Category Archives: Parenthood

From The Archives: What I Wrote When My Son Turned Fifteen

This is what I wrote when my son turned fifteen. I read it again today for the first time since posting it over four years ago. I had no idea when I wrote it my son would make the choice to join the Marines. I’ll be kissing him goodbye in less than forty eight hours. I’m proud, I’m happy he’s doing what he wants to do, but it hurts my heart more than I can express with words.

Originally posted March 3, 2008

First Birthday
That right there is my first born son at his First Birthday Party. I remember I started planning that party when he turned six months old. I couldn’t wait for my boy to turn one. I couldn’t wait to celebrate the first year of his life.

Oh, what an incredible year that it was. I loved every minute of being a new mother. Back then, I don’t think I could have understood the moms who write about how hard it is being a mother. It wasn’t hard for me. Sure, there were moments that were difficult. There were times that the crying became overwhelming. But those times with my first born son were few and far between. (The second child? TOTALLY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE.) That boy was the most laid back, mellow, sweet spirited baby a mother could ask for. And I’m not saying that to sugar coat the experience of becoming a mother at the age of 22. I’m not saying it to be all “children are a blessing!” I’m saying it because it’s simply the truth.

I loved being a mom. I reveled in it. I felt like it was what I was born to do. And I believe it’s all because of the sweet spirit of my son. He was always happy, but quiet. He never fussed much. He wasn’t demanding or difficult. He always seemed content and laid back, as if he was habitually high on The Pot.

Planning his birthday parties has always been one of the highlights of being his mom. I’ve loved watching him enjoy being showered with attention on his big day. I’ve felt pride and unspeakable love as I’ve watched him blow out the candles on a cake. How lucky, how absolutely lucky I’ve been to have another year with this boy. And there aren’t words that can begin to express how I felt watching him walk around school with an orange crown made of construction paper, glue and glitter.
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As my son approached teenage-hood, my feelings for his birthdays began to change.. A day that once brought me pure joy and happiness now was mixed with tears and sadness. I suppose that’s part of being a mother– learning how to accept that they’re only children for a season and your job is to raise them to be the best people they can possibly be. But, no one really, truly tells you how difficult and painful it is. People say “enjoy them while they’re little! They grow so fast!” And you nod your head and say “I know! They’re growing so fast!” But, until your teenager fills out his highschool “career goals” and checks the “police officer” box or until he starts locking his bedroom door and coming out all sweaty and red in the face (HOLD ME) you can’t understand how meaningful those words are. “Enjoy them while they’re little” is so cliche, but, oh parents of little ones, Enjoy them while they’re little.

One day, one day you’re just going to look back at pictures of them and you’re going to sob because your heart aches at the same time as it soars. In the blink of an eye, the little baby that you once held in your arms is  a beautiful, thoughtful, kind, hilarious human being who you’d want to be friends with even if they weren’t your child because they are THAT AWESOME– but my GOD, what you wouldn’t give to go back in time and hold them tightly in your arms while sniffing their sweet baby breath.
The annual "This is what I looked like when my mom woke me up on my birthday" shot.  Happy 15th Birthday, Son.
(I have a tradition of taking their pictures first thing in the morning on their birthday. I want to remember EXACTLY what they looked like the day they turned a year older. This was taken at 6:45 this morning.)
Happy 15th Birthday, Nunu. I love love love you and as sad as I may feel about you being another year closer to adulthood, today, I celebrate you.
I celebrate the day you came into my life.
I celebrate every memory we’ve made together.
I celebrate your love of music.
I celebrate your kind gentle spirit.
I celebrate everything that makes you the beautiful person you are fifteen years after the first time that I laid eyes on you.

The Chord of Sad

I was sitting at my desk, working. My son walked into my room, laid on my bed and began playing the guitar.

“Have you heard this song, mom?” He asks.

I feel the ache in my chest as tears start to form in my eyes. I answer his question, fighting back the tears.

“No, I’ve never heard it. Play it for me.”

