How You Know Your Children Have Grown, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:50am


My daughter is home. On a business trip.

I remember, one morning when she was about 3 months old, I put her into the car seat. Then I walked around behind the car, got in, put my hands on the wheel, turned round to check, and realized she’d been watching me the whole time. She had very round blue eyes, and they’d been following me while I walked, as though she had finally figured out what mother meant.

Then, at about 11 months, we put her in a small daycare two afternoons a week. I wasn’t working then, this was just for my general sanity. I had no house help or babysitting, and sanity was hard to come by. I arrived early for pickup one day, and found her at a low square table, with 6 other kids, all of them sitting on little low chairs. I’d never seen her in a group before, never seen her sit at a table. I realized for the first time that her identity included other belonging than that of her to me.

I don’t remember much of anything else in this vein until she learned how to drive. And then I saw her walking out the door, purse over shoulder, car keys in hand. Bye mom.

Now she sits at my kitchen counter in the evening, answering work emails. Another marker.

The significant moments, for me, haven’t been the days she started kindergarten, got a first haircut, or graduated from high school. You know, the times we are supposed to find important. My middle sister and I talked about this the other day. It’s because those times were always about our daughters, how were they feeling, how could we understand their reactions and support them. No room for significant emotion on the mother’s part. We take our time to notice that they are growing up only when the children are otherwise occupied, already engaged in the distancing activity.

37 Comments

  • 10/16/10
    9:09 am

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    Rochelle Spencer said...

    This post made me miss my mother. She's always gotten the short end of the stick, I guess because I expect her to know more about me than anyone else, and on those occasions when she doesn't completely "get me," I get upset. Unfair, I know, but we put so many demands on our moms.

  • 10/16/10
    9:17 am

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    The Preppy Princess said...

    Talk about poignant, this defines it.
    tp

  • 10/16/10
    9:26 am

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    hostess of the humble bungalow said...

    Lisa you've reminded me of my experiences as a young mother.

    I felt my daughter growing up and becoming independent very early.
    She was a creative spirit exampled by choosing her outfit for the day at 2 years of age!
    She would pair the most unusual combinations and layer on accessories and make an entrance in a campy fashion!
    I tried without fail to have her put on clothing that was simple and basic…but I gave up…and today she is a trend setter far ahead of the mainstream and looks lovely whatever she's chosen to wear!

    She is a fine young woman and I am ever so fortunate to have a fabulous relationship with her…I am so grateful.

    I hope that you have a wonderful mother daughter weekend making more memories.

  • 10/16/10
    9:26 am

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    lauren said...

    i love your india stories, but this, this i love even more. beautifully rendered, lisa.

  • 10/16/10
    9:28 am

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    Marcela said...

    snif… I just shed a tear. My twin babies turned 2 years almost 2 months ago and I realized this week how much I enjoy being with them now. The first year and a half was reaaaaally tough-no family around for help, twin babies and all. But now we have developed a mutual understanding and routine and I have never been happier. And after I realized that, it hit me: they will soon grow up so fast I won't really know how it all happened.
    I love your mother posts, it feels as if you put your heart in them. Thank you.

  • 10/16/10
    9:32 am

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    QueenBeeSwain said...

    it's funny how the placeholder "moments" that mark passage in life just come out of nowhere and choke you up, right?!

    xoox

    kHm

  • 10/16/10
    9:49 am

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    Stephanie said...

    You do make me want to go hug my baby girl! No wonder they call it bittersweet. Beautifully done. I felt the emotion and a mother's love. And now I need to go wipe that tear…

  • 10/16/10
    10:18 am

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    metscan said...

    This is touching, touching in a good way. Having two adult girls now, I feel that time flew by all too quickly. I´d wish to go back and do some things differently, but I can´t. No one can. Thank you for your post: )

  • 10/16/10
    10:33 am

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    Lori said...

    It sure does go by quickly. You are so right, we don't notice until it is happening. It's like they are this little person, we blink and they are walking out the door saying goodbye. Recently I was going through old pictures and as I looked at pictures of my now adult children as little one's, it was in awe of how fast time had flown.

    Beautiful post. Glad you are having this time with your daughter. XX Happy weekend!

  • 10/16/10
    11:31 am

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    kathleen said...

    Another excellent post.

  • 10/16/10
    11:38 am

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    A Gift Wrapped Life said...

    I know…..I can't quite believe that we are expected to raise the little darlings and then off they go. At least mothers should be given better memories so we could remember all those little days. Great post. XO

  • 10/16/10
    11:57 am

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    Anonymous said...

    Just finished going to an art exhibit with my mother, her 3 friends and my 23 yo daughter. At lunch after,I marveled how she handled this social situation, especially how tolerant she was of the overly chatty guest and how loving she was with her grandmother. It's so wonderful and gratifying to see her navigate the world as an adult, as opposed to seeing her as my child.

