Shop the fall collection ➔

Fifteen years ago, I was pregnant with my oldest son and I spent all my free moments devouring every baby book I could get my hands on. I bookmarked websites about babies and child development, confident I would now know where to turn for guidance along every step of my parenting journey. I joined online groups with other mommies to expand my social network and find potential support resources. I prepared and prepared and then prepared some more.

But, all those books and websites failed to tell me something importantsomething that would make me cry rivers of tears sometimes and would keep me awake some nights. They never told me the reality that I would lose my baby, my toddler, my sweet, impressionable elementary school little boy over and over again.

I would grieve a million little losses all before he even learned to drive.

Now we are perched on the edge of my oldest son transitioning into high school and my youngest transitioning into middle school. The pages of these chapters of their lives are turning super fast.

Too fast.

Where has time gone?

RELATED: “Your Son Growing Up Will Feel Like the Slowest Breakup You’ve Ever Known” Aches in Every Mother’s Heart

Now they are closer to graduating high school and going to prom than they are to boarding the kindergarten school bus for the first time or holding my hand in public.

While I love the young men my boys are becoming, my heart aches for the babies I used to have. Those babies who played with my long hair as I nursed them, fell asleep as I sang them lullabies, and squealed with delight when I would make a funny face at them are no longer here. They are gone. Sure, they are forever lodged in my memories and in online photo albums, but I will never see them again, never hold them again, never kiss their sweet heads covered in soft baby hair again.

Those toddlers that sat between me and my husband on Disney World rides, grabbed our hands, looked up at us with nervous anticipation and asked in raspy little voices, “Ready Mama, Daddy?” have left our lives forever.

RELATED: The Stage That Sneaks Up on Mamas Raising Little Boys

The bright-eyed and naive first and second graders that bounded off the bus each day after school, eager to show us their drawings and asking to snuggle with us while watching a cartoon don’t live with me anymore.

Those babies. Those toddlers. Those young school children. Gone.

None of the baby books or websites or mommy groups told me about these losses. No one prepared me for how many times, like yesterday’s concert, the realization of the little boys I no longer had would hit me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere. No one gave me a heads up for the real pain I would feel when I realize they are forever changed and the former versions of them no longer exist.

Don’t get me wrong. I love who my boys are now. There are so many amazing moments that fill me with joy as I parent my teen and my tweenmoments that make me think these versions of them are my favorite. Lurking at the back of my mind, however, is the knowledge that these versions of them too will fade away, and I will mourn their loss again.

RELATED: You Never Really See Them Growing Up, But They Do

So for now, I am trying to lean into the extra time I get to spend with my boys, choosing to focus on taking in every aspect of my boys and who they are today.

Because now I know.

There are still a million more little losses to come.

Previously published on Medium

Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.

Rett Syndrome Is Only Half of Our Family’s Story

In: Living, Motherhood
Little girls hold hands

Anxiety. Depression. Perfectionism. Guilt. An over willingness to please. Feelings of neglect. These are just a few of the issues experts warn parents to look for in children who have disabled or neurodiverse siblings. There are certainly areas of concern to watch for, but I worry that all too often we ignore the positives. In many ways, our typically developing children can grow and flourish because of the challenges faced by their families. I know because I watch it happen every day. My 4-year-old daughter JJ has Rett Syndrome. This is a rare, progressive neurological disorder that manifests in early...

Keep Reading

Setting Boundaries with Toxic Family Is Hard but Worth It

In: Motherhood
Family walking in water

Breaking generational chains is one of the most amazing, beautiful, and beneficial things I’ve done for my family. My children are happy and healthy and know they are loved unconditionally. I continue to heal my inner child and find my worth. I feel so much relief knowing my children won’t go through the trauma and pain my husband and I did.  But breaking those chains, establishing boundaries, going no contact with abusive family members, explaining to my children that they can’t see our relatives who they love so dearly because they were hurting us. That is hard. That is painful....

Keep Reading

As a Mom, I’m Always On

In: Motherhood
Mother and two kids at home

Yesterday, my kids made to-do lists as I do, they pretended to be Mom in their play, and they wanted to look up a bazillion and one things on my phone. These little humans are watching me. They are taking in all my actions, one by one. And it’s exhausting. From 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. (or later), I have to be “on.” I am expected to watch what I say (no cussing), be careful what I watch (no inappropriate memes or shows), stay off my phone as much as possible, and, of course, enjoy every moment and be present...

