbly big kid bike I can’t possibly let you out there into the world and let you see how horrible things are, how your heart will be broken, how people will be mean, how sometimes your stomach will be in knots, how life can be very shitty…’

I was sick. SICK.

My children make me feel very weak. The kind of weak that could turn me into some insane helicopter mom who homeschools and layers the walls with foam. The kind of weak that makes me throw every ounce of common sense out the window in favor of whatever will keep my children in ignorant bliss for eternity.

It hurts too much. IT HURTS TOO MUCH.

Of course I gently coaxed him on that bike and eventually he was riding around the culs-de-sac and life was just happy happy but I couldn’t shake the amount of fear that came with this birthday.

Real school is around the corner. Big kids who bully. Teachers who may or may not find his quirks endearing. Expectations. Disappointments. Triumphs.

I ache for every moment yet to come that causes him to pause. I yearn for every moment passed that seems now to have been so much easier. I want nothing more than to stop time and pretend as though none of this is happening.

I feel like a failure of a mother for entertaining these thoughts and trying to will them into reality. Like if I blink hard enough I can poof us all back to when my biggest fear was him hitting his head while learning to walk.

I’m not good at this. I’m just not. I spend most of my day trying to keep them busy so I can ignore them and the other half complaining as I deal with them. Then I have the gall the be upset at the passing of time and the reality of children becoming adults. These small creatures bring out every weakness I have and throw it on the table for all to see, dripping in emotion and exposing what is best, but mostly what is the worst, inside my soul.

Tonight I watched my 5-year old glow as he blew out 5 candles. I watched his little sister, eyes as big as saucers, ready and willing to take her turn at the cake in 6 days when she turns 3. As I discretely exhaled harder to aid the extinguishing of the flames I wished right along with my baby boy.

Keep him safe. Make this hurt less. Make me strong.

Happy Birthday.


  1. Because I’m contrarian, some encouragement here. I felt everything you felt, but at the same time, there is so much good in the growing-up. So much more good than bad.

    Like watching them find a passion and seeing them excel in it. Like watching them handle a grownup situation in a grownup way, all at once heartbreaking because they seem not to need us but heartwarming because they’re living what you’ve taught. Besides, they really do need you if only to tell them they did it right and you’re proud of them.

    My youngest is going to high school next year. My only daughter. I cried when she went to middle school, but at the same time, I totally love this age. I love hanging with her, being geeky with her, being the dumb mommy to her smart teenager act, where she knows it’s all an act and I know it’s all an act but we do it anyway because it’s just funny.

    So be encouraged — the fact that he’s riding that big boy bike is testimony to what you’re doing right. Hold on to the next milestones like the last, and enjoy them. 🙂

  2. I can so relate. My two oldest are 3 and 5, with birthdays a week apart. Starting kindy this fall freaks me out. I want to freeze time, yet I get annoyed and frustrated at the silliest things. Things that I will ache for some day. Things like asking me the same question for the eleventieth time or giving me a hard time about asking them to get dressed.

    I think giving them the tools to survive the pain is the most important thing. The pain will come. It will rain. We have to teach them to endure.

  3. What keeps me going is that my growing boy still needs cuddles, still snuggles in bed with me, still gives me loves and kisses.

    I feel that while he still needs me that way..I can watch him go out and explore this big crazy world.

  4. This is timely. Made me cry all over again. I have PMS and an achy heart at the moment. My little boy is only 20 months old and I’m already a friggin mess now I don’t even know what it will be like when he gets to 5.

    My husband and I were just tonight having a ‘discussion’ about how I need to work on getting out of the house more and taking the boy to the playground.

    This past Sat. we went to a b-day party where he got to play on a super cool playground climbing-sliding-rock wall thing. He loved the slide and the steps, just climbing up and down.

    The whole time I was terrified each time he would come close to the edge of the platform because I just didn’t know what he would do.

    For the second time now, he has fallen coming down a step, fallen right on his face. Both times I watched in horror as I couldn’t get to him quick enough to catch him.

    I told my husband about my fears of him falling off the jungle gym right in front of me and breaking his neck or cracking his skull open. My husband said he’s a tough little boy and to stop thinking he’s so fragile. He’s right though because I have witnessed this kid bonk his head and fall really hard several times. The crying and cuddling lasts exactly 30 seconds and he want to go at it again.

