The Big One-Eight

August 31, 2012

My baby turns 18 today. I do not know how that is even possible.

Last night I spent some sweet hours looking through our family photos. All those trips to the park and the beach and the zoo, all those family get-togethers and vacations. (All those regrettable wardrobe choices as well as fluctuating weights and hair lengths…) How nice that only the good times live in our photos and I do not have visual reminders of the blown-out diapers, the sleepless nights, the battles over food and chores and homework (though, clearly, I remember them).

I didn’t find being a mother to be particularly easy or “natural.” The first year of our son Nick’s life was pretty hard on me. I went from working full time in our insurance agency with my husband to staying home full time with an infant who did not sleep well and wouldn’t take a bottle even of breast milk. My in-laws, who lived nearby, worked full time. My mom and stepmom in California also worked full time. We hadn’t been in Florida that long so I didn’t have a circle of friends to rely on for support, advice and commiseration. My closest friend had a three-month-old and lived more than an hour away. Nick was delivered by C-section, and just when I began to recover from that, I began having gall bladder attacks and had to have that organ removed when Nick was four months old. My husband, who was now running the agency without me, spent most of his time at the office and even when he was at home, he was emotionally drained. An organization called FEMALE (Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge), now known as Mothers & More, came to my rescue with chapter meetings (without kids) playgroups, outings with kids and mom’s night out activities. I met two of my closest friends through this group and we are still friends, all these years later (one of them is the Mary who took me to the winery a couple of weeks ago).

Despite that rough start, we eventually worked our way into being a family. And I have photographic proof that we’ve had a pretty good life. I’d like to share a few of the photos I found last night. The first was taken shortly after Nick was born:

Poor woman. Doesn't know what she's in for.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos. I was finally through that horrible, hard first year, and Nick and I had forged a close bond.

This photo captures one of my happiest memories. Nick had been given a child’s camera that took photos with 35mm film. One afternoon, we both took our cameras out on our nature trail to take pictures of what interested us. (Note the manly work boots and the walking stick.) I did have his photos developed, and I wonder if he has any of them still?

You’ve seen many photos of Scout on this blog. Here’s the first one I ever took of her. We always tell people that Scout chose Nick. My husband and I had chosen a puppy other than Scout from the litter, but when we came to take our chosen puppy home, this little black and white puppy would not stop following Nick around. He already liked her best from our first visit, so we changed our minds and took the black and white one home instead. Later, when we were going through photos of our first visit to see the puppies, we found this:

Most of the other puppies are doing their own thing, while Scout is licking Nick’s face.

The adage “The days are long but the years are short” most certainly applies to children. Nick’s gone from blocks and Legos, to Xbox and Facebook. He’s 6’1” and I couldn’t rock him in my arms if I wanted to. We’re looking at colleges and talking about professions instead of checking out preschools. But he’s still my baby, and always will be.

Even though he’s turning 18, Nick is still in high school, so I have a little more time to adjust to his newfound “manhood.” I can’t express in words how much, how fiercely I love him and how proud I am of him as he grows up and begins to make his way in the world. I can’t think of a more exciting, scary, rewarding everyday adventure than being his mom.

Happy birthday, Nick!

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  1. Hi Kathy,

    This made me tear up ... what a wonderful tribute and honest post about becoming a mom. We have a group out here called Birth to Three which sounds similar to the one you became involved with. I still remember those women, though I have lost contact long ago.

    My Nigel is 22, and he had one of those Little Tyke's cars; he called it his bus.

    Happy Birthday to Nick!

    Kathy M.

  2. Wishing Nick the very best of birthdays and many more to come!

    Wishing Mom the strength and courage to stand down as the boy becomes the man. There's also a listening ear, crying shoulder and an understanding heart available.

  3. Thanks, Kathy! I'll pass on your birthday wishes. I'll bet Nigel is still your "baby," isn't he?

  4. Laure--Thanks for your comments--I'll pass on your birthday wishes to Nick. It sure would have been nice to know you 18 years ago, but at least now I can (and will) take you up on that listening ear, crying shoulder and understanding heart.

  5. Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing all those lovely memories and photo shots. Love the photo of Nick with the puppies! Scout certainly chose the right one to follow home. :)
    By the way, Nick's birthday falls on our National Day over here in Malaysia. :)

  6. What a handsome young man Nick's become! Once again, we have much in common - mothering didn't come easily to me either. But the older my son became, the easier it got. My "baby" is 30! Love all your pictures!!

  7. Michelle--I'll have to tell him his birthday is a holiday in Malaysia--he'll get a kick out of that.

    We often say that Scout picked the right person to follow home--she is very, very spoiled.

  8. Thanks, Cheryl. I have a sneaky suspicion Nick will be my baby to 30 and beyond!

  9. Congratulations and happy belated birthday to Nick! Those are great photos (and you look great in that top one after having just given birth!). I can't imagine how much of an upheaval (good and bad) a child must bring but it looks like you've spent many happy moments in these first 18 years (and hopefully many, many more in the coming years)!

  10. Thanks, Danielle. I really enjoyed looking through the family photos and reliving the happy memories--something good to do when you have a teenager who isn't always all that cooperative sometimes :) !

  11. So priceless. Walking down your memory lane hearing about your journey with Nick was very special. I feel like I know you a little more from this - sharing our mothering journeys. Thanks for posting your reflections on this latest milestone and best wishes on the exciting future!

  12. Thanks, Claire. I'm glad you enjoyed the walk down memory lane--I know you can relate, as the mother of boys!