Keep Reading

Dear School Bus Driver, My Whole World Is In Your Care

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy standing on school bus stairs, color photo

To the bus driver I do not know, You don’t understand how hard it is to let go of my child’s hand in the morning and hand him over to you. You don’t know how long it took me to make this decision . . . to let him ride the bus.  Some may say it’s brave or courageous to trust another with your child’s life. I sometimes think it can be daring but also really unwise.  RELATED: Every Time I Leave My Child With Autism in the Care of Someone Else, I Worry In today’s world, we must worry...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to Girlhood Innocence

In: Motherhood
Little girl walking down road

She loved pickles and pudding and rocks that glittered. And forts that touched the ceiling. She mastered shadow puppets on night walls and Carol Burnett’s Tarzan yell in lieu of bedtime stories. In her innocent mind, the bogey man hid in the closet because he was scared of her. Thus she coaxed him out nightly with “shh . . . it’s okay, you’re alright.” She mailed letters to the mailman with sticky hearts on both sides and Cheerios in the envelope. RELATED: I Wish I Could Freeze This Moment of Innocence She regularly asked our 96-year-old neighbor Mr. Grayson if...

Keep Reading

Every Time I Blinked, They Grew—and It Was So Beautiful

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boys kissing mother black and white photo

I thought we were prepared, but we weren’t. Not even close. Not in the tiniest, least little bit. When we hugged our precious, oldest boy and left him to start college just a few hours away, we didn’t know what was coming. The waves of emotion, of loss, of pride, of accomplishment. They say not to blink because your kids will grow up. But despite how much we may not want to, it’s involuntary. We have to blink. They don’t talk about this part. No one tells you what to do when you open your eyes again. RELATED: I Blinked and...

Keep Reading

I Am An Autism Mom

In: Motherhood
Autism heart puzzle piece symbol in hands

I have always known what kind of mom I wanted to be. The mom who has the best after-school snacks. The mom who’s always ready with a warm hug and a kind word. The mom who makes jokes that get the kids to roll their eyes but laugh hysterically when they repeat them to their friends. I wanted to be a super involved mom—there for every activity, every field trip, every adventure. We all have our motherhood labels, usually defined by our children’s current hobbies or seasons of life. A kindergarten mom. A PTA mom. A scouting mom. A soccer/lacrosse/baseball/hockey...

Keep Reading

The Boss Around Here Is Tough

In: Motherhood
Tired mom with baby drinking coffee

I’ve recently changed careers. I was so used to working a regular 8-5 job over the last 13+ years. Sure, there were some late nights, plenty of obstacles, and a multitude of frustrations, but this career change has been life-changing, to say the least. We’ve all worked with difficult people before. I should be used to this, but this new boss I have has been nothing short of tyrannical.  Before I’ve even had my morning coffee I’m at his beck and call. You never know when he’s going to need something, and I have to be ready at all times....

Keep Reading

To the Homeschool Mom Trying Her Best

In: Motherhood
Homeschool family

Homeschool mothers are their own worst critics. The subject doesn’t often come up, but occasionally someone will discover I was homeschooled. My mother taught my siblings and me at home from third grade until I graduated high school. Most people don’t really care about my education before college, but homeschool mothers pepper me with questions. What curriculum did you use? What was your schedule like? Did you have issues getting into college? What did you love about it? What would you have changed? I know why they ask. They have a list of all the things they have heard about...

Keep Reading

What a Gift It Is To Watch My Babies Grow Up

In: Motherhood, Teen
Mother in pool with teens in background

A few weeks ago I ran away and I brought my family with me. It’s become my favorite thing to do for my birthday week. Nestled neatly between the end of the school year and the beginning of the longest stretch of summer, for years that week has provided my family and I with the perfect freedom to get away. There are four simple rules for this escape from our normal lives and they are always the same. Our location must: 1. Be located in a climate with palm trees. 2. Require an airplane to get there. 3. Have a...

Keep Reading