Black Mary Janes. Light-up Skechers. Hot pink Nikes. Bright white Keds. Pastel pink tennis shoes. 

I probably can’t even remember what I just walked into the other room for, but I can recount shoes and backpacks from the past six years of  elementary school. Despite how my mom-brain needs a good dumping (maybe then I could remember what I walked into the other room for), the truth is, I’m rather grateful for these seemingly useless bits of information from our 11-year-old’s school experience.

From the Barbie backpack in kindergarten to the emoji backpack in second grade, from the pastel pink backpack in fourth grade to every grade in between, the truth is that these memories remind me of the journey our oldest child is on, growing at warp speed.

Those black saddle shoes from kindergarten weren’t just purchased because I wanted to make sure I was following the school dress code to a T, but also, because, at that age, she couldn’t tie her shoes. Velcro strap Mary Janes to the rescue! 

Those light-up Skechers that Olivia saved up some of her own money for? She adored them in first grade since she’d learned to tie her shoes over Christmas break that kindergarten year. If you ask her, she’ll tell you she doesn’t tie her shoes “the normal way” which is probably true. Weeks of blood and sweat on my part and years on hers led me down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos and an easier way to tie shoes than your traditional bunny ears. I thought my heart might burst watching her tie her shoes those first couple of years! When I wasn’t stressed out about how long they were taking her to tie and get out the door in. 

The emoji backpack, with the matching pencils and erasers, was the by-product of pop culture her second-grade year. Poop emojis led to fits of little girl giggles. Any bathroom joke now posed by her younger sister, is not the source of a giggle, so much as it is an exasperated sigh of embarrassment. 

If you would have told me four years ago that I’d be missing my little girl’s ability to giggle uncontrollably, regardless of who’s listening, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. “She has years of being a little girl ahead of her,” I thought to myself back then.

Except, somewhere in between emoji backpacks and pastel everything came a lot of growing up

I know we’ve all gritted our teeth and bitten our tongues when yet another person peppered us with the advice to enjoy it all, “because they grow up so quickly,” but, as the hard, busy days of parenthood with babies and toddlers pass, giving way to the sometimes even busier days of school-aged children, I look back on those words of advice and nod my head in understanding.

My little girl, who once had to have me walk her into school each morning, proudly flashing those Mary Janes to her newfound friends, now rushes off to her classroom looking more and more like a young woman every day. If I’m lucky, she’ll kiss me on the forehead as she sprints off. Ironically, that’s just how she let me kiss her when she was headed to class as a younger child. Weep.

The little girl who once used to start each day at the crack of dawn excitedly asking for help in getting dressed for the day, help even in picking out her socks and hair bows. Hair bows! I never thought I’d say I miss her hair bows, but, well, I do. Sigh. 

No need for help. No bows. And firm in her self-knowledge of what’s cool and what’s not (this mom who once thought she knew what’s “in” is suddenly learning I’m way behind the curve these days), she picks out of her own items for her school uniform, wears her hair exactly the same way each day, parted down the middle with ridiculously amazing natural beach waves that I’m jealous of, and it’s a far cry from the crack of dawn. I love this girl, but her overly sunny, early morning disposition as a young girl has been replaced by tween hormones that have me dragging her out of bed. Who would have thought? Honestly, I didn’t.

This isn’t supposed to be happening already!

Maybe I came into this whole parenthood thing more naive than I thought, but as I watch her bound out the door this year with her all-black backpack and her red converse (picked out by her, of course, but I would honestly have loved to wear myself), I know that the days may be long, but the years are most certainly short

As you start the school year with the endless list of character-themed, color-coordinated items that your kiddo just can’t live without and you want to pull your hair out at the thought of looking just for it, know that the days of their loud, stubborn insistence on these things, their excitement over the backpacks and crayons, will come to an end. Probably sooner than you could imagine.

As you’re racing out the door on that first day of school, struggling to pull everyone together before the tardy bell rings and your son or daughter needs help tying their shoe, take a deep breath, because it’s stressful, but take heart in knowing that before you know it, not only will they not need your help, but a part of you will wish they did. 

The start of the school year brings with it such an overwhelming mix of emotions—not just for our children, but for us, as parents. New experiences, new friends, new accomplishments and growth. And yes, new backpacks, school supplies, clothes and shoes. 

Our wallets may cry out this time of year, but I can tell you that my mama heart cries out more than my wallet. 

I’m overjoyed at who my children are growing up to be. I love watching them learn and accomplish great things. I love their burgeoning independence!

But we’ve once in awhile, I miss Mary Janes. And Barbie backpacks. And getting to plant kisses on a cheek that don’t then get countered with an embarrassed look. 

Good news for me, though, my youngest heads to Kindergarten next year. Maybe I’ll get my second chance with those Mary Janes. And most importantly, appreciating every moment, knowing how quickly it will all change. 

You may also like:

Dear Teenagers, Be Patient While I Let Go

The Nights Are So Long

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Melissa Ohden

Melissa Ohden is a well-known Christian and Pro-Life Speaker. She is the author of the award-winning book, You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir. Melissa is a frequent guest on radio programs such as Focus on the Family, the BBC, and the Mike Huckabee show. Melissa’s a frequent contributor to sites including The Mighty, LifeNews, and Fox News. Melissa, her husband Ryan, and daughters Olivia and Ava reside in Kansas City, Missouri.

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading

God Chose Me to Be the Mother of a Wild One

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman holding child on the beach, black-and-white photo

It was just another typical fall morning. There was a time change so you were a little extra sleepy (also known as grouchy) but nothing too out of the ordinary. In a split second, that all changed, and the reality of what it is like to live with an unbelievably relentless little human set in like never before. I sat on your bedroom floor, laundry scattered all around, and literally watched my tears fall to the ground. I was on my knees. Physically on my knees just begging you to stop or begging God to give me patience. I don’t...

Keep Reading