Motherhood

Is There a Word for This?

A couple weeks ago, I did something I shouldn’t have…

My laptop was being glitchy, so I pulled out my old, half broken one, and I came across a TREASURE TROVE of videos of the boys when they were little.

And, reader, I watched them.

Anton telling a story in his raspy toddler voice; Toby belting out a song from Trolls; Anton kissing my knees, right where my jeans were ripped; Toby mispronouncing the word “motorcycle” (his version was “masimoto,” my heart!)

There were hundreds. I watched them all.

For the next few days, I couldn’t shake a strange, sad feeling in my chest. Why was I feeling so off? And I realized, it was the videos. As your children grow, those past versions of them fade away, and that brings a certain heartbreak. While we’re so, so lucky that they’re growing up, each year passing is both a gift and a theft. Do you ever feel the same? (Or is this just pandemic overthink?)

Anton as a baby:

Toby as a baby:

The boys together:

Do you feel this way? As my friend said, there must be a German word for this.

P.S. Toby nostalgia, and 20 surprising parenting tips.

  1. Hannah says...

    Felt this in my bones. My baby is only seven months but that seven months snuck by so quickly.

  2. megan says...

    My daughter will be 17 yrs old next month. I love watching her grow. It is an honor and privilege to be her mom. Yet, to be honest, challenging too. I had a professor in graduate school explain that it is typical for teens and parents to “but heads”. This commonly takes place when kids are getting ready for college or preparing to “fly from the nest”. In short, it is easier to leave when in disagreement. Upon return, relationships tend to mend and thrive.

  3. N says...

    My son turned 1 recently and I cannot hold back my tears as I think about how fast it’s going and mourn that I time is going forward and I will never get last month back. It is the strangest feeling. Before I had a kid, I wasn’t very interested in the baby stages, and was looking forward to the big kid era. And now here I am absolutely heartbroken that I can’t have a tiny little 6-month old forever.

  4. Chelsea says...

    I was watching a video of my daughter the other day, and she looked at me and said, “Mommy, are you crying?” and I said “No, but maybe one day when you’re grown up and I watch this video I will.” Then, like the little sage she is, she replied, “Oh, because you will want to re-start this day, and you will never be able to?” I mean…

  5. Lynn Morales says...

    I resonate with this feeling also. I have six children and this thoughts of their younger days sneak up on me. My oldest daughter is 26 and I’ll get a flashback in my mind’s eye when she was in third grade and wore a black leather shoe string necklace with a St. Therese of Lisiuex around her neck every day. Or, reading her aloud a book with her head on my lap. I’ll sometimes see my second daughter who is 23 having a tantrum at age 3 because her socks are not lined up straight across her foot. I have to put on and take off her shoe several times. Now, she is studying for a Doctorate. My third child, a boy, was a life and death delivery, he was sick a lot as a baby and very difficult toddler, he is now 20 and sweet as can be. I wish I could have known how wonderful he would be when I was in the middle of the night, draining his nose over and over because he could not breathe. It is so wonderful to see them grow up and thrive but these tiny flash backs that pop up are so bittersweet. I try not to be unkind to myself that i wished I had enjoyed them more at the time, but that gremlin does speak loudly. Thank you for the sweet article!

    • Sara says...

      My youngest daughter, now 5, is the EXACT same about her socks. She yells, “But there’s a BUMP!!!!”

      Nice to hear about the other side of it. 😊

  6. Margie says...

    I couldn’t hold back my tears. We lost our beautiful son to melanoma at the age of 38. He was our first child so we had lots of time to know him, love him. He was always full of love and goodness. Such a joy! He adored his baby sister, was so attentive, loving and sweet to her. He always looked out for her as she grew up. Our family was close. We all enjoyed our time together, preparing food , biking, working together. It was perfect! We could not ever imagine he would get melanoma. He was the wisest and most careful of all of us. He couldn’t possibly be taken from us… but he was. And now our hearts ache deeper than you can imagine. Yes, sometimes life with young children can be challenging, exhausting…but to lose a child is the deepest pain you will ever know. Love your child. Realize that you could actually lose him.
    Then you will never be the same.
    We are grateful he left behind two young children for us to love and feel a little part of him. So sad they lost the best Papa ever…

    • Michelle says...

      I’m so sorry Margie. Sending love to you.

    • Megan says...

      I am so, so sorry. Blessings being sent your way.

  7. Anne says...

    J’ai ressenti exactement la même chose, chaque anniversaire je prenais une vidéo de mes filles. J’ai voulu les mettre sur CD pour mieux les conserver je les ai donc visionnées et rien que d’y repenser je pleure ce temps révolu… C’est à la fois merveilleux de les revoir et si triste que tout ça soit passé, loin et que jamais on ne revivra!

  8. Katy says...

    It breaks my heart. As simple as that. An actual pain and sense of mourning.

  9. I feel this so deeply!!!!! It’s like I’m already nostalgic for the present, in the present.

    • Soleil says...

      I think this all the time. I used to tell my husband “I’m missing you” as I was sitting right next to him. And now I feel the exact same way about our son. I’m missing him, as he’s here asleep on my chest.

  10. Sara says...

    It’s such a constant battle in my heart/mind. Having two young kids (now 5 and 6) has been SO EXHAUSTING. There are moments (hours, days) when I just can’t enjoy it – when all I need is for them to sit quietly watching a show on the iPad – which is exactly what they are doing right now. Funny thing is, that as I am enjoying this quiet break, I am practically tearing up at the thought of them growing up so fast, and how all the things that drive me crazy now (mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, MAMA, MAMA, MMAAAAAMMMMAAAAA!) won’t last forever and would seem like such a miracle to revisit someday.

