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. jess says...

    or a Yiddish word! :) FARKLEMPT maybe?

  2. Tricia says...

    I remember being pregnant with my daughter and she would get hiccups constantly. It was something we were told she would probably grow out of. Now at nine she still gets frequent hiccups, especially when she laughs a lot.

    She might find it annoying sometimes but I selfishly hope it’s a trait she always has :).

    • Yana says...

      Oh my gosh, same with my son, Tricia! He had the hiccups a lot in my tummy, as I often tell him, and he still gets them often as a 6-year-old, especially when he’s laughing. It frustrates him, but I think it’s so sweet and adorable.

  3. Alice says...

    My baby just turned one and I LOVE watching him grow up and develop…but almost every day I get a little knot of panic in my chest that these beautiful, hard, amazing baby days are ending. We both want a second child in a year or two, but what do we do after that??? Someday I will be 60 and these baby days will be far behind me! That thought is almost unbearably sad.

    Here’s hoping we have grandkids (not that I’ll be the type of mom who pressures their kids!!). Or else we will definitely have dogs. Lots of dogs.

    • Brittny says...

      I feel this so much, Alice. My baby will be one next month, and once a day I get a panic that its all going too soon. The first 6 months of his life felt like groundhog day and I was trying to survive (COVID, living with my parents, PPD, etc.). Now I wish I could take the days I wished would end so much and add them to now, on the other side.

  4. Sandra says...

    There is a Portuguese word that sums it up….an existential craving for what is no longer there.

    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.

    Was organizing toys to donate that my son had outgrown and he says…dont give them away I want to keep them for my kids! Hes five. 😭

  5. KK says...

    100%. My little one is only 4 and I already feel this way! I try to bask in the pleasure and joy of getting to feel this way about someone. What a privilege! (But holy moly, it can hurt!)

    • jdp says...

      i remember 4 being the age of this….they are so much more independent, can communicate… and need you a little less. it’s the age when they run off without a second glance back when you drop them off at preschool, and it’s a gift and a theft, as joanna said above.

  6. Borshi says...

    I cannot watch a video of them being little without crying. I miss them being so little. My kids are teens now so when they were little taking a video of them wasn’t as handy as it is now with our phones.
    I wish I had captured every day activities, just them putting their shoes on, playing with Legos, help me bake or brushing their hair!
    Back then I only thought of taking a short clip on special occasions like a birthday party or when someone visited us.
    My husband would happily revisit these memories while my heart aches so much that I can’t stand it.
    I so wish I remembered the little things!

  7. Mary Anne says...

    Yes, yes! I honestly can’t look through my photo albums anymore. The ache in my heart is so huge. It’s not that I want to go back there, and my children are wonderful adults now. For some reason the play Our Town comes to mind, where you are not recommended to go back and view your life.
    Thank you for all the wonderful posts over the years. They’ve become part of my day.

  8. Maria says...

    Haha, I´m German, and I don´t know a word for this, unless you mean Nostalgie wich I believe is english as well. But the picture of Toby holding Anton! I´m dying!
    I often watch old pictures with my kids, and every time I ache for another baby even though we´re done.

  9. chantelle says...

    Every. single. night. I do this! my daughter is turning 2 next month, learning so many new things all the time, life is hard and fast and amazing all at the same time right now. My favorite thing after snuggling and putting her to sleep is sitting down and looking through my “Sunny” album. Probably once a week I scroll allllll the way up to day 1 in the hospital, and that’s when I always bring up #2 to my husband! eek!

  10. Toni says...

    Is it totally weird that I do this with my brother every now and then? He’s 6 years younger than me and a recovering addict. He slips up and down the twisty road of recovery. When I am really struggling to accept him for who he is and accept that the back pedaling is part of the process, I look back at his sparkly eyed little face full of mischief and hope, his baby pictures with his fuzzy round head, his sports years where he seemed invincible. It helps me get through the dark times.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so lovely, Toni. thinking of you and your brother today. xo

    • Lucy says...

      Wow, Toni. Thank you for sharing. You sound like a wonderful sister.

    • M says...

      Toni,
      Even though I have my own daughter, I do this with my brother (5 years younger) as well. He’s gone off and on for 10+ years now. I’ve tried to help him so many times and I hate that he has this path. When he’s not using he’s wonderful. I feel exactly the same way as you do. You’re not alone! I wish your brother the best in recovery. And your family as well, it’s SO hard on everyone.

    • Toni says...

      Thanks for your kind words.

      M – it’s very comforting to know I’m not alone in these feelings. The battle is long and, though it never ends, I hope there are long periods of peace for my brother and yours. Thinking of you and your family too.

