So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Eighteen is kind of an odd number. It’s big if you’re talking about pounds gained or lost, how many times you sneeze in a row, or how many marriages you’ve had, but for many things it’s a relatively low number. Eighteen miles to your destination, 18 minutes until vacation starts, and for me 18 truffles in a box.

But 18 gets to be a gut wrenchingly small number when you realize that’s the number of times you have to make significant memories with your kids. Eighteen. That’s 18 birthdays where you can count on them being in your home and spoiling them with love. The number of Christmases you can have them at the tree, faces alight with anticipation. Well, that number may be more like 11, with the final seven being them trying to look too cool to care but knowing them like you do, you know they’re secretly excited for what’s inside the brightly wrapped boxes. Eighteen Halloweens to watch their personalities shine with their costume choices, even when they’re teens and too old for trick-or-treating, they still like the magic of the holiday.

Then there’s the day you wake up and realize, like I did not too long ago, the number is now three. THREE!

My oldest is 15 and he asked me if I’d started shopping for Christmas. It was September 7th. I snorted and said, “Umm, I haven’t even thought about Christmas and will not be thinking about it anytime soon.” I looked up and saw his face fall a little, but he covered it up quickly and shrugged.

That’s when it hit me: after celebrating this Christmas, I’ll be down to two.

I immediately chastised myself for my flippant reply to my son. He’s obviously still holding on to the joy of the holidays and I’m so mired down in the day-to-day pulls and needs of life, Christmas often seems like one more chore on my to-do list. One more holiday spent trying to get the perfect gift, please everyone, get things shipped in time. So much doing! So much worry!

It wasn’t always like this. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday. There was so much to do! And I loved all of it. I loved the shopping, often buying things in the middle of summer and hiding them in my closet. The shopping was fun and easy. They were usually into the easy things, you know, like any toy ever made. I could get a dinosaur, a car, and pajamas with their favorite cartoon character and I was a hero. Fill their stockings with candy, a new toothbrush, a coloring book and crayons, and it was a treasure chest of joy for them to comb through.

Now?

Now the things they’re into aren’t easy to buy in a store. Or cheap. Their lists read more like a marketing flyer for Apple or Xbox and don’t include any cartoon character pajamas. Because we’re a split family now, it means coordinating gifts with my ex to ensure we’re not buying duplicates or that I’m not buying bigger or better than him. It’s figuring out holiday schedules between various houses, visiting relatives, and lots of back and forth driving. So much doing! So much worry!

So, when it hit me recently that I only have three years left of the “doing” I thought about what that next Christmas will be like. Of course, I can’t predict the future, but what if my son decides to celebrate the holiday with friends or a new girlfriend? What if he’s not living at home and it’s just my younger son and me, trying to figure out how we move without my oldest in the room? Where do we sit, how quickly will the boxes be opened now that each one doesn’t have to wait for his brother to open and delight in his gifts? I just had the thought while writing this of who will help me moved the stupid Elf on the Shelf each night, since I now make my oldest do it, so I can go to bed. I realized by then, my youngest will have lost the magic of believing in a moving stuffed Elf.

I still have eight Christmases with my youngest but once my oldest is out of the house, it’ll be different. It will feel a little lonelier, a little less right. Even if he does come home for the holiday, he’ll now come home a man. Gone will be my little boy and in his place will be a man I will be working to get to know on a daily basis.

Because I can see some version of how different things will be, I’ve resolved to make the most of the three and eight I have left. I still have three where we’re all together. Where each boy opens one gift, we ooh and ahh, then the other boy opens a gift, and we repeat. Three more where we make gingerbread houses, the boys smiling when the box appears on the table, even though they’d never admit they still enjoy this activity to their friends. Three more where we go cut down a tree together, a tradition I’ve hated but now see as magical because it means we’re all together. Three more holidays of making a big Christmas Eve dinner that everyone groans about having to sit down to eat, because they want to get to opening their one Christmas Eve gift.

There will come a day when it’s just my husband and me. Presents might be shipped to far off addresses, the Elf on the Shelf will still sit on the mantle, but he’ll never move. Christmas Eve dinner might simply feel like too much work for just the two of us, and Christmas morning will mean we both sleep in as late as we want and go downstairs to an empty living room. No gifts from Santa waiting in front of the fireplace, no excited faces with messed up hair, cartoon character pajamas, and squeals of “Hurry up Mommy!” greeting me.

It’s enough to make me excited again for this Christmas.

One more year of so much doing, so much worry, and most of all, so much joy.

You may also like: 

The 18th Summer

You Don’t Have to Cram Everything Into 18 Summers

Moms, Get Your Joy Back This Christmas

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here!

Heather LeRoss

Heather LeRoss is the mom to two smelly but sweet boys and step-mom to another boy (he’s less smelly). She spends her days spinning in circles of crazy wearing a tiara, gripping a glass of champagne. Heather is a lover of fine boxed wine and chocolate. She hopes to someday be known as “Heather” again and not, “those boys’ mom.” Follow the funny and heart feels on Tipsy Tiaras and on Facebook.