  11. Laura says...

    That is such a thing and no one talks about it. My girls are 23 and 26 and I sometimes cannot look at their toddler photos because I tear up. They are both doing well (considering the pandemic) and are blessed with jobs and their own places to live, etc. so maybe we raised them well. But I still feel an ever so slight heartache when I think about how quickly those beautiful fun growing years were.

  12. Rebecca Unter says...

    Yes, yes, and yes! It’s a feeling akin to grief – so equally filled with sorrow and happiness.

  13. Sharon says...

    Another perspective…

    I am looking at this phenomenon from WAY down the road…and I’ll tell you, it never stops. My 2 boys are 45 and 43…I don’t know how that happened. And, perhaps even more astonishing, my grandchildren will turn 16 and 13 in a few months. I try not to dwell on it, because in my case, it forces me to contemplate the reality of being much closer to the end than to the beginning. And that is a reality I choose to push aside…

    • Gro says...

      The meaning if life is to give life meaning. Seems like you have made some good choices:) We will all end up as a pile of dust eventually (according to my grandmother, and she sort of made doubt seem boring), but what a joy to know that before that, we sung.

  14. Jana says...

    I had exactly the same moment yesterday – I decided to charge my old phone – and there were tons of photos and videos.. I’ve forgotten were taken…
    We had a such lovely afternoon remembering all the moments :)
    And yes, that was what I felt
    “While we’re so, so lucky that they’re growing up, each year passing is both a gift and a theft. ” So beautifully said. Thank you! :)

  15. Mariana says...

    My baby is only 10 months old, but I feel this so much already. Sometimes when I am nursing him, I will browse his pictures on my phone and marvel at how little he was, and feel a little sad at how much he has changed already. I try to remind myself to live in the present and enjoy every one of these moments.

  16. Amy says...

    “While we’re so, so lucky that they’re growing up, each year passing is both a gift and a theft.”

    Beautifully put.

  17. Margaret says...

    Had to craft the “8th Grade Tribute” for my youngest of 3 today and found myself in the photos overwhelmed and “dizzy” from the passage of time. How could it be that it went so fast, and also that I was rushing too to get back to my office and catch the meeting. I know toddlers all day for more years on end would break me and yet it felt like a wasteland without them.

    • I know toddlers all day for more years on end would break me and yet it felt like a wasteland without them.

      Yup.

  18. Sara says...

    I feel this EXACTLY

  19. Gro says...

    Raise your hand those of you who have found yourself buying a too small piece of clothing for your child (one thinks one develops an eye for the right size, right?…) because of this subconscious fear:) I once almost cried of nostalgia and longing when I heard the happy baby sounds from a child in a public space, because it sounded exactly like my daughter when she was a baby. Oh to just for a little while hold my little bundle again, kiss the chubby cheeks and smell the faint smell of vanilla on the back of her neck. Of course I should try to get a grip here and focus on the present (my beloved daughter is now 11). But, you know, then the Abba song comes to mind again, slipping through my fingers all the time…. I guess we just have to surrender to this bittersweet phenomenon. And remember what Ibsen wrote: Eternally is owned, only that which is lost.

    • Ann says...

      I once heard a stranger’s ringtone: happy baby belly laughs, and it brought joy to my heart.

  20. Jules Theis says...

    Oh this made me instantly cry! I am in that wild, crazy age with my 3 and 5 year old son where they are vulnerable and quirky and hilarious and as my son was talking me together in his adorable French accent I thought, I want to hold onto this forever. I don’t know the word for it but I know this feeling any time I look back at photos from when they were babies and toddlers.

  21. Andrea says...

    I would say the German word for this is “Wehmut”-
    translates to “restrained grief, silent pain at the memory of something past, lost”.
    What I find strange is that even though I remember some of the phases being so, so hard (especially the sleep deprived first year), the Wehmut definitely is prevailing when I look at the pictures/ videos. (Not so much though that we would have a third.)

  22. This post reminds me so much of your post about deciding whether to have one more child. As I am trying to make that decision and it has to be now or never, I think about how you said whether you really wanted a third or was it just that you wanted the sons you already had to stay little. That has stayed with me for years and when I look at my two, I don’t know the answer.

    • Carrie says...

      I’m in the same place. I adore my 2 boys and can’t figure out if we’re done or not. I don’t love the exhaustion that comes with littles but I love the littleness. I can’t figure out if it’s the phase of life that pulls me for more a missing part of our family. It’s such a monumental and difficult decision.

    • Jo says...

      I feel this so deeply too. I have a 16 yr old stepson, a 4 and 1 yr old (all boys) and I’m trying to decide whether to give away my maternity clothes, which feels like such a final act it brings me to tears. Even though I can barely make it through the day with exhaustion. It’s such a hard choice!

  23. Monika says...

    What lovely comments to such a beautiful post; I read them all with tears in my eyes! Over the past 8 years and three kids, I’ve had two (small) strokes and a (teeny) aneurysm. And it left me with a crippling fear of dropping dead from a third one. So I started journals for each child, writing down cute things they say and sweet moments that move me beyond measure. If ever I do drop dead, they will know I was there, watching and soaking them in, loving them with a bursting heart.

    • Emily says...

      I do a version of this too! My kids both have email addresses even though they’re little (ish) so I can send them digital memories or just write to them about something we saw or experienced together. Things they may have forgotten otherwise. They’ll know that I was watching and experiencing with them.

  24. Ali says...

    I was just talking about this today because I am moving and packing up my house and passing on clothes that have been through all 3 of my kids. As kids grow up, we let go of so many things.

  25. Cécilia says...

    There is a german word: it is called Sehnsucht. But there is a better portuguese Word for it: saùdades…

    • Kate says...

