Variations on the Theme of Love


“There’s nothing new under the sun”.

I remember my mom saying this often when we were growing up. And really, it’s true, and I’m not just saying that because as a mother myself I am legally obligated to maintain the illusion that everything that comes out of the maternal collective’s mouth is platinum. The more I grow and experience, the more I’m struck with that comfortably novel feeling of deja vu, that electric hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-my-neck thrill that I’ve been somewhere before.

Sometimes it’s chilling to recognize that I’m heading down a well-worn path that I’ve been on before. I am nothing if not dense and I often have to make the same mistakes about a hundred times before I create a plan to avoid them. It’s actually really ridiculous: I will be in the middle of doing something that has caused me problems in the past and I’ll identify it as a stumbling block right as I’m doing it and instead of extracting myself out of the situation while there’s still time, I just push on through, looking at the consequences ahead square in the eye as I run right into some all too familiar chainsaw. Case in point: peanut butter exists and I abuse it.


(Not kidding.)

big guwl

The big guwl.

But more often, I love the feeling that there are certain themes in this life that I am highly attuned to, patterns that I can predict. The themes I tend to write about come to mind. Almost all of my parenting writing has a baseline flavor: my baby is growing up. She’s mine, and she’s growing. When asked if she’s a baby, C thinks for a second, rolling her eyes off to the side as she considers what you’re asking her, and replies, “Big guwl.”

And it’s decided.

Her growth absolutely dazzles me and it is endlessly heartbreaking. I remember so vividly the first time I felt her kick – it seems like it happened about five minutes ago – and last week she got her first haircut. It doesn’t seem like the span of two and a half years should be able to contain those two vastly different touchpoints in her life as a person and my life as a parent. I love thinking about all that she has in store and celebrating the milestones she hits along the way. Sometimes those celebrations are literal and loud – who doesn’t love a birthday party? – but more often than not they are simple reveries that only take place in my own mommy space. I consider who she is and was and will be, maybe write a blog post, definitely shed a happy tear that my daughter is the way she is.

She kicked me, she took a step, she got a haircut. All these events are precious to me because they are part of my child’s history. They are part of the unfolding narrative of her life, and I get to watch and record them.

I consider it the biggest challenge of my life that this little girl has been placed in my watch, and I hold out faith that because I love her so much, I won’t damage her too horribly. She’s getting bigger and doing new things (she talks now, y’all!), but the way I behave each time she hits a new milestone, you’d really think that this parenting gig is completely new to me.

There’s nothing new, but parenthood certainly makes you forget that. Every time your child does something that indicates that they are outgrowing their baby self, you remember the thrill you felt when you first felt them kick.

There is a middle school across the street from us, and today C and I went out for a walk right around dismissal time. A girl carrying a violin case walked five steps ahead of her mom out of the office and to their car. I was struck by the way the two of them moved so independently of one another. There were no strollers to push, no talk of what color the birds in a nearby tree were. They just walked and were so clearly in a completely different place than C and I am in now.

But really, we’re all the same. I don’t know those people, but I do know that mother loves her girl and the space between them is just as meaningful as the tangible closeness I have with C right now. We are all moving in tandem in our own special ways.

And when C eventually walks ahead of me, I will celebrate it. That’s just what moms do.


  1. Teresa Pate · · Reply

    You are so right. I celebrate you walking ahead of me. So proud. Mom

  2. It’s so hard, letting them grow up. I struggle with this with each new stage. My oldest is starting to look and act like a young man. My youngest just turned five. I feel like I have a constant lump in my throat when I look at my kids. Of course you want them to grow and to “walk ahead” of us, but it is, I think, “the hardest part” of parenting ;)

  3. My baby is graduating from high school on Sunday. I do remember when he was in my womb. When he’s about to get my last nerve, I remind him that I let him live inside me and that he entered this world through my vagina. It grosses him out (which is the point), but it really does make me marvel. He is tall and hairy and an adult who makes his own choices now.

    My daughter is the one who walks ahead now, usually because she can’t stand to be seen with me or she’s angry with me. The space between us is no longer comfortable and breaks my heart. My son did the same thing. He is coming back to me; the therapist said he would. I need to remember that as my daughter widens the space.

    Lovely piece. Made me cry, damn you.

  4. “And when C eventually walks ahead of me, I will celebrate it”

    Just as soon as you’re finished crying, of course. ;)

    1. I second this. I am all “Yay, look at Squish taking another step toward independence” right after the “Whaaa! Where did my baby go?”!

    2. I third it. Is that a thing?

  5. I’m so relieved to hear your voice again, Emily, and as usual, it’s lovely. I haven’t congratulated you yet on your new venture, so here it is: Congratulations on your new job!! You’ve truly scored a coup, getting actually cash money for writing. And even though you probably had to wrestle with the decision like crazy before actually stepping into the job, it really does sound like the right opportunity at the right time. Nice, very nice. Please continue to check in, however–I’m so interested in keeping up with C. and hearing how the career gig unfolds. Blessings!

  6. My daughter is graduating from college next year and my son high school. I’m constantly amazed that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  7. Another winner, Em!!! There is a great, big, giant part of me that wants a “The Waiting” book…

  8. I think we learn so much about life and people when we are parents. There are lot of new things that we learn every day from them.

  9. As always, you write about what I have to look forward to.

  10. My teenage children walk ahead of me, yet still they take me by the hand. Not always, but enough to give me a glimpse of their world; to feel loved, and for that I am grateful. I remember everything we have shared and treasure it all. You and C can grow together, each living their own life but together. Beautiful post.

  11. “We are all moving in tandem in our own special ways.” Chills.

    Now get back to packing, silly girl!

  12. OK, C’s pigtails at the top of the page and then your mom’s sweet comment as the first one of the bunch? The level of love and cuteness on this page is off the charts, which is just as it should be. :)

  13. Em, what a wonderful post. As always, it has your signature introspective touch. C is beautiful and she does look like a big girl now. I hope you and yours are well and loving your new place, job, etc. Nice to read you again.

  14. I’ll have to notice when my kiddos decide they are big girls. Just barely two, they still declare themselves BABY.

  15. I relate to this so very much. Every day as a mom has ALL the feelings wrapped up in it and every new thing they do seems like they just found the cure to cancer! 😀 Babies and their mom’s (parents) make the world go round and give it purpose!

  16. You WILL celebrate her walking ahead from you. But you’ll also cry a little. Because that’s ALSO what moms do.

  17. So sweet. It’s so true. You have to try to figure out a way to enjoy the moment while simultaneously letting go. It’s so heart wrenching. Beautiful post, Emily. Glad you squeaked one out :)

  18. My baby is 6 now. She has always stuck very close to me, too close sometimes. We were in a cafe waiting for our food the other day, when she jumped up and said she was going to go for a walk, “by yourself?” I asked, eyebrows raised. “Yep!” she said. And without a backward glance she hopped, skipped and jumped down to arcade entrance and back. I looked at her little figure dancing down the footpath and was happy. She is growing up, and that pleases me :)

  19. I think you should know that it will be this way for all time. When you reach the point where you are nearing the end of the cycle, and she is caring for you, she’ll still be your baby and you’ll find joy in the things she does. At least I still feel that way as my babies near the half-century mark. It’s a blessing and a damn shame!

  20. Great post as always. I am amazed at how you put the joys and struggles of new moms like us.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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