Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

13 Moms Describe What It's Like To Watch Your Baby Grow Up

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My mother had a hard time during my first college visit. Being 17, I found her emotional torment hysterical. During a breakfast presentation by the dean, I was feeling cheeky so I drew a picture of a baby on a napkin and quietly slid it to her. Immediately, her eyes welled with tears. "Oh, you b*tch," she whispered, smiling, then promptly stuck it in her purse. "I'm saving this. Then when you see your baby get big, I'm going to give it to you." Now, a mother of two, I understand what it's like to watch your baby grow up.

This past summer, while my family was on vacation, I told my mother (yeah, she still talks to me and I don't apologize for making her cry, because even she admits it was really funny) that watching my children play in the ocean was the perfect metaphor for watching my children grow up. Your heart is in your throat the whole time, both because you can see the joy they feel and you know what the ocean can do to them if everyone isn't careful. So you have this delicate balancing act of wanting to shield them from harm, but also any knowledge of harm: you don't want to mar their happiness with reality or your fear.

Being a mother is simultaneously the most emotionally exhausting and rejuvenating experience I've had in life, especially in those moments when I think about how much my little ones have already grown and brush up against the realization that they aren't going to be little ones for very long at all. I asked other moms to share what the thought watching their children grow up was like and, well, if you have tissues now is the time to get them.

Wendy

GIPHY

"Watching [my daughter] grow up is like learning something new and magical about her everyday and being surprised and delighted at the person she's revealing herself to be. [It] sounds so corny, but moments when she's used sarcasm, or persevered, or told a joke, or found beauty in something new, or realized feelings are easily hurt; those are moments when I think in my head, 'Oh, so this is who you are!' It's learning something new about this child you already know everything about."

Cynthia

"It is the most awe-inspiring, beautiful, yet heartbreaking experience I could ever imagine. These precious, tiny angels need me for such a short time. My 8 year old has been independent most of her life, but since she's gotten so good at reading, bedtime stories are rare. And then she comes to snuggle and tells me I'm her favorite mommy ever (a running joke that carried over from me and my own mom), and my eyes well up with tears. She is growing into the intelligent, capable, and sweet person I always prayed she would be, but the fact that I know she'll leave me to face the world alone someday stings my heart. Thankfully, I also have a 5 year old son who loves our story time, and he is just as snuggly as his sister. The knowledge that they are growing up is always on my mind, and it honestly does tinge the good times with some sadness."

Karen

The quote about a piece of your heart walking around outside of your body is so true. It's impossible to know the love, pride, and fear you'll feel until you experience it. It's awe-inspiring!

"DJ"

GIPHY

"For me, watching my little nugget grow up has been the biggest mindf*ck ever. When they are itty bitty babies you are just in complete awe that you made this amazing being; you sit there and just stare in amazement. Then you start dreaming of when they crawl and then they do and you wish they would just stay little non-crawlers. You want them to grow up and be the amazing person you know they are destined to be, but you also want them to need you and stay little forever! It's harder too when you can only have one ... because you see all these new babes and your ovaries scream out for another chance ... now I'm just going to go snuggle my 2 year old while she tries to escape my hugs!"

Samantha

"Watching [my son] growing up is the most amazing, terrifying, and wonderful experience I've ever had. I'm always in awe of the things he comes up with, particularly when he's playing by himself and I'm on the sidelines watching. His sense of humor is wonderful, and his sense of sarcasm is spot on. He's so independent sometimes, and that terrifies me beyond words, because I love the little boy who still wants to hold my hand and give me random hugs and kisses, and I don't want that to go away. I adore how he interacts with his little sister and how he tries to be as helpful as possible. There are many days when I wish I could freeze time just as it is, with my sweet little boy and my darling baby girl, but I'm so enjoying getting to know them as the individuals that they are."

Terri-Lynne

I can't even think this without bawling.

Emily

GIPHY

"Sometimes I feel like my arms aren't long enough to hug them while they take their own steps on this journey. I'm so excited for them and so fearful about the fragile nature of life. I simultaneously feel shear joy and bittersweet sadness as I watch them learn and do something new. My oldest comes up to my boobs and I remember when her head was only the size of one of them. And she has real people feet [now], not itty bitty baby toes. I love those toes and one day she won't want me to hold them in my hand. My youngest, at 2, spends his time negotiating with me about how many more stories before bed, when less than a year ago I was worried he wouldn't speak. Basically watching them grow up gives me all the feels."

Christy

"Amazingly bittersweet. I'm so proud of my little man. He's super smart, so watching him learn new things is mind blowing. And, actually being able to do things we both enjoy (like art, tricky puzzles and designing video games) and have real conversations about them like friends is amazing. He truly is my buddy.

But, as much as I am so proud of all he knows and can do, what I love about him ... is his kindness to his sister and others. And, his belief that all people are kind to others and their environment and that the world is fundamentally a good place. I wish I could just stop time and let him be little and live in a world where he doesn't know (or need to know) about the bad things surrounding us. I'm sure a lot of this will change when he starts school next year, which is why this time and watching it pass is so precious and bittersweet."

Marissa

Watching my kids grow up kind of takes my breath away. ... [A]s a parent, you have hopes and dreams and fears and a feral kind of love. And then it begins: they start the journey of becoming who they are and it is inspiring and makes me so excited to see what comes next. It is rewarding because seeing your children grow is seeing the fruits of your labor. But, it also makes you aware of time and the passage of time and what a short season childhood is. Each milestone is such a thrill but also a reminder that there are less firsts for my kids tomorrow than there were today. And that is so special for them but a little bittersweet for me.

"Stephanie"

GIPHY

"It's honestly very scary. I can't help but think of all the mistakes I've made in my life and I want to do everything I can to help them avoid those same pitfalls. But it's rare for someone to learn from another person's mistakes and I have to live with the knowledge that there's only so much I can do to prepare and protect them. But even though I'm scared, I'm optimistic. I've made a lot of mistakes, but I've been a pretty good mother, if I do say so myself. Hopefully that will make a difference when they get to the point where they're on their own."

Tonya

"I didn't realize that I was teaching her how get along without me. Then one day as she was getting the hang of riding her bike with out training wheels and she asked me if she could ride ahead of me instead of beside me as I walked. I agreed without realizing that she could ride very well now. In a flash, she was gone down the street and I thought, 'I'll only catch her now if she stops to wait for me.' Which is exactly right. In a flash she's changed and will soon be gone and the only reason I catch up now is because she's waiting on me."

Elysha

One moment I look at him in his too-short pants and think, 'OMG he's getting so huge! I can't believe how fast he's growing up!' and then the next I see him on top of the big slide and think, 'He's still so leeeettle! My baby!'

"Michelle"

GIPHY

"I can only ever think that it's an honor. I am honored that I get to be their mother."