That Cliché You Hate is True

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The days are long, but the years are short.

It’s such a cliché. And in a year when time got turned on its head and seemed to move in the strangest ways – standing still in the first few weeks of the pandemic when schools shut down, social activities came to a halt, and many us began working from home followed by months and months of the repetitive sameness that dragged on and on – I can only imagine the days were very long for mamas trapped inside their homes with little ones.

But, as mama to a high school senior, time has suddenly begun to move far too quickly, and suddenly I see how fast it has been moving all along.

It struck me as I was walking along Frazier Avenue in Hill City a few days ago. I saw two young couples walking with their babies, one in a stroller, one in a Bjorn. And instantly, I was transported to that time in my mind, but what got me even more was noticing the deep cuff on one of the mama’s jeans. It felt like yesterday, literally as if it just happened, that I was sitting in the living room of my home in Atlanta listening to my doula, Devon, tell me about how her little sister and her friends were all into wearing jeans with a deep cuff and it was this new trend. That was over 18 years ago. How? I cannot get my mind around how I went from being pregnant and having so many hopes and dreams and wondering who this smushy little creature growing inside of me would be, to looking at him standing in front of me now and having to look up almost a foot to look him in the eye as he tells me about his plans for prom. But, also, (even though I love them), how are deep cuffs still a trend almost 20 years later? Or are they not and neither I nor this young mom got the memo? Or have they just come back around again?

Fashion trends notwithstanding, I am undone by time right now.

My friends and I constantly say that we don’t feel old. We wonder how we could possibly be 40 or 50 or wherever we land in between when we still feel like our young and vital 20-something selves on the inside. I ask myself that a lot, then just accept that it just is. But really…how can I be discussing corsages and prom-fashion with the sweet little blue-eyed boy who had me cut hydrangeas from our garden to take to school for his three-year old crush in preschool? How am I exploring dormitory options and writing out lists of what he’ll need in his dorm room for the kid I was just packing up for his first overnight camp?

In what feels in some ways like an instant, we’ve gone from a world of “firsts” to a season of “lasts,” driven home recently when we received an email from the principal of our school with all the important dates seniors and their parents need to know about. Prom. Senior Night. Graduation. Still exciting and important firsts for us, but mixed in alongside our last spring break as a family of four. The last time I’ll pack his lunch, which, to be honest, may have happened already. The last time he’ll walk out the door as a high-school student. And at some point, the last family dinner or last sleep in his bed when he still lives full-time in our home. And hopefully (PTL) the last fight with his brother. 

It’s just stupidly bittersweet. Obviously, there were other “lasts,” like the last bottle or last diaper or last little kid sleepover or hundreds of other moments that just passed without fanfare or were celebrated because…well, you’re just anticipating them in the same way you are having a kid graduate and grow up. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled for him and me! As I shared in a previous post, I’m so excited to watch my baby bird fly. But, the poignancy of the brief time I had him here to love and nurture and make sure he’s ready for the world has begun creeping in as the weirdness of COVID-time has shifted yet again. The hope borne of getting my first dose of the vaccine combined with the arrival of March and the one-year anniversary of when all this began, mixed with the list of big events coming up for my senior makes it feel as if time has sped up and my head spins with the fierce emotion of it all.

I know, as I’ve said before, these rights of passage are normal. All parents feel these pangs. It just kind of snuck up on me because I’ve been so focused on the joy and excitement of what awaits my kiddo that I hadn’t really let myself think about my own feelings. It definitely feels selfish to me to have those feelings or express them, but I have to admit to having a minor panic attack when I thought about it today. But, because I have some pretty awesome friends who have already walked this path, I got great advice from my friend Danielle who reminded me of what waits on the other side.

Just because my child grows up and moves into chapter one of adulthood doesn’t mean our relationship ends. It simply means it takes on new characteristics and evolves into a relationship with my adult child. And that’s pretty cool. While I never had much of a close relationship with my mom as an adult for a variety of reasons, I’m excited about what being a friend and support system for my grown son will look like. I hope the foundation for communication we have built so far allows us to grow in new directions. I love that we share new music with one another and watch movies and TV shows together and talk about politics and current events and I feel hopeful we’ll continue to have that. I can’t wait for him to share with me what he’s learning when he does get to college and I can’t wait to see him keep blooming and to get to know the man he becomes. 

In the meantime, I’ll focus on enjoying his presence and the days he has left at home full-time and try to hide the tears that I know are bound to sneak out on occasion. And I promise not to tell any of you young mamas to enjoy every minute because those days of sleepless nights and tantrum-throwing toddlers really do feel like yesterday and I do not wish those on anybody. 

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Dawn Downes
Hey, y’all! I’m Dawn – a native Tennessean who could not wait to escape the small town for the big city. After attending a women’s college in Atlanta, I took root there and stayed. One marriage, two homes, two kids, and 25 years later, here I am, back in Tennessee. My husband moved here in January of 2016 to start a new job while our two boys, Brendan (born 2003) and Beckett (born 2006), and I stayed behind to finish the school year and sell our house. We arrived in July 2016 and have been working to make a happy new home here since then. We love living on the North Shore and I am enjoying finding unexpected beauty and little joys throughout our new city. I am also mama to fur babies, Josie the Rhodesian Ridgeback/Lab mix, and Miller, a sweet orange and white tabby cat. I'm into art, movies, music, TV, pop culture, nerdy stuff like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones and I know more than my share about the DC Universe, Pokemon, Minecraft, Battlefield, and all things LEGO thanks to having two boys.

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