    StacyfrPgh

  • 10/16/10
    12:36 pm

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    Duchesse said...

    We see them, at those moments. in a world that will only become more and more theirs. Thank you for capturing that tender space when they are still ours (for to us, they always will be) even as they enter that world.

  • 10/16/10
    12:53 pm

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    agirl said...

    All of a sudden I ache for my mother.

  • 10/16/10
    1:31 pm

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    Flo said...

    Saturday Afternoon, All the Way Across The United States from where you are, I have read and read and read your posts from way back, there were so many voices of recognition, my favorite is that your mother said never refer to a tuxedo as anything but a dinner jacket, as though spoken verbatim by my father, my gawd. I also shifted my weight at your comment that your mother uses the term 'good looking' to confer an object's greatness, mine too, and I bet the accent falls like so: good-LOOK'-ing. As I said, I've been all over your archives this afternoon, quite the pleasure, just this one query so I may get my bearings, did you ever find your missplaced job?

  • 10/16/10
    2:27 pm

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    Town and Country Mom said...

    Just this afternoon, the Mister and I were having coffee in our neighborhood place, and we were watching two expectant moms with their toddlers. One little fellow was dancing around, and I was smiling at him. The Mister said, "You know, that woman thinks you're smiling because her boy is so cute. But I know you're smiling because you're remembering." Enjoy your daughter's visit, Lisa.

  • 10/16/10
    2:40 pm

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    Loretta said...

    My youngest drove home from college by herself for the first time last night. She kissed me hello and then grabbed her older sister and hugged her for about 60 seconds. I was outside that moment, looking at them from far away as if seeing their lives together long after their father and I were gone. I was happy and I have to admit, sad for a brief moment for myself.

  • 10/16/10
    2:55 pm

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    Splurgie said...

    Wonderful post! It made me think of all the moments in my son's life too. You're so right that they aren't the conventional milestones. They happen when we least expect them.

  • 10/16/10
    5:19 pm

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    Lisa said...

    This had been my favorite read all day long. You just get it. You also know how to express it perfectly so that others understand.

    I call them (those moments) anniversaries of the heart. They are usually about the little things. My favorite anniversaries are times when I just watch her cook breakfast and she doesn't realize I'm watching. You know what I mean.

    xo

  • 10/16/10
    5:40 pm

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    Maureen said...

    I have experienced one or two of these moments, yet could never put words to them. Thankfully, you did it for me. Beautiful.

  • 10/16/10
    6:20 pm

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    PoiseMatters said...

    I so enjoyed your post on your grown up daughter, you write so beautifully and it reminds me of when my children were young. Last weekend my husband and I spent the weekend in Arizona with my 25 year old son and observed how he is navigating his new role as a media relations manager for a sports team with the University Of Arizona. Where did he learn to be so politically correct? I admired his beautiful home in Tucson and I feel so blessed to have two wonderful sons. thank you for your post – I truly enjoyed it.

  • 10/16/10
    11:37 pm

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    Faux Fuchsia said...

    Gee you're on a VERITABLE ROLL with this post!!! Love it. I will remember this for when I become a mother.

  • 10/17/10
    12:50 am

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    Semi Expat said...

    Such a lovely post LPC. So poignant. I remember the first time I put my daughter into her car seat and drove on my own with her in the car – I was so nervous I felt sick. And, as you say they grow up oh, so fast and all the while take these significant steps – I am looking forward to the time she answers work emails too. How strange will that be! x

  • 10/17/10
    1:51 am

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    EntertainingMom said...

    Your post brought tears to my eyes… Rebecca, about to turn 12, is clearly no longer a little girl. This week she packed up all her American Girl dolls and sent them to the basement — with a firm "don't seal this box permanently mom." She gave her stuffed animals to her little brother… I've slowly been going through their old clothes… so many lovely, wonderful items… oh the money I spent on them when they were little! And so I have been packaging them up too and bringing them to a lovely children's consignment boutique. I went in yesterday with another box to see a mother carefully caressing a Hannah Anderson that she pulled from the rack. The dress was Rebecca's not that long ago. The store was crowded. I carried my box back out…

  • 10/17/10
    7:19 am

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    VogueOntheRange said...

    Aww…just another log to fuel the fire of my week of homesickness. I have done the exact same thing as your daughter at home at the kitchen table, picking at my mother's homemade soups and breads with one eye on the computer screen. Thanks for sharing this. It is a beautiful insight of a mother's love to reinforce what mine always says "You'll never understand until you have a child of your own."

  • 10/17/10
    7:41 am

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    LPC said...