    My husband said I can’t protect him forever and that he needs to fall and get hurt and bleed. I don’t like this idea but I know he’s right. I am so weak and I think I have major separation anxiety issues. I had to work so damn hard to bring him into this world that I’m terrified something could take him away from me in an instant.

    I watch the news too much. There is too much shit out there to make me worry, but yet I don’t want to be oblivious to it all.

    I let him eat dirt and I let him jump in puddles. I didn’t freak out too much when he ate a bug. I didn’t freak too much the first time he cut himself and started to bleed. But the playground and jungle gym is just still so high on the freak factor for me yet. Is this a phase? I’m so scared of playgrounds because there are always creepy people there and I make myself dizzy trying to keep an eye on him while he climbs and plays.

    He’s never going to ride a bike, that’s it.
    Ok, maybe a Hotwheels.

    Never mind that I was a tomboy and climbed trees higher and raced boys on my bike out in the street.

    Ugh, this sucks so royally yet it’s the greatest thing in the world all at the same time. To have a heart that breaks and bleeds and aches. And, here he comes, out from the big boy bed and up to my bedside because he had a bad dream. I guess my comment ends here.

  5. Amen. Heartbreaking post. My boy will be three in May, and every time he tries to engage with an older child (which he does whenever he spots one out in public) and gets rejected, I feel nauseous. He seems mostly oblivious to little jibes about being a baby, but I can see his sense of awareness increasing every day. And oh yes, I think I will be a mess by real school age…

  6. Five is a milestone. For us and for them.

    My daughter and her little friends (all now 8) treated 5 as a huge deal. No longer were they babies.

    Sadly, it is true.

    I tell my daughter nearly every day that I told her to stop growing and she says “Mommy, I can’t stop. God made me this way.”

    Yeah, five is tough.

  7. Yeah, it never stops, that so-called “weakness” we all experience with children. Mine are going to be 21 in a week…they’re juniors in college. In my head they’re still little four-year-old beauties who still thought I walked on water.

  8. Darn nursing hormones – I’m crying! I feel that way every single time I drop of my 2 yr old at preschool. I feel like I’m throwing her to the wolves to gobble her up.

    Visit me @ http://www.momontherun.net

  9. The most amazing and gratifying thing to me is when, as fully grown adults, they now want you to be a part of their lives, not as a duty, but because they want you there. Lovely warm feeling!

  10. Every time my 18 year old son gets into his car to drive back to school- only an hour away- my heart aches just a bit. But the thrill I get from seeing him and his brothers inch out into their own, self-sufficient lives, is so much stronger than the ache. This child-rearing thing is hard but oh so worth it.

  11. Thanks for sharing this with us – I think every parent (yes blokes too) feel exactly that tension between wanting them to grow up and at the same time worrying about each phase they are entering and how the world will treat them. I think that tension is ultimately what makes you a good parent and it is normal an natural to feel like that. I agree with Susan – there is nothing so fulfilling than when they are grown up and they genuinely want you to be part of their lives – in my case when my daughter hires my band to back HER show – now THAT’s special 🙂

  12. You don’t suck Erin, you’re just human like the rest of us. The day that my son first ditched his training wheels and took off in the yard I stood there bawling on the grass like an idiot.

    It just comes with it, ya know? It’s for all of those moments that your kids never knew about or will never remember that makes you a great mom. Sometimes you just have to cheer through your tears and then call your mama and thank her. She did it too.

    You’ve got great, independent kids. Wish them happy birthday from Alabama, okay? 🙂

  13. Rumor is it doesn’t get any easier. I jokingly chastised my mom once for not crying when she dropped me off at college. She looked at me with the biggest look of surprised and said, “Are you kidding me? It took everything I had to hold back those tears until we drove off. I cried the entire drive home (11 hours) and picked up the phone once a day to beg you to come home. But then I knew I wouldn’t be a good mother for doing that to you.”

    *sigh* Parenthood.

  14. Nope, you most certainly do not suck. You’re a mom. And with that comes those feelings. My kiddo turns 5 in a couple of months and I’m already freaking out about it – in fact, many of the same issues you mention are my exact concerns.

    Happy belated birthday to him!

