Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We'll Be Here, Listening to You Breathe

There's a striking age difference among the children in my family. We've got babies as young as my daughter who is one, and babies as old as in their twenties. But what strikes me is no matter how big or small, all of their parents continue worrying about them.

Just last night I put my own sturdy one-year-old in her bed and heard her throwing various stuffed animals out of her crib. The Soothe-and-Glow Seahorse is particularly heavy. It doesn't sound all that different from what I imagine a 20 lb. one-year-old body sounds like as it hits the floor. Then there's the kicking of the side of the crib to activate the Ocean Wonders Deep Blue Sea Soother that's strapped to the side of her crib. She kicks it to activate it.

My point is, there's a whole lot of ruckus going on in there and I think that smart little conniver is banking on freaking me out so I come to check on her to make sure she's alive. But because a pediatrician in my parenting group told me to leave that baby alone for 12 hours and I don't want her to wind up living a life of crime, I leave her in bed.

But I do stand outside her door with my ear pressed to it. And listen. I wait to hear the sounds of her breathing, or rustling around, or making whatever baby murmurs she might make. I also watch my sister talk on the phone to her 19-year-old baby (who doesn't like us calling her a baby) and the way my sister presses her head to the phone reminds me of myself. It reminds me of the intent way my brother and husband email, text and call their college-aged children – waiting and listening – to hear that their babies are okay.

But with the grown babies, they're not as easy to protect. It's not as easy as gathering them up off of the floor and covering them in kisses. It's not as simple as putting the plastic covers on the electrical outlets. You can't follow them around the house and prevent every fall.

More importantly, you have to let them fall. So they can learn how to pick themselves back up.

But I imagine my sister, my brother and my husband don't really see the grown adults their children have become. They still see these little babies in footed jammies, crying because they've bumped their heads. I'm sure they long to gather them up and make everything okay.

It makes me realize as I worry about my little baby sleeping in her crib, that it won't get easier. It gets harder. You get further and further away from the door, waiting longer and longer to know that they're okay.

I wrote this over a year ago and I guess I didn't think it was good enough to post. Now I like it. Hope you do too.


  1. The last line is particularly good, and heartbreaking.

    I've noticed that toddlers don't roll their eyes as much as teens.

  2. Laugh!

    No, they don't. But my eight year old does.

  3. I had 2 babies who were my world.
    Then they grew up.
    Until they left home, I did what you do now, I listened to the breathing, I watched and loved and probably hovered too much. Then they left.
    My heart broke.
    I wanted the baby back, I wanted the rebellious teen back and I want the young man and young woman back.
    Good news is, the older they get, the more they like us and want to "hang out" with us .. so they are back often .. Now we will be the ones who will move closer, so we can all be there, listening again :)

  4. I swear it's an exercise in my maintaining an even expression every time I watch my 10, 11 & 12 year olds walk out the door with skateboards and bikes yelling, "We'll be home by dinner!" We have an awesome neighborhood and they're very responsible and....and...and I keep seeing our cat that got run over last year. *sigh*

    You are so right.

  5. Mandy,
    Your blog brought tears to my eyes...I worry so much about my boy's happiness and well-being! I want to wrap him up in bubble wrap and try to keep him safe from every potential disaster and heart ache. I know I can't however, and that makes me crazy!

  6. Caring about the welfare of your children? That's a novelty my family never adopted. We were more or less left to fend for ourselves from the ages of 2 and 6. My mother would turn up now and again with groceries and look to us for positive reinforcement. We're adults now (chronologically anyways), and she defends her lack of parenting with a bevy of excuses, but I just think she was someone who shouldn't have ever had kids.
    I'm always amazed at how many people take their loving parents for granted. It seems so luxurious. All I can say is that if a parent is consumed with worry or caring for their children, it just means they've found their calling and they're excellent parents.

  7. You brought tears to my eyes with this one.

    My oldest niece is going to leave for college in the fall and it scares me to death. I feel like she's too little still (literally - she's only 5' tall). I think about how I watched her being born and held her when she weighed less than 6 pounds. I cannot even imagine if she were my own child.

  8. @Notes From Abroad: Ah, the letting go is the hardest part...

    @Chantel: You have three kids who are one year apart? Why did I not know this?

    @Toni: Bubble wrap! Yes, this is the solution to everything!

    @Blonde Steel: I can't imagine not worrying about them.

    @Mel Heth: Can you even believe you've seen a human being grow up? How does the time go by so quickly?

  9. This made me cry. I suspect that you're right... that it gets harder. For me, as a divorced dad with such young children... sometimes I feel helpless. Its amazing, I call my boys religiously, twice daily, morning and night, and when I can't reach them... I panic. Sometimes I'll call their mom's cell in desperation. She thinks I'm being a dick... but the truth is, I just need to know that they are okay.