    Rochelle – Motherhood is not a fair deal on the face of it:). There are compensations…

    TPP – Thank you. Oddly, I didn't feel poignant while writing. It was just a set of data points.

    Hostess – How fun to have a little fashionista! My daughter didn't care at all about clothes when she was young, but now is quite stylish.

    lauren – I am honored.

    Marcela – I bet those first 18 months were very very difficult. And I hope you enjoy your 2 year olds. It's a great time, when they are talking and beginning to gather themselves up as peope.

    QBS – Yeah, dang it:).

  • 10/17/10
    7:54 am

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    LPC said...

    Stephanie – Oh, enjoy your baby girl smooching. It's a good thing they have cheeks, right? Thank you.

    Mette – Thank you and you are welcome in return. We mostly all do the best we can.

    Lori – I didn't find it went all that fast, just that it was gone once it was gone.

    kathleen – Thank you.

    A Gift Wrapped – Oh lordy I wish I had a better memory! I envy the mothers now, writing blogs and posting videos. Think of all they have to sort through.

    Stacy – Your daughter sounds wonderful. Good work:).

  • 10/17/10
    8:05 am

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    LPC said...

    Duchesse – "We see them, at those moments, in a world that will only become more and more theirs." That's it. There is in all this also a sense of my own aging.

    agirl – Aw. You are a sweet daughter.

    Flo – Oh My Gosh. A Fellow HW. Good looking is pronounced exactly like that! So happy to meet you, and thank you for reading backwards. I have not found my misplaced job, but a few things are in the works as a free-lancer, which fit my current inclinations pretty well. Thank you for asking.

    Town and Country – Oh I know. Babies in the supermarket, moms see me smiling, and I'm just remembering. Even though the babies are cute, they aren't as cute as my memories.

    Loretta – I agree. The relationship between my kids, who are also friends, is one of my happiest things.

    Splurgie – Thank you so much.

  • 10/17/10
    8:22 am

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    LPC said...

    Lisa – I know exactly what you mean. Because if she doesn't know you are watching, it's about who she is completely independent of you.

    Maureen – Thank you so much. These are personal memories – having them be valuable to others is such a joy to me.

    PoiseMatters – Thank you. And congratulations on your son and his new job. That is wonderful.

    FF – Thank you. And the thought of your future baby brings a smile to my face.

    Semi – I know, that first moment when you realize that in fact they can leave the house. They are portable, they exist in mundane reality, not just that exalted space where you first nurse them and carry them so carefully.

    EM – I have boxes I've kept of baby clothes, just a few, as souvenirs. I have no plans for them other than to caress them now and again. Rebecca sounds like a smart and aware cookie.

    Vogue – I love to hear the daughter side of all this.

  • 10/17/10
    10:02 am

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    the gardeners cottage said...

    what a lovely, touching, heartwarming story. you've got me reminiscing now. that's a really good thing. thanks.

    ~janet

  • 10/17/10
    10:04 am

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    the gardeners cottage said...

    ps – you are so right, it's not about the 'big' things but rather the little moments. i remember one day being alone and folding everyones socks and putting them away and thinking/feeling that this was the best day of my entire life.

  • 10/17/10
    6:18 pm

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    Nellie said...

    Marcella, twins! Bless you! We had a 20-month old daughter when we welcomed twin daughters! What a busy time we had – for years and years. Now the oldest is 37 (born on my 33rd birthday), and the twins will be 36 two days before Christmas! One is married, and we now have two grandchildren.

    Lisa, our biggest question is, "When did it all happen – this growing up into marvelous young women?" The time just seemed to fly by, and I know we were left standing at the "starting gate" at times.:-) It is such a joy to know they are content with the choices they have made. It is also good to know their distance from us is not that far – one is one hour away, her twin sister (and the grandchildren) is two hours away, and our oldest is three hours away. We manage to work in a lot of family time, in spite of the distance.

  • 10/17/10
    7:50 pm

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    Buckeroomama said...

    The milestones as everyone commonly knows them are "presets" and might not necessarily be the moments that truly mean the most, to me anyway. The memories that I treasure, so far, are the little snippets of every day ordinary, not commemorated in the usual way, but forever tucked away and cherished all the same.

  • 10/18/10
    9:58 am

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    North of 25A said...

    Lovely thoughts. One of the things that I most appreciate lately is the company of my grown children. What a gift!
    Best,
    Colleen

  • 10/18/10
    12:27 pm

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    Maggie said...

    Such a wonderful post. Truly.

  • 10/20/10
    10:50 am

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    glaciercountyhoney said...

    Your lovely posts about motherhood are so welcome in an internet saturated with sappy/whining posts from mothers. Thank you.

  • 11/13/10
    7:52 am

    Reply

    Cate Subrosa said...

    I feel this. I feel like I wrote it myself. Maybe I will one day.

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