Summer Goes by Too Fast

In: Kids
Boy lying on bench at park, color photo

To my oldest, As our summer vacation nears an end and we begin school supply shopping, I think about all the things we didn’t get to do together this summer. I instantly feel mom guilt. All the plans I had made? Only half of them done—if that. RELATED: Remember When Summer Lasted Forever? All the books I was going to read to you at bedtime? Only a couple short ones. All the creative art we would do? Maybe just one time. The fact is, I let time slip away from me. I was too focused and anxiety-ridden about work, my...

Keep Reading

Going on Family Vacation with Young Kids is Work That’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom with two young kids on airplane

Our routine will be a mess. Our toddler won’t sleep in a new environment. Our baby needs all of the gear. The flight could be a disaster. I went through a mental checklist of reasons why this kind of family vacation would be hard. It was a pretty convincing list if I’m being honest. I considered throwing a pity party dedicated to the concerns I shoulder as a mother. A few days later I felt a wave of conviction wash over me. I was dreading a trip that was meant to be a blessing to our family. Any kind of...

Keep Reading

I Want To Raise Good Sisters

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four girls sitting on a rock in the forest, color photo

My current dilemma: how to teach four little girls how to be good sisters when I have no idea what I’m doing? I was an only child growing up, and a tomboy at that. It was a lonely, quiet childhood. I remember wishing for a sister, but knowing that with my single mom, it wasn’t going to happen. So, the sister thing is a big mystery to me. I’ve noticed (admittedly with some envy) adult sisters together and their inside jokes, shared history, and language known only to each other. I’ve read about sisters in books. The relationships between the four...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Just Love You, I Like You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy standing at bridge, color photo

My growing child, my heart often aches when I look at how big you have gotten. You aren’t a baby anymore, you’re a whole kid. You are your own person, with your own thoughts and feelings. You have your own friendships, and interests.  Parts of me realize you don’t need me the same, but deep down I know you need me all the same. And I’m realizing, that in all of these changes, my love for you is also a like.  RELATED: Being Your Mom is the Greatest Honor of My Life Because now we can connect in a whole...

Keep Reading

Having the Tools To Parent a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder Changes Everything

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child playing with water in tube

My heart leaped into my mouth as Soccer Mom, with her matching foldable chairs and ice-cold Gatorade, glared at me. I wanted to explain how hard I tried to be a good mom, to raise a kind human, but I swallowed the words so I could vomit them at my 5-year-old son on the ride home.   Didn’t he know that pushing another child was unacceptable? Hadn’t I taught him to use gentle hands?   RELATED: To the Special Needs Mom Who Sits Alone Despite implementing the parenting books that promised me a new kid by the week’s end, I often wondered...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergartner, I’ll Always Remember You This Way

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child touch foreheads

The first magical flickers of your strong heartbeat on a black and white screen— the reassuring evidence I needed to know you were gaining strength for this world. My belly grew, and I proudly went shopping for maternity clothes to cover it. I felt the first dances of your little feet, and it reminded me of butterflies taking flight— the movement of a true miracle. I’ll always remember you this way. The sounds of your first cries—music ringing in my ears. You were real, Earth-side, and wanting only to be loved. The softness of your skin, the way you smelled,...

Keep Reading

There’s No Instruction Manual for These Middle Years

In: Kids
Little girl smiling on porch

As a preschool teacher and a mom, I’ve always felt pretty confident in my parenting from ages birth to 5 years old.  I by no means am perfect, and I silently rejoiced the day my kids could pour their own cereal and turn on Netflix for themselves while I caught some extra sleep. Even though that’s probably not a proud mama moment to celebrate, it’s just the reality of parenting.  We both celebrate and mourn independence as our children need us less. And let’s be honest, oftentimes independence makes our daily lives easier. Yet it is bittersweet.  It feels like...

Keep Reading

I’m Halfway Through Raising Little Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two girls smiling outside

Today I stayed in my car a few minutes more than usual as my kids hopped out onto the hot driveway and ran inside. The cold air conditioning felt amazing after a long day at the local water park; so did the silence. Then it felt odd, so I turned on the radio. The song that started playing hit my soul: “Woah, we’re halfway there/Woah, livin’ on a prayer.” I’m always living on a prayer, but I also noticed we are halfway there. RELATED: Growing Up, You First Then Me Halfway through the year, more than halfway through summer, and...

Keep Reading

Kindergarten is the Start of Letting You Go

In: Kids, Motherhood

We’re physically ready for kindergarten. We’ve got the backpack, the school supplies, the school clothes, and the new shoes. We’ve talked about it all summer. We’ve practiced the skills he will need, and how to open everything inside of a cold lunch box. We’ve talked positively about it and imagined all the friends he will meet and the places he will go, and how kind and caring the teacher will be. We’re physically ready for kindergarten. But here’s a little secret . . . My heart? My heart can’t fully be ready for him to go to kindergarten. I know...

Keep Reading

The Truth about Puddle Jumpers and Toddler Drowning, From a Grieving Mom

In: Kids
Little boy in Puddle Jumper on waterslide

The very last video I have of my 3-year-old son, Levi, is of him bobbing up and down in a Puddle Jumper.  His little legs kicking underwater, his eyes the spitting image of his daddy, and his older sisters, his happy grin, and his little voice saying “Cheese!” This time-stamped video, counting down the precious minutes we had left until he would end up in this very same pool, less than two hours later.  But this time, it was without the Puddle Jumper. I understand the sense of panic building inside you to avoid my story or read it just...

Keep Reading