      I just looked this up and oh, you are so right. The Portuguese word is spot on.

  26. Sometimes I look at old pictures, or videos, or sort through their old baby clothes and my heart hurts. I look at my football-playing-full-of-attitude teenagers and wonder where those little babies went. It kills me every time. Don’t get me wrong, I love who those babies became and I am so proud of them but I sometimes wish I could have held onto those little ones just a little longer.

  27. Kristina says...

    Just today I was looking at old pictures of my now 8 year old daughter and I said: “where is my baby gone?” And she just poped her face next to the screen with her old picture and said: “Here, look closely into the eyes! See?! They are the same! Its me! I’m right here!”
    She used to say this “look me in the eyes, its me” when she was like 3-4 and pretending to be a princess or somethnig. I always played along so well, that when she was not sure I know it is her and not someone else, she wanted me to look her in the eyes to recognize her.
    So I now I know the baby is still here and hopfully will stay for a little while… well the growing up of kids is sooo bittersweet!

    • this made me cry

  28. Sophie says...

    The best German word for this is probably “Weltschmerz”- which literally means “pain of the world”- but is used to describe the bittersweet ache that you feel with how certain things in your world are at this precise moment in time.

    I feel it all the time when I look at my little 3.5 year old boy- I mean he was just a baby yesterday and now that! Weltschmerz indeed! :-)

  29. Analog House says...

    Saudade (a Portuguese word). I found an old phone the other day and did just the same thing.

  30. Annie says...

    I had my first baby right as the pandemic was taking hold of my city and despite some obvious downsides, it has allowed (forced?) me to be especially present with him. The one lesson I’ve shared with all my my pregnant friends is that the best and worst part is how fast everything changes. When we’re going through a challenging phase with sleeping or feeding, I know it’s not forever. But by the same token, every adorable gesture, sound and expression will pass just as quickly. I feel incredibly lucky to have learned this so early on, and it really helped me to soak up every delicious moment with him over the last year (even the ones that happened at 2 am, and again at 4 am…). I’m sure as he gets bigger I’ll feel a touch of sadness looking back at baby pictures, but it will just be a reminder to relish in the present moment that I’ll one day be nostalgic for.

  31. Addie says...

    Alexa is finally able to understand my 3 year old when he tells her “Alexa, play What Does the Fox Say”, which is both a triumph and a sad indication of him growing up.

  32. Heather says...

    I was feeling this way once when my friend said to me, “you’ve loved every stage that your kids have been in. You are sure to love all the stages coming up.” It has been so true and helpful to remember. Newborns are so sweet and toddlers are so fun but so are school age kids and honestly teenagers are the best. When they leave home they make you so proud and come back for these great visits. I’m looking forward to what’s next!

    • M says...

      Aww this makes me feel better. Thx for your comment!

    • Mariana says...

      I love this way of looking at it – looking forward with hope and excitement.

    • Sara says...

      This is what I needed to hear. Thank you.

  33. Jacqueline says...

    Since the beginning of Covid I have gotten into the habit of looking at photos of that same day 1, 2 years ago on my phone. It’s a heartbreaking/heart-swelling practice that reminds me tiny babies and travel and family were not that long ago/far away and maybe on this day next year we’ll have some of it back.

  34. Claire says...

    I have two young kids, ages 1 and 2.5. We are in the THICK of it right now and I often find myself dreaming about what it will be like when they are older and more independent. After reading this post, I truly am looking at them differently and reminding myself to enjoy their littleness, even when it is exhausting. Thank you for this reminder. <3

    • kate says...

      This! I have a 3 year old and almost-one year old – and I am soooo tired. But they are truly only little once. <3

  35. Swann says...

    My baby is 14 month and I am pregnant, and still, this, made me cry. It might be the hormones but thinking of my babies all grown up is just too much.
    Those pictures are adorable by the way ;)

  36. Bethany says...

    I just did this on accident while looking for specific photos to frame! I was sad for the whole evening, even though I know how hard those stages were. I also saw a different version of myself that my pandemic self is pretty darn jealous of.

  37. A says...

    Both a gift and a theft. Such a perfect way to put it! I don’t believe this is just a pandemic thing. I have felt this for years with my two children. I felt this from the day I brought my first home, to some extent. Not that I was obsessed with time and the baby growing but I can vividly remember sitting in the rocking chair with her and she was so tiny and I said to my husband, “I wish we could press pause! I know this is going to go by so quick.” In a way I think it was a good thing because I have always felt mindful of that and I think it has helped me to be present and enjoy all these precious little moments with them. That’s where the magic of children is, in the little moments.

  38. Carol Coote says...

    My sister and I sometimes refer to it as crippling nostalgia. It can hit at any time. I have two daughters in their 20’s who are both happy, successful, in love and want to see me all the time. It’s wonderful, but it’s not the same. That’s life.

  39. Lisa says...

    Mine are 3 and 4. It’s so hard to enjoy the tiny baby / toddler stage as you’re in the thick of it and seriously sleep deprived. Thank freaking goodness for Apple and all their photo reminders, like creating little memory videos. At least with the pandemic I have been able to spend more time with them

  40. Quyen says...

    Sehnsucht (German pronunciation: [ˈzeːnˌzʊxt]) is a German noun translated as “longing”, “desire”, “yearning”, or “craving”

    Saudade (English: /ˌsaʊˈdɑːdə/, European Portuguese: [sɐwˈðaðɨ], Brazilian Portuguese: [sawˈdad(ʒ)i], Galician: [sawˈðaðɪ]; plural saudades) is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves.

    • Inga says...