He does. I close my eyes and listen. He sings, he plays. I think back to when he first started playing guitar. He was just a little guy, with a little guitar that his Grandpa had bought for him as a Christmas gift. I remember the day of his very first lesson. He packed his guitar carefully into the case and carried it outside with such care and much pride. Playing the guitar became a passion of his. He plays with his brother in the garage, he plays with his church worship band. He learns his little sister’s favorite songs and plays for her while she sings along.

There isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t play his guitar. There have been times where I’ve asked him to go play in the garage or to close his door because mama needs silence to watch Real Housewives of Orange County. But the truth is that the music he makes with his guitar is a source of great happiness.

In just thirteen days, the sound of my son strumming on the guitar will cease. I don’t know if my heart will be able to stand the silence.

Counting Down the Days

I’ve spent the last few hours going through old photos.

How did the time go by so quickly? I ask myself as I cry a little bit.

Or a lot.

It’s not the end of the world, just the end of this phase in his life, our lives.

It’s going to be okay. He’s going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay.

I just hope he knows how much I’ve enjoyed being his mama. I hope he knows how much joy his sweet little face and wonderful personality has given me over the past nineteen years. I hope he knows how damn proud I am of this brave choice he’s made.

I worry for him and the experience that lies ahead for him. I can see that he’s nervous, but not afraid. He’s determined, he’s strong, he’s brave. I hope that the love and care I’ve given to him helps to get him through the tough times in boot camp.

A dear friend left a comment on my last post that will stay with me during the weeks he’s gone.

If it’s any help, my husband (who is a Marine) said that at his most difficult moments in boot camp, he thought about his mom. You’ll be with him there and he’ll still be Andrew when he gets back.

It helps more than you know, sweet friend. Thank you.

Me and Andrew just after his junior high school graduation.

Seventeen Days

I need to write this post to help me work through all of the emotions that I’m feeling. I probably won’t go back to proofread. Not right away, anyway. Please excuse any mistakes I’ve made. I’ll come back to edit things later.

Last night I was at Ethan’s basketball practice watching my son run suicide after suicide. I picked up my phone to play a game of Draw Something when I noticed I had missed a call from Andrew. I was about to call him back when a text message from him came through.

“Mom, can you please call me right away.”

I didn’t panic, but I was definitely concerned. My mind started to race a bit. Was he in a car accident? Did he get pulled over? Did he run out of gas? I hope everything’s okay…

He answered the phone.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said. “Mom, a few people were discharged last night and so they’ve moved my ship date up. I’m leaving for boot camp on May 1st.”

I was stunned into silence.


I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.


“Are you joking, Andrew?”

“No, Mom. I’m serious. I’m leaving on May 1st. I have to go to L.A. tomorrow for testing. Can you take me to the recruiting center at 5am tomorrow?”

He was supposed to leave on June 4th. We were supposed to have a going away party for him that weekend. I was supposed to have seven weeks left to spend with my son before he was shipped off to become a United States Marine. I had so many plans for the next seven weeks. Those plans have been changed. Now, there are only seventeen days left with our son.

On the drive home from practice, I told Ethan.

“Your brother leaves on May 1st.”

“Are you joking?” He said.

“I wish it was a joke. Are you going to miss him?”

“Not really. Well, I’m going to miss joking around with him about Troy Murphy. Actually, yeah, I’m going to miss him.”

I started to cry.

He asked me why I was crying. “It’s not like he died! He’s just going to boot camp! He’ll be back!”

“I know he’s not dying. But for me? This symbolizes the death of his childhood and it’s difficult for me to handle emotionally.”



All night, tears.

Still today, tears.

Tears of sadness. My little boy is all grown up. For the next six weeks, he will be stripped down to nothing physically and mentally only to be built back up. He will leave here an innocent, kind, loving, joyful kid and return a strong, proud, disciplined United States Marine.

Unless you’ve gone through this with your own child, you can not understand the emotional roller coaster me and my husband are experiencing right now. I know I should be proud of the brave young man that I’ve raised. And believe me, I am. But there is also a sadness that I can not explain. There is a fear that gnaws at me– fear of what I know will happen to him, fear of what I do not know is going to happen to him.