  10. My mother kept telling me, "You never stop worrying." When I was 30-something, I finally believed her. She was worried about all six of her young-adult children, each of whom was doing just fine, I'd say.

  11. Got me too. I long for that simple sweetness yet cherish the freedom. I loved this.

    NotesfromAbroad got me too.

  12. Becoming ambulatory was the cruelest thing I ever did to my mother.

    It is also the kindest. LOL

  13. Before we became parents it was a lot easier to believe that once you've raised them they will go out on their own and your job is done.

    It's only after the fact that you find out it really is a lifetime of wanting to help whenever you can, of feeling their every hurt and triumph, and of loving in a way that makes the truthful heart ache.

    I wouldn't change it for the world; my son is 22 and pursuing a law enforcement career, my daughter is 19 & finishing her second year of university.

  14. @The Six-Fingered Monkey: The hardest thing about divorce is not having your children under the same roof every single night. I totally agree.

    @Blissed-Out Grandma: I'm sure my parents still worry they just do a better job of hiding it. Ha.

    @Nice Peace: Ah yes, the freedom. SIGH.

    @La Piazza: You made me laugh!

    @Venom: You have some pretty big babies!

  15. It's a great post. Seriously.

    And when your baby is a freshly minted 18 year old man, it's the kind of post that makes your itchy allergy-afflicted eyes water even more freely.

    It's hard letting them fall. It is so ingrained in me to rush in and pick him up and kiss his boo boos.


  16. I love this post. I am DYING with the feeling of helplessness that comes with the teenage years, hoping that whatever I fuck up isn't going to be that huge.

  17. Please don't hold on to gems like this for a year before posting. Every parent will love this. Thank you.

  18. I LOVE this post.

    I don't have kids of my own yet, but I can imagine a person's heart would ache at the thought of their children being too old to kick-start the ocean machine.

  19. My baby girl turns 5 in a few months, and I don't think I'll ever stop worrying. That's just my nature.

  20. I was sleeping on the couch at my mom's house. My sister walked into the living room and saw my mom staring down at me to check on me. My sister whispered, "Mom, that's creepy. She's 34." Still, I loved the story. Mom checking on me after all this time.

  21. I spend my life saying "Careful!" to a 5 year old and a 2 year old. At the moment it's about standing up on the swings, but it probably won't seem long before it's about trying not to catch an interesting social disease.

    Sigh . . .

  22. I hate the idea I am going to have to let Meg fail and be hurt. I wish it just wouldn't happen at all. Also, I would like it if she never gets taller than me. Oh, and if I wouldn't age...

  23. More than liked it. I'm glad you posted it.

  24. Considering my first baby is on spring break, where the drinking age is 18, my ear is pretty far away from the door, but I am constantly listening for her breathing. The worrying never ends.

  25. @Susan in the Boonies: You're just confirming my suspicions. ;-)

    @Suniverse: I figure however we unintentionally fuck them up, we also unintentionally do a whole lot of good too.

    @Wow That Was Awkward: I think we know I'm not the best judge of my content. Ha.

    @You're Lucky I Don't Have: I want to kick start the ocean machine, dammit!

    @Joshua: Five is a big one! Off to kindergarten soon....

    @Janice: OMG. I love your mom. And your sister! That is hilarious and sweet all at once.

    @Jules: The swings just keep getting bigger and swinging higher. SIGH.

    @Logical Libby: My daughter would have to be an amazon to get taller than her mother ... but my son is gaining on me fast. He's eight. Yikes.

    @Vapid Vixen: Thanks!

    @Stop Calling Me Shirley: Gah. Spring break! I don't even want to think about it...

  26. I've got three teens that I'm losing my grip on. My oldest one is headed to college next year. Right now, I still watch him sleep sometimes. :(

  27. AH, man. I'm bowled over by the difference between my one-week-old daughter and my four-year-old son. My son is just so... big. Independent. IN THE DANGER ZONE.


    *cyber fist of solidarity*

  28. This post was great - the last line, especially, brought tears to my eyes. I can relate, as we have one son who's sort of drifting through life after giving up on college but doesn't want to talk about it, one who's getting ready for prom (Where's the boy who thought girls had cooties?), a son getting teased by other 4th graders, one spunky and seemingly invincible 1st grader, and a baby who refuses to sleep anywhere but in my arms and might - MIGHT - be really really spoiled. But she's the littlest, and the last, and I always know she's breathing.

  29. Hi Mandy,
    Everything you write
    is important...even if
    it needs to age.
    Or, each day, wisdom
    grows within the writer.
    Richard O