  15. Happy Birthday to your little one.

  16. I have a 2 1/2 and a 9 months old. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I feel your pain.

  17. Milander says:

    Same here, you’re just being a mum, kids will fall, they will hurt themselves, they may break bones adn they will get picked on at school. That is life unfortunately. We all went through it and now you are watching your kids go through it, it’s just life.

    My two boys (5 and 2) are going through it now, my wife recently commented to me that she never really really sympathized with news stories about kids dying, having trouble until she had her own, same is/was true with me. It’s only when you ahve your own to care about that you see how much harm kids can get into. Problem is that you have to let them do it, get in harms way that is… Those experiences are the ones that teach. Kids need to learn that falling is all part of it, if you don’t fall you’ll never learn to pick yourself up.

    I feel your pain, it is hard, it is worrying but worse is to come…

    their first car

    the frst girl he comes home with

    the first time you find porn in his room

    the first time you find him drunk

    the first time you find weed in his room

    the first time he doesn’t phone home when he promised he would

    the first time you forget it’s his birthday

    when he goes to college and you know you won’t see him for another 4 months

    the list goes on I’m sure other mums and dads could add more to this.

  18. Sigh…. life is truly wonderful and terribly hard simultaneously. Luckily, they grow up day by day, and not in years. You will adjust to each stage as it comes. Try not to look too far ahead. Just enjoy the now…

  19. I thought it was the pregnancy hormones that were making me extra emotional today when I read this post at work (through Google Reader since for some reason they have blocked any url with the word “blog” in it!). I see now that I am home and can visit to comment, that I am not the only one who became teary-eyed.
    My son will turn three in May and it scares the s*&^ out of me when I think of him turning four, then five, then nine, and 13 and 21! What do I do when he doesn’t want to hug me anymore? moves out? Gets married?
    It reminds me to cherish every moment – but that is harder than it seems…Ask me to cherish the moment when he is disobeying, not listening or pooping in his underwear (again!).

  20. Um, yeah. You just made me cry.

    I feel all these things and mine is only 2. God help me when she turns 5.

  21. I feel you. Except I homeschool not because I’m an “insane helicopter mom.” That’s not the reason that typically motivates homeschooling moms, at least the ones I know.

  22. Lord. Just waiting for the day I have children. I have a hard enough time with my baby sister growing up!

    But in any case, Happiest of Birthdays to the Birthday Boy and Birthday Girl, and a really big hug to Mom. 🙂

  23. “I spend most of my day trying to keep them busy so I can ignore them and the other half complaining as I deal with them. Then I have the gall the be upset at the passing of time and the reality of children becoming adults. These small creatures bring out every weakness I have and throw it on the table for all to see, dripping in emotion and exposing what is best, but mostly what is the worst, inside my soul.”

    Um wow, you nailed it for me. Happy birthday little one and happy growing Mama.

  24. oh, wow. YES.

    (happy b-day to your baby)

  25. Oh great- I just had all of these feelings when my son turned 3 last month. Does this mean it will just keep happening??

    The fact that you continued to encourage him means you get it- you can see your own weakness and fear and in the face of it continue on- that actually shows your strength (OK- I’m writing this as much for myself as I am you)

    Happy Birthday to you and your son.

  26. Awwww my eyes welled up with tears reading this. I can really relate to this. My little boy will be 4 in May and his baby sister will be 3 in July. Sometimes I’ll slip and say something like “Hello my babies” and he will tell me sternly “Mommy, I am not a baby” and he just doesn’t understand that he will always be my baby – always. I’m just not ready for them to grown up, not yet.

  27. Just wait until he turns 12 and you realize in just one year he will be a teenager….

  28. It only gets worse. My oldest is an 8 year old girl. Would that we wouldn’t be doing them a disservice to put them in a bubble for 21 years, eh? Great post.

  29. That was touching Erin, very seriously.

    Mine are 8, 19, and 21. It doesn’t get any easier, but the great moments outweigh the nervous ones.

    That being said, for the next 20 years, DO NOT think about all of the bad, questionable, sneaky things that you got away with as a kid/teenager and DO NOT imagine that your spawn will do the same. Stop. Quit it. I told you NOT TO THINK AOUT IT. Oh well….I tried;)


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