I’ve spent the last nineteen years of my life making sure that boy is safe, healthy, happy. I’ve laid on his bedroom floor when he’s been sick just to make sure he’s breathing. I’ve held him in my arms when he’s been scared, I’ve wiped tears from him eyes when he was hurt or sad. I’ve told him hundreds of times that I would do whatever I had to do to be sure he was safe always.

It’s a new chapter in his life and also in mine. While I’m still his mother, I will always be his mother, it is no longer my job to keep him safe from harm. I must now let go of the idea that he is a little boy that needs to be sheltered and protected.

Every person that I talked to who has been through this with their child tells me the same thing “He will come back a completely different person. You won’t even recognize him.” This is both exciting and also terrifying. I like my son exactly as he his. He’s kind, gentle, loving, considerate and funnier than you can imagine. I have to believe that when they say “different” they mean is an “improved version of the wonderful person you’ve raised.”

I am going to need a lot of hugs and possibly lots of chocolate/wine/bean dip to get through these next few days.

Just a Little Puffy

She walked through the door, her backpack hanging off of her shoulder.

“Hey girl!” I said as I scooped her up into my arms. I carried her to the sofa, sat down and placed her onto my lap.

“How was school?” I asked.

She began telling me about her day. As she was talking, she put her hands on my cheeks and looked at my face. I smiled, because it was totally sweet and I love her so much.

“You know what, Mom?” She said as she held my face in her hands.

“What?” I responded lovingly, expecting her to say something precious.

“You’re bloated.”

I told her I didn’t think that was a kind thing to say. She assured me she wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings or be mean. She just thought my face looked a little puffy, was all.

Fair enough.

Five minutes later, she walked into my room and handed me half of her cookie. Because she just loves me so much.

She’s good, that girl.

The Loveliest Napkin

We were rushing out the front door, like we do every morning when she turned around and ran towards the kitchen table.
“What are you doing? We’re going to be late!” She didn’t respond.
I picked up her backpack and sweater and stood patiently by the door.
“Gabby! Come here, now!” I demanded.
She listened that time. She put her sweater on and took the backpack from my hands. We hurried to the van. As I backed out of the driveway, she sang to herself in the back seat while I took a deep breath, hoping we wouldn’t be late.
We arrived at the school drop off. I pushed the button to open the van door.
“Have a good day, sweetie. Be kind, be good.”
“You too Mommy. Oh! When you get home, please go look on the kitchen table, okay?”
I walked through the front door and walked over to the kitchen table, just as my daughter had requested.
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I love you have a good day.

That girl.
She can be sassy, she can be difficult. There are moments where she makes me fear her teenage years. But at her core, she is full of goodness and light. She is thoughtful, so very expressive of her love for me and for her family. Each time she leaves a note, or draws a photo, or leaves a flower she picked for me on my nightstand, it warms my heart and touches my soul.
How blessed we all are to know her and to call her our own.

The Things She Says That I Never Want to Forget.

For the last three days I had been looking for my most favorite lip gloss that disappeared from the kitchen counter. This morning, as I was gathering my daughter’s things for school, I saw the lip gloss laying on top of the mud bench.
“MY LIP GLOSS!” I shouted. “I found it! Oh, THANK GOD!”
Gabby walked into the room, put her hands and her hips and said “Thank GOD? How about thank your daughter? I’m the one who found it and put it there. Not God.”

Real Things That Happen in My House Because My Kids Are Kind of Weird

“Can someone please tell me why there is a stick of butter on the bookshelf?”
My daughter came skipping into the room. “Oh, I put it there this morning.”
“Why? Why would you put butter on the bookshelf, Gabby?”
“Because, Mom. I wanted it to be a buttery kind of day! OR! Maybe a ghost put it there. I can’t remember.”
I have a feeling I’ll never know the real story of how a stick of butter ended up on the bookshelf in the living room.

I’ll Hold You. Always.

