You know how people change, but deep down, really, they don’t?

This is my eldest son when he was 4 years old . . . and now.

Those curls! He’s still got them. They’re just a little shorter now. 

Those blue eyes! Still there. Full of sneaky schemes with a sparkle of sweetness.

That smile! It still lights up the world.

And that love for the beach! Also still there. It has always had a perfectly balanced effect on him—both calming and exhilarating at once.

He turned 10 a few months ago. I know a lot of people celebrate the “double digits” with excitement. We celebrated with a high energy go-cart birthday party, chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting at his request, and fun with family and friends. 

It was perfect. And he was happy blowing out the 10 candles (plus one for good luck).

Ten candles already? While I try daily to think of an even more accurate way to capture the idea that “I blinked, and 10 years had gone by” or “kids grow up so fast”—I truly can’t believe that my baby, my first baby, the boy who made me the mommy I had always hoped to be—is a decade old. It was faster than a blink. It was a  . . . ugh, I still can’t find the right way to describe it.

So, he’s 10. But that’s not what throws me into a swirl of deep down angst about the ticking clock that is our life. It’s the fact that, assuming he heads off to college or moves out after high school, he now has fewer years remaining under my roof than he has already had. Ten years here already. But probably only eight more to go.  I’ve got a lot to cover in those eight years.

Suddenly, this boy of mine gets his own snacks. His own milk. He even knows how to make an omelet (better than I do, in all honesty!). 

Suddenly, his face looks a bit more “handsome” and a little less “cute”. 

He snuggles me less now. But he says “I love you” more. I recently taught him a secret code I learned from my own first grade teacher: “If I squeeze your hand three times, it means ‘I–Love–You.’” I bet a teacher could get in trouble for that these days, but back in the early 80s, it was OK . . . and it stuck with me.  It’s a perfect, simple, subtle way that a growing boy—even in an instance where he doesn’t want to speak the words—can let his mommy know he still loves her. Even after a long, rough day together, where personalities clash sometimes, or misbehaving leads to time-outs or lost video game privileges, a simple triple-squeeze of the hand reminds him that I love him like I always have, and three squeezes back is all I need for a “right back atcha, Mom.”

If the next eight years go by as quickly as the first 10, I know I won’t get to do everything I want to with this boy of mine. So, rather than making a list of things to accomplish in those years, I’m making sure we’re making memories on even the most ordinary days.

How? It’s the simple stuff.

I make sure to be the mom who gets her hair wet on vacation.

I’m the mom who stops and listens to the headphones in the department store, rocking out to the sample tunes with my boy.

Today I was the mom who enforced that he couldn’t go to the amusement park because his behavior didn’t warrant it, and the mom who later took him school shopping and enjoyed a lunch out with him.

I’m the mom who gets him medicine if he has a middle-of-the-night headache, and the mom who rubs his back to soothe him after a scary dream.

I’m the mom who helps keep him organized for school, and the mom who encourages kindness (which, in a house of three boys, still often turns into a wrestling match!).

I’m the mom who gives her best at “momming”—teaching him to put his napkin on his lap and to look people in the eye, to spread kindness, to grow into an amazing man.

And the mom who is trying her absolute best to be everything her baby needs, even as he looks less and less like a baby every time he blows out one more candle.

Make your moments meaningful. People change over time, but also, they don’t. My boy still loves the beach, and he’s still tiny compared to the vast ocean. He’s still my same baby, and I’ll always be his mommy. And sometimes all it takes is three squeezes of the hand to remind me of how much that means to me.

Karen Lesh

I'm a wife, friend, sister, daughter, professional, self-proclaimed girly-girl and mother of THREE BOYS!  I blog about my parenting adventures and life as the only female in the household. My work has been published on Scary Mommy and in the new anthology "The Unofficial Guidebook to Surviving Pregnancy Without Losing Your Sanity." When I'm not wiping pee off the toilet seat, I love to write, play with my kids, tap dance, bake, and hang out with friends and family.