I see it every day. My social media is littered with beautiful photos of children doing all sorts of things in all stages of childhood. And almost every day, at least one parent says it . . .

“I wish she could just stay little forever.”

But wait–do you really? Let’s think about that for a minute.

You get to watch your chubby little baby turn into a rambunctious toddler. Then your toddler will become an energetic and inquisitive preschooler. Before long, your sweet baby will be graduating from kindergarten. Then elementary school. Then high school. Then he will be starting his own life, and you will probably get to be there for that too. So many memories left to make. So many joyous occasions and love to experience. So. Much. Life!

But for some of us who have buried a child, things just aren’t that simple.

While your baby learns to sit on her own, my baby is still four months old.

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While your little one takes her first steps, my baby is still four months old.

While your 5-year-old learns to read, my baby is still four months old.

While your elementary school student plays the lead role in the school play, my baby is still four months old.

While your teenager learns to drive and starts dating, my baby is four months old.

While your daughter graduates from high school and then college, my baby is still four months old.

While you wrap your arms around your adult child and feel the girth that used to be so much less, my baby is still four months old.

While your child goes on to have a beautiful life full of amazing moments, my baby is still . . . four months old.

My daughter will always be four months old in my mind. When I periodically change the photos in the frames of all my children to proudly display their most current photos, my daughter’s photo will never be changed. It will fade with time, but the same little baby face will always be there–frozen in time.

Every day, the sameness of her image is an enormously painful reminder that she will stay little forever, at least in my mind.

God has given me five other amazing and unique children, but sometimes seeing them grow and change just causes me to think of my daughter in Heaven and everything I am missing with her. It is an emotion I wish no parent would ever have to experience–being happy and devastated all at the same time. It is like being handed a million dollars while still being destitute. The weight of such internal, emotional controversy can eventually cause even the strongest of parents to struggle. 

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I get it. I really do. We all love the adorableness of childhood and there’s nothing wrong with feeling a little sadness because it passes so quickly. I feel it too. I miss the days of diapers, sippy cups, and watching Dora the Explorer over and over . . . and over. OK, maybe I don’t really miss Dora.

But please . . . don’t wish away their futures.

Take a moment to think about what a precious gift you have been given as a parent–a gift that so many will never receive.

Enjoy every birthday, every first step, every lost tooth, every first day of school, every first date, every graduation, and everything in between. Embrace the changes, and celebrate them with happiness and gratitude.

Before you know it, that little gummy grin will be replaced by a mouth full of braces, and that toddler who loves cuddling for storytime will be out on a date. But that’s OK. Actually, that is more than OK. It’s a miraculous blessing, unfolding in the form of a magnificent, lifelong, dramatic production. And you, you get a front-row seat.

Emily J. Merrick

Emily J. Merrick has a Bachelor's Degree in Family Studies from the University of Kentucky. She worked in a variety of social work and educational settings before becoming a full-time stay-at-home-mom in 2002. She and her (high-school sweetheart) husband have been together for almost 30 years and married for 24. Emily is a mother of six. Her third child passed away after heart surgery. Emily's five living children range in age from 19 down to 5. She ran a very successful Etsy shop from home for six years before becoming disabled in 2021. She now shares her experience through writing and enjoys time at home with her family and pets on 12 beautiful, rural acres in Kentucky.