  11. CLF says...

    Oh, Joanna, I relate so much to this. From time to time I allow myself to watch old videos and look at old photos of my babies too. (They are now 9 and 6). It is always a heartbreaking affair, and I feel exactly how you do–sad and kind of disoriented, like my mind can’t quite keep up in real time. I love what you said: “A gift and a theft.” Perfectly put. I also find myself mourning the mom and person I was during each of those precious phases. I see a pair of shoes I loved and wore to death, or a shirt that I wore over and over in the pictures, or how I was feeling the day and time the picture or video was taken and it reminds me of who I was at that time, and how much I have evolved and changed (for better or worse!), and I find myself also mourning those past versions of myself. Do you do that too?

  12. Lavita says...

    I am so guilty of this. Just the other day I came across a bag of my daughter’s baby toys that I have yet to part with. Of course this almost sent me into tears. I called to my, now, 5 year old and said “aw, look it’s from when you were just a tiny baby”. With a deep sigh and slight eye roll she responds “how long are you going to be on this baby stuff?”
    As shocking as it was, it was also a much needed dose of reality and a reminder to stay as present as possible with her. It’s great to reminisce but I have to make sure that I’m not so busy looking back, that I’m missing what’s happening now. She’ll be 6 next month! Yikes!!!!

    • Louise says...

      What a character! I *just* parted with a bunch of baby stuff I was holding on to now that my daughter is 8. A second baby was in the back of my mind for years, but just never moved front and center. I’m ready to let go of what could have been now and move forward, but I did look through each and every item (maybe even sniffed the blankets and sleep sacks) before folding them up and giving them to an excited/nervous soon to be mom in my neighborhood.

  13. Stefania says...

    Heaven must be a place where we can be with our kids at all ages at the same time: enjoying the newborn, the baby, the toddler…but also the teenager and the adult…all of them, at the same time:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg YES.

    • Scarlett says...

      I also think this quite often, Stefania :)

    • katie says...

      Oh man…YES. That’s reason enough to really believe.

    • KT says...

      What a beautiful thought!

  14. Claire says...

    Yes. We get so immersed in the daily routines of parenting it can be easy to forget that time is passing. My only son just left for college, his first time living away from home. Jeez, what a whirlpool of emotions. I turn the lamp on in his bedroom in the morning so it won’t be both empty and dark. The house seems deeply quiet and still. I even miss the eternally messy confab of his shoes and balled up socks by the front door – who would have thought? I am grateful and proud of him, this time of his life is full of possibility, like an adventure. He is handling it very well. I can’t wait to see what he creates. His becoming has always been a wonder to me, quietly dazzling. For myself though, it is a different life marker, a sea change. I am a little unmoored, the days are somewhat void of course (the pandemic does not help). I am trying to figure out what will be my adventure now, what will the business of living my days be like, and where will I put all of this everyday love? It is a happy time, also a little sad and uncertain, all at once. Change never stops, I am trying to ride the wave.

    • Laura says...

      This is really beautiful Claire. I have a two year old son and I think about the day he will venture off to college. Thanks for painting such a vivid picture.

    • Love this. Clearly writing is in your future…I have a 3 year old and I remind myself to feel my future empty-nester self missing her even when I am holding her in the present. Do we even have one self anymore once we become a mother, or are we just memories of past selves and memories in the making? Don’t mind me…just going slowly mad. LOL.

  15. Katie says...

    We celebrated my 7 and 2 year old birthdays this week, which for me meant days of looking through old photos and having intense heartache over missing those little babies. My husband likes to tease me that I actually hated being pregnant and that having a newborn is HARD, but I told him that I will never, EVER, not miss those precious early days of snuggles and the smell of their heads.

  16. Julie says...

    I posted a picture when my daughter was four days old, and I captioned it “She’s growing up so fast.” And I meant it! I was already nostalgic for her one day old self.

    I was writing to my mostly estranged sister in-law the other day, just trying to keep some communication open. I wrote:
    Even though everyday is groundhog day, these little kids keep growing and changing. Our little kids will quickly not be that anymore, so I’m trying to keep that in mind so as not to wish away their little years as I wish away these pandemic times.

    Though I’m very very sad to miss a whole year of so many kids’ and babies’ lives because if the pandemic, I’ve come to accept it as much as I can. Family estrangement that has forced my in-laws to miss my children’s lives completely without the excuse of a pandemic is just ridiculous. That they don’t go down memory lane looking at photos of my kids bums me out a lot, but it also is out of my control. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s really beautiful to share one’s children with others, so that the nostalgia can be shared, so that people like my mom’s cousin can still tell cute stories about me and how I called girls “goyles” and now my daughter says the same thing. It’s a gift when the memories don’t just come from our pictures but from each other. I love a good shared memory, and also a new shared memory. I love when that heavy happy feeling of reminiscing is shared with others.

  17. Ruth says...

    Parenthood is so wonderful and so heartbreaking.

  18. Jean says...

    I read once that parents often recognize the “firsts” in their child’s life; “first smile”, “first step”, “first word”. Rarely do we recognize the “lasts”, although they are just a real, and even more poignant; “last moment of breast feeding”, “last day at home as a preschooler”, “last day before leaving home for college”. Being a parent is a magnificent journey, but also one of continual “lasts”; which in a wonderful relationship of intense love, at times this feels like loss.