      I am German, and I think Sehnsucht is not the exact word I would use in this case. It is something else, I think more on a nostalgic, melancholic note, but I’m still thinking of the right word. Sehnsucht has more the meaning that it can be fulfilled/stilled, but in this case, because the times are gone forever, it can never be relived again. There must be a different word!

  41. Diana says...

    I feel this 100000%. One pro tip re: photos, etc. if you’re on Instagram and you do stories of your kids, start a “highlight” of each kid. So when you post a story, you tag it to the relevant kid, then you can watch the kid grow up in this amazing little video. I even go back into my messages and tag old stories that people have responded to with the highlight so really old stuff gets added too!

  42. Sarah says...

    Thank for this and all the comments!! I’ve been feeling this for about a year and a half now, since my oldest began middle school…. and hearing all of these words of wisdom is so comforting.

    • Sara says...

      My daughter is eight days old and I already feel this. <3

  43. Erika says...

    My three are 22, 19 and 16 now and they know that if I had one wish it would be for the doorbell to ring and for it to be their little selves standing there, at any given age along the way, with overnight bags packed to spend a day or two with all of us. To relive those moments (to scoop up those little faces that I miss!) and to think how they’d react and interact individually and collectively – them ‘then’ and them ‘now’ – well, just thinking about it makes me laugh and get teary every time. I can only hope this is what grandparenting will be like.

    • Cynthia says...

      The amazing thing is that it is way beyond doubled..to watch a small new life unfolding with echoes of the child you watched grow is so full of wonder….but I was not truly expecting the joy and tenderness of watching the become a parent..

    • A says...

      Oh! This made me teary eyed! What a lovely notion.

    • Carol W Wayne says...

      It is.

    • Jo says...

      Erika – I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I had to comment. My four are 33,31,29,28 (!!!!) and the way you describe your wish of having them show up at your door makes me just well up with delight and teary pondering. ahhh. So far I have 2 grandchildren & circumstances have them very close, staying overnight often (lucky me!) and YES, my friend, yes… grandparenting is very much like welcoming your little people home – and having a much more easy going attitude, all in slow-motion. here’s to more grandchildren!, Jo

    • Blythe Griffin says...

      While eating breakfast, reading this comment stopped me dead in my tracks. I had my first baby 3 weeks before I turned 37. My boyfriend was not inclined to have any more kids; for at just 2 years my senior, felt we were too old for another. As I watch my son grow from a sweet little peanut to the funny, kind-hearted (almost) 6 year old he is today, I can’t help but long for his little toddler voice, and cubby baby face. At the same time, I often wonder if I’ll be around to see grandkids. If my son waits as long as I did, lol, I’ll be in my mid-70’s! He may even decide that he doesn’t want kids. Both thoughts are currently driving a dagger straight through my heart. Currently… bawling.

    • Laura says...

      What a beautiful sentiment! I too have always wished for the ability to relive my son’s younger days every so often, like you have described. I never thought of “grandparenthood” in this way, but it makes so much sense! My son is a young teenager, but when the time comes I will look forward to my grandchildren in this way (as well as the individuals they will be themselves) :)

  44. Margaret says...

    Completely identify!!! And my kids are 18 and 21. I miss the babies, the toddlers, the elementary school children, Middle School, High school….while of course adoring them now. Grateful and nostalgic all at the same time…Try being an empty nester!! Talk about entering the next phase that you are not ready for…ah life. Love to you and your beautiful young family Joanna! Love your blog and have for years!! xoxox

  45. Priscilla says...

    My daughter will be turning 3 next month and I’m already in mourning of how fast time is passing. I partly blame myself: all the times that in my newborn, sleepless stupor I wholeheartedly wished she would grow up quickly. Shame on me.

    • Jessica says...

      I feel this way exactly. My daughter is 1.5 and I for so long wish she was older and past the parts that have been so physically and mentally hard on me. Now I look at her in amazement, wondering where my baby has gone.

  46. Julee says...

    I am certain there’s a German word for this, and when I find it, I’ll share it.
    Being a mother is love/pain/joy/heartbreak on a loop.
    Me, I cry over my children’s baby shoes about once a year. Just hold those shoes and cry.
    Drama drama drama 😘

  47. Robin says...

    So easy to get lost in our own pasts! I am nostalgic not just for my sweet boys falling asleep in my lap nursing but also for my husband and I young and childless living such a different life. And now for my relationship with my own mother which has become more difficult over time (is anyone else finding their parents harder to talk to as they age? My mom can’t see anything but her own interests these days and it is becoming a real loss).

    But – I think we contain all of our ages inside us. I’m still a 8 year old bossing my little sisters and a 16 year old head over heels in love and a 42 year old mom and all the ages in between. And so are my kids. The babies are still there, along with these clever long legged sweethearts. That’s what I tell myself anyway :)

    • Tessa says...

      I really love this, as I do often feel 11, 17 and 37 all rolled into one. So yes these kids are often the same. “we contain all of our ages inside us” thanks for sharing that connection!

  48. Nadia says...

    My little one is only 8 months old and I feel this way!

  49. Stacy says...

    I always watch this video when I’m having that feeling. I think this video puts it into words. That feeling of your kids growing and it all being so so bittersweet. It’s like the wind brushing across your cheek. You can’t grasp it.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vYmQs8bs1cY

  50. Raras says...

    Oh, absolutelyyyy not just a pandemic thing. I feel the exact same way. There’s a grieving process happening as well… it catches you in your throat..
    Now I am acknowledging and embracing this part of parenting more and more… and sometimes I’d tell my 8 yo daughter how it feels watching her grow up. Such joy and sadness melting into one. Of course, she’d say, “Oh Mom, you’re so dramatic!” .. but sometimes she would just hold me to get through that feeling.

