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branch in snow+

Truthfully, I don’t remember the pain. I remember the fear, but I don’t remember the pain. I remember trembling and tightness, and then his warm body on mine and the thought, What do I do? What does a mother do? I didn’t feel a connectedness, knowing now that was also based on fear, and that felt unnatural, un-motherly. He was separate, not me or a part of me. I didn’t know what to do, how to behave, how to love this child who made me a mother.


But then I blinked, and he was almost two years old, bundled, and walking about seven feet in front of me. He looked up at every stranger who passed, raised his outstretched arm, waved and said, Hi!, with a huge toddler grin, and I couldn’t stand it, that he would be walking away from me, independent, separate from me, this little part of me. I had become a mother and he had taught me how to behave, how to love him.


And again, I blinked, and he was swimming by himself, diving time after time to retrieve things from the bottom of the pool. Compulsively. And looking back, I realize -if I had been aware, I would have noticed parts of his personality were beginning to show. You don’t just leave toys at the bottom of the pool; you just don’t. So as we giggled mischievously and tossed toys in, this mature four-year old would just shake his head at us, turn around, dive in and retrieve the toy. Grow up, mom and dad. And when I explained to his two year old brother his choices {he could come with us, or stay at the toy section in the store-but we were leaving}, he put his arm around him and yelled, DON’T LEAVE MY BROTHER. This mature son, the protector. He who would defy me for the love of his brother-being true to his protectiveness and compassion. Don’t leave my brother.


Then he was nine, alone on the pitcher’s mound, in the rain. It all fell on him, and it was too much, really. The weight of this, the pressure from his peers, and their parents, and his coach, and himself. Failure meant the season was over; success, and he was the hero… the one who lead them to the State Championship. And it was raining. And he was slipping on the mound and he couldn’t hold the ball, and he was so young. He was out there, separate from me, and my heart ached. The coach asked, Can you do this? And he nodded, Yes, definitively, the alternative, not even a possibility for him. He drew a deep breath and he threw it. Seven more times. Three outs, and they went on to be ranked fourth in the State.


First day, a freshman in a new school. He takes a few steps from the car, then turns to look over his shoulder and yells, Love ya, mom! And he was off to start this new part of his life. I don’t know the details of his day, and for the first time in his life, I can’t be there.  One, two, three times last year, my heart stopped, and each time, I realized how little control I have over what happens to my children. And each time, I realized how separate our lives are, in spite of ties that bind. The things that happen to him, the choices that he makes, his actions and reactions… these are all his now, no longer mine.

He is sixteen now. He kisses me and says, Love ya, Mom! He grabs his younger brother, they get in the car and pull away. I watch them disappear out of the driveway as they pull out into the world, embarking on a new day full of details of which I know nothing. I tremble and feel the tightening, separation. I feel the pain this time, but I know I will forget it, too, the labor of this birth of independence. This part of being a parent I don’t know. And the fear; I will remember this fear. I don’t know what to do or how to behave. How do I trust this world to watch out for and protect my children? He takes these steps, these toddler steps, into adulthood. He trusts strangers as he greets them with joy, and he watches out for and protects. He leads; he is true to himself and his compassionate heart. And he still says, Love ya, Mom! and my heart still melts.

Happy birthday, Jordan.

  • January 17, 2011 - 1:55 pm

    Jessica - That’s seriously a beautiful post. Happy Birthday Jordan!! My favorite pic is the drivers license/boca

  • January 17, 2011 - 2:00 pm

    Amy Avery - Although I am not yet there in my journey as a mother, you have so eloquently put into words what a mother feels for her child. Blessings to your son on this day of his bith and blessings to you and your mother’s heart on this day of watching another milestone pass. Beautiful words and beautiful photos as always. Thank you for always being so real and inspirational. I referred to you recently in a post entiled “Winter Song”. My words and photos are not as eloquent as yours, but you have inspired me to stretch my wings and put myself out there in a different way. Again, many thanks, Miss Patty!

