Happy Birthday, 20

I see his lips moving, but I don’t hear a word he’s saying. Instead, my attention is drawn to the stubble of a day-old beard that sprinkles his cheeks and chin.

Caught by surprise yet again at this man who still inhabits my heart as a baby.

My son just turned 20. And it’s cliche and ridiculous and so dramatic, but at these moments when I notice… really notice… that he truly is grown up now, I ache for the years that have melted away.

For the years when his chin was a place I wiped dribbles of mac and cheese from, not a place he needed to shave. For the years when I was drawn into his little face by those intense blue eyes and adorable cleft in his chin. I could stare at him for hours back then… while he slept, while he ate, while we just cuddled.

Not so cool to stare at him now.

So we coexist as adults for the most part, chatting about school or work or the latest scientific discovery. He’s full of ideas and theories, and loves to share them or debate them. His jokes make me laugh and I can still share a funny YouTube video now and then that cracks him up. Life moves forward and it’s easy to forget that he was my baby.

Is my baby, still.

There was a turning point somewhere, the tipping point where my parenting of him had reached maximum capacity, where advice and comments and mandates stopped being processed by his young adult brain.

And inside, I know that was the plan all along. To parent, to guide, to counsel and to adore. To build his confidence and his character, to help him survive heartbreak and disappointment and move forward with grace.

And even now, as I watch him talk and laugh I am awed by the simple fact that I am his mom. That I was given these 20 years with him unconditionally, even though I had no experience and there were no guarantees that I would be a good mother.

I just made it up as we went along.

No do-overs now. No second chances to go back and try a different path.

I wouldn’t really change a thing.

Because my boy, this young man who sits in front of me (and is apparently still talking) has given me the incredible gift of just being his mom.

And he will always be the baby in my heart.

baby boy


  1. you always know how to put it perfectly. I look at my 4 year old and think how blessed I am to be her mother. I know at 20 I will still be looking at her, as you are your son, and be thinking I’m so lucky.

    • LeighAnn you leave the sweetest comments! And 4 was SO very fun… and yes, you will be thinking the same thing when she’s 20. Sigh… and thank you. xo

  2. I have a 4-year-old, just like Leighann, above, and I can see this on the path ahead. Four is so very fun and amazing… and frustrating, at times. 🙂 I know you’re a good mom and your little boy has turned into an amazing man.

  3. Of all the lines in this post that move me (and pretty much every single one does), the idea of coexisting as adults with my babies is the one that stopped my breath.

    Because of course we will. They will become adults.
    Are becoming.

    Oh my.

    p.s. For some reason, my info is coming up in all-caps in your comments – just wanted you to know that’s not a ploy for attention – ha! I can’t get it to be lower-case. Sigh. I am such a techno-baby!

    • I agree. It just hits me every time I see them that they are turning into these grown-up type people…and I am still shocked.

  4. I’m just coming to grips with my beautiful little boy having extremely stinky feet. Shaving seems so far off, yet having a daughter in high school I know how fast it all goes.

    • I couldn’t believe it when I first realized that shaving would need to be a THING. Shocked. It was just so unexpected, I guess.

  5. Aww. So sweetly said. My kids are 29 and 32 now. The parenting role changes, but it never goes away. No matter what, they always want to know that Mom is still Mom.

  6. Love this, Sherri! Once our baby, always our baby, right? Mine just turned 5 and it cut me like a knife. Sigh… And so it goes, right? xoxo

    P.S. I love the changes you’ve made to your blog design.

  7. Oh how I love your weaving of words here for your son. I find myself so often looking forward to seeing the man mine will become, but need to stop and savor these days. Because we don’t get a second chance.