  51. Jessica says...

    Yes. yes. Google memories serves me up a daily dose of this. It’s like time and memory collapse. I can almost feel their squishy-ness and yet I can’t really remember it at all. I want that time, voice, smell, softness back but then feel I would lose the current version and that feels equally heart-breaking. Gah.

  52. Carol says...

    Photos are time travel, very very powerful stuff.

  53. ANNAK says...

    I have a 21-month-old son, and am pregnant with our 2nd boy (due in July!), and this made my heart ache! It actually made me tear-up, seeing pictures of your boys, at the age of my son, knowing that he’ll be older and wiser, like Toby and Anton (sigh). Such sweetness <3

  54. Allie says...

    This post has this pregnant mama in tears. I’m expecting my second little girl in a few weeks which I am so excited about. It also makes me realize how much my eldest – only 2.5 – has grown and is so far away from a baby now. Thinking about my girls in 5, 10, etc. years is both thrilling and totally chokes me up.

  55. Emily says...

    I have two now grown children (23 & 26). As they grew up I felt all those feelings at all the different stages.
    But the most incredible thing happened 18 months ago when my daughter gave birth to a beautiful daughter (who looks very much like she did as a baby), I feel like I get to re-live those memories with my granddaughter, without having to do all the hard work again :). And I am very much enjoying watching my daughter become an amazing mother!

  56. Betsy says...

    Okay, so this is weird, but I’m gonna say it. I had recently been thinking back to how long I’ve been reading CoJ. I joined the community my Freshman year of college which was juuuuuust around the time you and Alex started dating. So a few weeks ago, out of curiosity, I started to go through the archives and I have currently gone through *ahem* the first 300 pages. And same feeling! Partly because I remember getting so excited for your engagement, wedding, first baby, and partly because I vividly remember what was happing at parallel moments in my life.

    Remember the obsession with all things French? Or all the publications closing in the wake of the 2008 crash? I read your Smitten column religiously because, well, college, boys, relationships. Whenever Paul shows up, the well of emotions is almost overwhelming.

    I, too, am looking for a word to honor the past selves we were, and the growth we see in ourselves.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh! My heart! Thank you so much, Betsy.

  57. Silver says...

    Yes! recently my father-in-law asked me to check if I had a particular picture on one of my very old iPhones – so I dug around and charged all three of them and searched and searched. Like you I found old photos and videos of pets that have passed and my now 11 year old as a baby and a toddler. It really made me sad, and I can’t quite deal … with hindsight I now see the signs of a tiny child with so many sensory problems, & speech problems yet I just saw him through the bubble of my love. If I’d seen the signs earlier might his passage have been easier? Why is it that I cast my memory with a rose-gloss, re-writing the hardness?

    • Sage says...

      You did the best you could – you’re doing the best you can. It sounds like you raised (and are raising) your son with love. Best wishes to you & your family, try not to get too hung up on woulda-coulda-shoulda. :)

  58. Emily says...

    Last night I was able to take a minute to check my phone while my husband read stories to my boys before bed. Oddly enough, rather than checking the weather hoping for a warm winter day, I scrolled way back in my photos to try to find videos of the boys–not really sure what I was looking for. But what I found were videos of them with their tiny raspy voices explaining how they were going to do a cool trick off some sort of jungle gym created out of dining chairs in their bedroom, and making each other laugh hysterically on a road trip. When I heard the story finish in the other room, I put my phone down feeling this very thing you’re searching for a word for. I felt a profound longing to be in the presence of those little 2 year old voices–but also, I felt so lucky to be able to be with them now, and forever grateful to have the memory of the past. How apropos that I came here today to this conversation. It’s too true that it is both a theft and gift.

  59. Ingrid May Palma says...

    I know the feeling, to think I am not even a Parent. I am a devoted Aunt to my nephew Alonzo. To look and to watch his baby, toddler pictures and videos fills me with so much joy and sadness at the same time. Let us cherish every single moment . .

  60. Annalise Wagstaff says...

    I don’t have kids. I am not close to any kids. But I have loved watching your kids grow up in the blog. I love how the posts have changed overtime to reflect where you are in the parenting world. I remember thinking when I was single that your relationship with Alex was the ultimate goal–having kids seemed like a far off dream.
    Now I dream of having two cute boys like Anton and Toby.

  61. Ingrid May Palma says...

    I know the feeling and I am not even a Parent. I am a devoted Aunt to my nephew Alonzo – looking at his baby, toddler pictures gives me so much joy and at the same time sadness. Let us cherish every moment . . .

  62. Cristina Wilbraham says...

    In Portugal we use the word Saudade.
    On Wikipedia it says “is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again. It is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, and well-being, which now trigger the senses and make one experience the pain of separation from those joyous sensations. However it acknowledges that to long for the past would detract from the excitement you feel towards the future. Saudade describes both happy and sad at the same time, which is most closely translated to the English saying ‘bitter sweet’.”

    • I loooove this word, Christina. Thank you.

  63. Jessica says...

    My friend recently posted a picture of her oldest daughter, gussied up for her first homecoming dance, pinning a boutonnière on her date.
    Her caption was: “Time, you thief.”
    It stopped me in my tracks, grabbed my heart, and made my eyes damp.
    It’s true: time is the giver and taker of all things.