  • January 17, 2011 - 2:14 pm

    deb @ talk at the table - Patty.

    Oh how you love.

    Happy Birthday to your wonderful son .
    And enjoy the birthing day , beautiful beautiful mama.
    It’s right that your birthdays are so close together, you becoming while he does right alongside .

  • January 17, 2011 - 2:16 pm

    Cathy - It’s the continual letting go from the moment they’re born, isn’t it? Beautiful words, Patty.

  • January 17, 2011 - 4:25 pm

    Angela - You have put into words what my heart feels every day. My girls ouldn’t understand why I would cry during the last episode of Hannah Montana, but it was another reminder their childhood is slipping away. My son is my oldest (13) and I feel EXACTLY the same way you do. I just let him leave for a good chunk of the day with his friend when I was planning to spend this holiday with him. But, that’s what we do. We let them spread their wings and hope at least for a “love ya, Mom” as they go! Tears!

  • January 17, 2011 - 4:29 pm

    Kelly Sauer - Sigh. I seriously do not know how I’m going to do this with my kids. But I guess you don’t do it until you do…

  • January 17, 2011 - 6:47 pm

    Lana Austin - This made me cry! Having recently gone through this with my daughter as well, I empathize completely!

    I always tell new parents that my only advice (I try not to give advice because each child is so inherently unique) is to NOT go to the bathroom (as if you can go by yourself the first 5 years anyway) because when you come out they’ll be driving!


  • January 17, 2011 - 9:09 pm

    Cate - It was my boy’s birthday on the 17th too, and I so wish that I had your gift of words as this just sums up my feelings perfectly.

    Happy Birthday Jordan!

  • January 17, 2011 - 9:35 pm

    yolanda - He looks so proud and grown up. I know that you are especially proud of your son.

  • January 17, 2011 - 10:44 pm

    Susan - Oh, sweet friend! I understand each word and hold it close to my heart. I am a bit ahead of you in this mommy/mom separation moment in time. Austin turns 18 next month. Your words…. so very close to my heart!

    This part of their lives are more difficult than letting them go down the driveway alone on their bicycles! I am putting more and more trust in God just with the teenage years! Mercy!

    Hope Jordan has a wonderful birthday!

  • January 18, 2011 - 7:34 am

    Kellee - Happy birthday to him!! 🙂

    This was so beautiful, Patty. Truly. I don’t know how mother’s do it, honestly. My sister is now 19 – 11 years younger than I am. She’s 19, in another state, 6’3″, and needs no help from me, but if we’re in a store together and she wanders off to look at something, I STILL get that “OMG where is she?” pang of fear. I just can’t imagine being a mom. You are all rock stars. 🙂

  • January 18, 2011 - 8:27 pm

    elk - oh this is a heart felt tribute to a very special relationship..he is so handsome .. it goes by in a flash!!

  • January 21, 2011 - 9:09 pm

    Ruth - Happy Birthday to your dear son.

    I understand your anxious heart. I have a 17 yo daughter and watching her drive off always gives me butterflies. They grow up so fast. I miss her ways when she was little and enjoy watching her grow into a young woman.


  • January 27, 2011 - 1:49 am

    jessica leigh - oh, that’s beautiful!!

    you have such an amazing way with words! 🙂

  • January 27, 2011 - 1:49 am

    jessica leigh - that is beautiful!!

    you have such an amazing way with words!! 🙂

  • February 1, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Amber - Wow. I don’t know you. In fact, this is the first time we’ve “met”. But this post just touched my heart. Maybe because I, too, have a son. He’s younger than your oldest but still a son. As mine is approaching his teen years (he’s just 11 now), I know that I’ll have that separation one day as well. Thanks for your post. It really did touch my heart. Made me want to push the pause button for just a day or two.

  • October 12, 2011 - 3:14 pm

    31 Days {11} :: Turn the Radio Off » Finding Serendipity - […] son started driving last January. The day after he got his license, he drove himself to school and he took his brother with him. We went from three kids in the car to […]

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