My daughter was outside, riding her scooter while her brother watched her. I was in my bedroom working when I heard the familiar cry.
I jumped up out of my chair and ran to the front door.
My daughter was crying, holding her hand close to her chest. She had fallen off of her scooter and scraped her hand and knee. Nothing serious, just a couple little scratches.
I asked her if she was okay and knelt down to kiss her hand.
“It burns!” She cried.
“I know it burns. But it’s just a little scratch. We’ll clean it up, put a bandage on it and you’ll be fine.”
We washed the cut, applied some ointment and put bandages on the scratches. I hugged her and told her to lay down for a few minutes.
A minute later, I heard her crying again.
My felt annoyed. It’s just a scratch. There’s not even any blood! I wanted to tell her to stop crying. I wanted to tell her to stop being dramatic. I wanted to tell her it was okay, to take a deep breath and chill.
But then I thought of my son. My little baby boy who is now driving my car without me in it and waiting to ship off to Marine boot camp. I thought of holding him in my arms when he would get hurt. I thought of how he was once little just like her and now he’s a grown man. And it all happened in the blink of an eye. Every bit of annoyance that I felt with her dramatics melted away. I just wanted to hold my little girl. Because she’s still little enough that I can, but she won’t be for very long.
I sat down on the sofa next to her, scooped her up into my lap and held her tightly. I kissed the top of her head.
“I know, sweetie. I know. Boo boo’s hurt. I’m so sorry you got hurt.”
I lifted her hand up to my mouth and started to blow gently near the bandage.
“Does that help? Does that make it feel better?”
She nodded and buried her face into my chest.

“I’ll hold you for as long as you want me to, baby girl.”

I may not be able to hold her in my arms for much longer, but I will hold her in my heart until my very last breath.
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My Son, The Future Marine

When your kids are little, one thing you can’t help but wonder is what are they going to be when they grow up?
A teacher? A fireman? A veterinarian?
When my first born was little, I would ask him what he wanted to be when he would grow up and he always had a different answer. He never had a passion for a specific career. “He’s little. He’ll figure it out as he lives his life.” I’d tell myself.
When he was a junior in high school, he had to make up credits for failing a class. He enrolled in a criminal justice course. After week two of the class, he decided he wanted to be a police officer. Of course, that made me both proud and also kind of sick to my stomach. Such a courageous choice– to protect and serve– but one that comes with great risks. But, I was happy that my son finally had decided on a path for life after high school.
He had a plan.
And then, one day after graduation he went with a friend to the Marine Corp’s recruiting office.
The next day, he informed me that his plans had changed.
“I want to join the Marines.”
My heart sank. I tried not to panic. I told myself once he researched and talked to people who had been through boot camp, he’d change his mind!
He started going to physical training at the recruiting office every day with his friend.
One thing I’ve learned is that when you tell people that your kid wants to join the military, they tell you that you should be proud! How brave! SUPPORT THAT BRAVE SON OF YOURS! The truth is that was not my first reaction. My first reaction was “No. Not my son. Never my son.”
Over time, it became clear to me that my son wasn’t going to change his mind. In fact, he became more sure with each passing day. We had many conversations about why he wanted this for his life. He articulated “why” in a thoughtful, intelligent manner. After one particularly intense conversation, I decided that I would stop saying “not my son!” and support the hell out of him.
Earlier this month, he went to LA for two days to go to MEPS. He passed his test and the physical. He was sworn in as a Marine Reserves recruit. He’s just waiting for an official ship out date for boot camp. Yesterday, he was told it’s very likely that date will be March 19th. (But possibly as late as August.)
So, how am I feeling about his decision at this very moment?
I’m a mixed bag of emotions. I feel proud– My son is courageous and brave. I feel nervous– My son will be away for 13 weeks at boot camp where he will be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I know he is strong and that he is smart, but I can’t help but worry about what he will go through during those 13 week. I feel sad, I feel excited, I feel unsure, I feel SO MANY THINGS.
The other night I was sitting on the couch with my husband watching TV. During a commercial, my husband turned to me and said “can you believe our son is going to be a Marine?” I could see that he had tears in his eyes. “STOP IT.” I said. “JUST STOP IT.” We both just sort of lost it. We started to cry and talk about how quickly our first little baby grew up and remember how we used to just hold him and look at him and be in awe of him and kiss his fat little cheeks and sing to him and rock him and just LOVE OUR SWEET LITTLE BABY?
That baby is all grown up now and in a few weeks, he will be a changed man. I am looking forward to the day I can say that I am The Proud Mom of a Marine.