  64. You miss your children when they change into new amazing people, over and over again. We are so fortunate to be able to see them do that and to be there for them through all the remarkable growing. I have 3 kids, ages 17, 15 and 11. Today I realized that my 11-year-old now prefers her friends to me 100%. It was a sad moment, knowing that I had utterly lost my 3rd and final baby to tweendom. Over the past year she has grown so much that soon the hugs will be face-to-same-height-face, rather than a squeeze with her head buried in my shoulder. And of course I remember hugs when her face was at my belly…not that long ago. It is just weird to see all 3 kids get cooler as I get less cool!! I have gone from goddess mother to, ugh mooooom. But I have gratitude that they are growing up into their own independent selves. They have to leave me behind to find their footing and I have to be happy for them…but still there to catch them while I walk closely behind. My advice to you is to realize that you are living years now that you will look back on through videos, and you will yearn for them at this age. So soak up what you have in the present and let them fill your heart with the version of their present selves. And you will all grow and change together.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “I have gone from goddess mother to, ugh mooooom.” = that is hilarious/beautiful.

      and I do think/hope that many children come back after the separation phase of the preteen/teen years — I was SO bratty to my mom for two years in high school (eye rolls, loud sighs, the whole thing), but ever since then I’ve been obsessed with her. :)

    • Harper says...

      You will become goddess mother once more. I was a bratty teen and tween and my mother is my rock now. I’m obsessed and in awe of her. <3

  65. jill d. says...

    oh goodness..yes…in fact i actually find that watching old videos and or looking too long at old photos of my children makes me really sad…it’s almost too difficult. It may be in part b/c of what is gone or past and I kind of wish those moments back or it may be that i was so stressed during those times – my then marriage was exhausting and unhealthy and I think so much of that time i was in survival mode….and i feel like maybe i wasn’t mentally present so much during those days or maybe i was but just blocked out so much? Plus aren’t we all so sleep deprived during those early days/years? I can’t determine exactly but yes, those memories to me are always a bit heartbreaking…. I’m hoping over time that maybe it will shift and I’ll find more joy when looking back at photos and videos of my children…we shall see.

  66. Our youngest is 2.5 and just about every day I ask my husband if we can bottle up the sweetness because this is it! No more toddlers ever! I think the pandemic has only accentuated my attachment to this phase because the extra time with him has been such a gift – and also because the lack of interaction with, well, anyone else for the last year makes it feel a little like we have a magical creature living in our midst.

  67. Grace says...

    I don’t have children… but I think that “Mono no aware” might be a good term for this! It’s from the Japanese language, and refers to the bittersweet realization that everything is temporary, and that the fleeting joys and beauty of life should be cherished not mourned :)

  68. Adrienne says...

    When I see videos of my babies, I feel a sense of panic that I must. make. more. videos–that I don’t have enough. But I’ve realized it’s not really the videos I want. I really just miss their little selves, and no number of videos is ever going to replace those years gone by.

  69. Anon says...

    Parenthood brings with it an inherent nostalgia because the little person you love so much is only this version of themselves for a short little time. The change is so fast, the phases so fleeting. You will never have that 3 year old again. It is the same person, but completely different. Children also make you more cognizant of the passing of time. I feel pretty much the same, but when I look at the children around me, I am blown away by how the years have passed. Sigh.

    • Anon says...

      …But I must add that each stage brings its own awesome, so I cherish each phase that I will eventually look back on and sigh. And smile. That’s just life. Time passing and the memories you are making. ❤️

  70. Lisa R says...

    Nostalgia is just the strongest force I know. It’s almost exclusively reserved for happy memories, so going down memory lane is like a hug from the best moments of your past!
    And when you are done feeling nostalgic it can feel empty without those memories right by you. But the best thing is, every day we make more memories to store, that one day we will be revisiting!!

  71. As the oldest of 5 siblings I feel this deeply, but I also remember feeling my mom’s disappointment or heartbreak in the fact that I was growing up and so were my siblings. She actually dissociated from her role as a present mother as we grew older and into tweens and teenagers because she was so focused on being attached to us physically as babies. This was detrimental to our relationship. As a daughter I desperately needed a mother as I navigated emerging womanhood. Luckily I was able to lean on my dad, who seemed to better embrace the idea that we were evolving beings that did not belong to our mother’s uterus, but instead that we belonged to ourselves and his duty as a parent was to shepherd us through until we could do life on our own. My wish is to be the kind of parent, that embraces every stage and every age the way my dad did.

    • I felt this too growing up and felt terrible for leaving my childhood behind for my parents to grieve. So at the time, I made a mental note to never make my own kids feel bad for growing up. I tell them now that I love them growing up and it is wonderful to be a part of who they are. I say when they get close to their next birthday and are sometimes sad about it… “You have already been 11, I can’t wait to see you and know you at age 12!

    • Jessica says...

      This is so helpful for me. I’m guilty of asking my littles to stay little but now I see how this might be painful. Thank you.

    • Katherine says...

      I recognise this too! I wonder how people feel when their children become adults; I think it feels that there can be a lack of acceptance of who the child turned out to be, and I think parents can at times envision their own dreams for their children so much they fail to see the person in front of them. Reading through the comments it feels slightly like lots of people are so focussed on the cute baby/little stage, but the end game of parenting is to produce an independent, capable, content adult, and I think this gets lost at times.

  72. Lisa says...

    Yes, a million times yes. Everyday I love them so much for who they have become and everyday I mourn the babies they used to be.

  73. Winter Blue says...

    Oh I feel exactly the same! As if I wasn’t present enough… and now it’s too late. Except it’s not! Because the present is also now…. oi!

  74. Katie says...

    I told my husband that I sometimes miss our 5 month old WHILE I’M HOLDING HER. I’m in for it big time as she gets older.

    Related: Would you consider doing a post about how to manage and save all of these photos and videos we’re collecting? Like others, my phone is full to the brim of precious moments, and I’m overwhelmed with the idea of storing them safely somewhere so I can actually show my daughter when she’s older (…and here come the tears).

    • Neela says...

      Oh, yes please, second that!

    • KB says...

      Thirding this! Would also be interested in a post about how people share pictures/videos with family and friends and thought processes around whether/how to share on social media.

    • marie says...

      make sure theyre saved in two places and also in the cloud. I’m a professional photographer and use the cloud service Crash Plan but google photos or icloud could help. that’s what im banking on until i figure out what to do with all of these photos of my kids haha. oh and i print a yearly photo album too so at least theyre somewhere physical

  75. Alaina says...

    YES, I feel this. I look at photos and videos of my young elementary children and wish (so hard!) that I could scoop them out of the photo and squeeze them at that size just one more time. Something about the 5 month baby age and then 18 month toddler age that really pulls at my heart. Every year passing both a gift and a theft is so spot on.

  76. Anita says...

    Yes, absolutely! I call it time slipping through my fingers. We have talked about it with my 4-year-old, especially how sad we are when she learns how to say things correctly instead of the adorable way she used to say things. She obliges us by saying it wrong every once in a while, but it’s not the same. Parenthood! It keeps on breaking us and remaking us.

  77. This really resonated when I read it. My son is 22 and has just moved 400 miles away (in a pandemic!) to start a new life with his boyfriend. And while I’m happy he is happy and exploring the world, it also breaks my heart he’s so far away. Today, sat in the garden, I swear I could feel the invisible cord stretching when I imagined the distance.
    A gift and a theft is completely true. Sometimes I miss the days when he was small, but then I’m so proud of him as an adult and our bond is strong, regardless of distance.
    So yes, I do feel the same, but I also feel enormous gratitude.

  78. Emily says...

    I found myself a few weeks ago just missing (like a friend you haven’t seen in some time) the two year old version of my son! He’s four now and so wonderful, but I still missed him at two. I just sat with it and let myself feel both feelings which lasted several days!

  79. Dianna says...

    I totally get this. I used to cry looking at old pictures of my daughter when she was a baby and actually feel LOSS. I felt like I was mourning her. That baby is gone. She’s a different version of herself now, and I’ll probably mourn her toddler age when she’s a teenager. My husband thinks I’m nuts!

  80. If the definition of maturity is being able to hold two conflicting thoughts in your head at the same time, then motherhood has made me officially mature. At 48, I am simultaneously abundantly grateful for my two healthy, happy, thriving children and I absolutely relish discovering who they are with each new day (now 11 and 10), and/also: I feel unexpectedly deep sorrow at the loss of the cherished little creatures they once were. I feel physical pain in my chest and can cry buckets when I look at their baby/toddler photos and videos. Every day, I continue to “gobble them up with kisses and sniffs” for as long as they will let me. Thank you for posting this, Joanna, and to all who comment, so that at least I know I’m not alone in this simmering soup of joy & sorrow.

  81. Tanya Waissman says...

    YES. It is like losing someone so dear and yet you still have them. So confusing, Also remind me the photographer who took that gorgeous piece over your couch?????

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Katherine wolkoff xo

  82. Kirsten M. says...

    Dear Joanna-This post is so meaningful. Thank you, always, for your honesty and realness. I have felt this sadness at different milestones since my daughter’s umbilical crust fell off. I cried and could not get myself to throw it away as it represented how quickly she was growing and changing from the baby we brought home from the hospital (don’t worry, my husband happily discarded it!). For years and years I search on blogs and tried to connect with other moms over how I was feeling and I could not find anyone to relate to. My mom friends “loved” that their babies were no longer so needy, etc. and would just say, “Yeah, they were cute, but I like them older better.” I thought something was wrong with me…and then you posted this same feeling! Thank you!! Thank you!! And I have to say, I got a little sappy looking at the adorable baby photos of your boys as I have been following your blog since my daughter was born on May 13, 2010 (very close to your Toby)….and my son was born in February 2013 (close to your Anton)…so I remember when you first shared some of the photos of your boys on this post. Your blog is so meaningful, and you are a gift.

  83. Illana says...

    A million times, yes.
    Words I think of:
    Bittersweet (the word and the feelings are crushing) and
    Glennon Doyle’s ‘Brutiful.’ — beautiful and brutal.

  84. Lorraine says...

    I feel this all the time! My kids are 8 and 4, and I constantly marvel at how they are sprouting up. Time and growth for babies and kids is at such hyperspeed, whereas all the grownups in my life change so incrementally within that same timespan. It is weird to think wow, those are babies in the videos are these kids, but those babies are gone!

  85. I don’t know what the word is for it, but I feel it! My son is 25 now and when I look at photos of him as a toddler or I think back to reading to him in a rocking chair, my heart aches. They are babies, then toddlers and youngsters for such a very short time.

  86. Emily says...

    I had the exact same experience this week! I have been trying to make space on my phone by deleting some of the 34,000 photos and videos I have on there (yikes). After watching the baby videos I felt I had to let go of the baby versions of my kids as I’m never going to have them again and embrace the gorgeous young boys they are instead. It’s bittersweet. And kinda making me broody!

  87. Stephanie says...

    YES! My son is 5-and-a-half months old, and he’s already growing too quickly for my tastes. Taking advice from past generations, we’re taking a lot photos and little videos – especially of the mundane moments. My husband and I try to balance this by being present (no lens in sight!) and soaking him up, whispering, “I can’t believe he’s ours. He is so freaking cute. We are so, so lucky,” to each other. Long may it last!

  88. Jodie says...

    Like others, I have tears in my eyes just typing this. I have one child, Kai, who is now 10 and I honestly think of this daily. I love how he is growing but I physically ache for him as a toddler. I try my very best to be present because it all goes by so fast.

  89. Elizabeth says...

    ah Joanna, I totally respect your decision not to have more, but so often in your posts it sounds like your heart is longing for another baby. That is so hard. I always think of the Pascal quote about these things. « Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point. » (“The heart has reasons of which the reason knows not!” ) xoxo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      <3

  90. Barbara says...

    i can already feel this in my future. my son is 4 now, and when we talk i can practically see the love shimmering between us. he laughs, and he glows, and all of his little turns of phrase and facial expressions are so perfect and special. i just want to squeeze him!
    and then i wonder, do my parents still see me this way? is it hard for them to see me as an adult, when in their mind’s eye, i’m still a sparkly little 4 year old with funny little habits of my own? maybe i shouldn’t be so hard on them, if that’s the case.

    • Carol Barclay says...

      Oh boy, Tonia, I can physically feel that cord too, and my daughter is 42 with 2 kids of her own. Aren’t we so very lucky!?!

    • Carol Barclay says...

      Barbara, what a lovely image: “the love shimmering between us.” Not only do I feel that way about my daughter, but also her children. I can endlessly watch them with my heart wide open .
      And this part, too: “all of his little turns of phrase and facial expressions are so perfect and special. i just want to squeeze him!” I feel so lucky that we all carry a “camera” and that we can revisit these moments of sheer joy.

  91. Justine says...

    Why, why, why did you have to post this? Yes, a million times; I think of this all the time. Who doesn’t? Now I’m heartsick (again). ;)

  92. Virginia Tevere says...

    I am about to turn 49 and I have a 5 and 3 year old. (I started late). And now that my 3 year old is becoming much more independent, I’ve been yearning for another child. I totally understand where you’re coming from. Like, you feel it in your gut. My husband is happy with the two we have. And yes, I may be crazy that I’m as old as I am and want another child (one that we would foster to adopt) running around our house. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever shake this feeling. But feel fortunate for the two boys that brighten my day, everyday!

  93. Julie says...

    Yes! I feel this so much!
    I’ve said many times to my husband that I wish we could pause time for a while, so we can really enjoy each other while we are so young. Our son is 7 years old and it’s such a fun and sweet age. He often says that he will never get married and that he will always live with us forever, haha. I know I’ll look back on this time and be even more heartsick.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      my sons say that, too! they’re like, we’ll just live here forever. I’m like PLEASE DO!!!!!!!

  94. Kate says...

    I recently decided to hire a videographer to put all of our small videos into one big one. It’s been such a lovely look back and has really helped me get through these months with online learning, serious anxiety, and these long dark nights.
    https://shoeboxmovies.com/

  95. anna says...

    I am German, and I suggest it’s WEHMUT;-)

    • Katrin says...

      Yes!!!! Thank you for this! Fellow German here, and I was already racking my brain, but I didn‘t think of this one. This is exactly it, people!

  96. Elizabeth says...

    My daughter (2.5) is obsessed with watching videos of herself on my phone. “Watch EMMA on mama PHONE!” Fine by me, kid! It is such a treat to watch her giggling at videos of her younger self while I gaze at her cheeks and eyelashes and kiss her sweet head. <3 <3

  97. Meghan Davis Mercer says...

    Someone said that we encounter the universal divine either through great love or great suffering…and the great love often leads to great suffering. I feel for women who are trying to figure out whether or not to have children. Our society has almost made a religion out of it, as if kids are the meaning of life, and I don’t think that’s fair to anyone, especially the kids themselves! That said, my children have broken me open to the world and let it all pour in. It’s beautiful and it hurts.

    • Lauren T says...

      Love the way you said this, Meghan. My baby girl truly has broken me open to a world I didn’t know existed. Not that life before her was bad, just different, less.

  98. Maywyn says...

    The first time I saw a son with gray in his beard, I was stun numbed by the reality. Days, and more of sorrow follow. Knowing I will not being there for them when they are old, is one of the more unplesant aspects of aging. Talking about them when they were young helps me cope.

  99. Jane says...

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who can hardly bear to look at video and pictures from when my children were small…the preciousness of that time, their innocence, their hearts unscathed as yet by the world, the inevitable feeling as a parent of “Could I have done better?” I love my 20 and 24 year old so much and I wish for the time when all they needed to feel ok was to know Mom and Dad loved them.

  100. Robin in NoCo says...

    My mom impressed upon me before I had my own children that everything about motherhood is “but a moment” and she was grateful that our moments are captured as still photography. There are only photographs of our now 17, 19, and 22-year-old kids (with the exception of a few youtube videos of performances taken by others). I suspect some would see this as a loss, but to me, it turns those wistful moments into art that I appreciate, with no possibility of recapturing them. Time moves forward, our children become something new, and I never want them to think I wish they were anyone of anything other than exactly who they are right in the moment.

    Or maybe I’m protecting myself from profound grief.

    • M says...

      What a beautiful comment. Maybe it is both.

  101. When I studied Keats in High School, I remember so vividly my lovely fuzzy English teacher explaining to us when we were reading ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, that true happiness is always tainted because as humans, we KNOW it’s a fleeting state. The joy is literally slipping through our fingers as it’s happening. I also remember WISHING SHE HADN’T SAID THAT, because every truly happy moment in my life SINCE THAT ENGLISH CLASS has been tinged with a pang of wanting to burst into tears because I am crippingly aware it’s happening-happening-happened-gone-long gone…. !! And this is exactly how I have felt watching my boys grow (now 6 and 2.5) – the old videos make me feel like I am in a state of bizarre blissful mourning. Sometimes I like to expand on the torture and play ‘what would I pay/give to wake up tomorrow to have a whole day with him as a 6 month old/18 month old/3 year old”. WAHHHHH, all the feelings!