    • arose says...

      This is so lovely. Brought tears to my eyes.

    • Laurie says...

      I read or watched something about “the last time you hold your child”. I think about that a lot, how one day you will hold them and then never again.

      My baby started walking recently and I realized that it won’t be long where he doesn’t crawl. That phase is done and gone and in the moment I don’t always think of it that way, but yes, each first really also has a last.

  19. Hanh says...

    I did this last week. I had forgotten how they sounded. How chubby their little cheeks were. aaaah. So thankful for those pictures and videos. We’re expecting our last baby. It’s going to be hard watching him grow out of his baby cuteness. Those baby pictures of your kids, dont they just make you want to bring them to life so you can give them tons of hugs and kisses?

  20. Hannah says...

    Oh geez. I loved and hated this post haha. My little one turns 6 months this week. I’ve realized (nerd that I am) that 1/36th of her pre-adult life has already passed and I’m freaking out a bit. 1/36th seems like too much time and not enough time, all at the same time. In another 6 months, 1/18th of her pre-adult life will have passed. THE FRACTIONS JUST KEEP SOUNDING WORSE AND WORSE! I can’t imagine life without her morning snuggles and nighttime nuzzling. But also, I’m super excited to sleep in past 7am again, show her all my favorite thrift stores, and stay up late talking and drinking red wine together one day.

  21. I go down the old picture / video rabbit hole all the time. On the other hand, last night my 3.5 year old and I were doing Frozen yoga — she in her pajama top and undies — pushing each other over in the poses while laughing hysterically. I thought to myself, sear this into your brain. I hope it lives there permanently now!

  22. Claudia says...

    I’m German and the German word for this is “Sentimentalitis” and it means getting stuck in memories so much that it hurts :-)
    My kids are all grown up and I know exactly how you felt watching these old videos and pictures. Sometimes you need to go through them, especially when the kids start acting like teenagers.
    On the other hand, every age has it’s own ups and downs and most of the time I’m just glad we made it through all these stages of childhood.

    • Jane says...

      Another German here, I would argue this is “Wehmut” or “wehmütig”!
      Our language is a treasure trove for words for semi-depressing, v v deep feelings indeed ;-)

    • Jane says...

      German:
      Wehmut =
      verhaltene Trauer, stiller Schmerz (bei der Erinnerung an etwas Vergangenes, Verlorenes)
      -> restrained sorrow, quiet pain (when remembering something that has passed or that you lost)

    • Maria says...

      I have to say, I´m German and I never heard that word.

    • Christina says...

      Jane, I guess it is the same word as the Swedish “vemod”! The description sounds similar!

  23. B. says...

    Thank you for writing about this – I have been feeling this way for the past year or so. I think it hit home more than before because with Covid forcing us all to slow down, work from home, I realized how much I missed while I was at an office, or commuting to/from work late, and that sadness of not being able to go back and relive it again (how did I not realize those years would go so fast). My oldest kids are now 10 and 12, and there are less moments when they want and need you – instead you are more of a nuisance (homework hall monitor especially), and they seek you out less for those spontaneous joyful playful moments, and instead yell back that you are annoying them. They start to appear more “cooked” in a way, and less obviously moldable, you start to see areas where you as a parent maybe could have done things differently (maybe they would be a better student or more sociable if I had not allowed my husband to introduce video games so young), but that train has left the station. I definitely appreciate the moments where they do seek me out more than I did when they were toddlers when those moments were in abundance and submerged with 24-7 neediness where you were too exhausted to see them for what they were.

  24. Emily says...

    That picture of Anton with the guitar is one of my all time favs you’ve posted! Oh, and maybe him with the cowboy boots…

  25. There is this great article on how nostalgia used to be a mental health condition.

    “nostalgia might be an eloquent method for searching out a state of being as if it were actually occurring, and escaping the unpleasant circumstance you find yourself in,” said Wildschut.”

    https://mashable.com/2018/05/19/nostalgia-deadly-mental-illness/

  26. Alyssa says...

    My hear strings! I scroll through old photos and videos of my 2.5 year old almost every night before bed.

    I’m reminded of this quote from Little Fires Everywhere – “Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. As a baby Pearl had clung to her; she’d worn Pearl in a sling because whenever she’d set her down, Pearl would cry. There’d scarcely been a moment in the day when they had not been pressed together. As she got older, Pearl would still cling to her mother’s leg, then her waist, then her hand, as if there was something in her mother she needed to absorb through the skin. Even when she had her own bed, she would often crawl into Mia’s in the middle of the night and burrow under the old patchwork quilt, and in the morning they would wake up tangled, Mia’s arm pinned beneath Pearl’s head, or Pearl’s legs thrown across Mia’s belly. Now, as a teenager, Pearl’s caresses had become rare—a peck on the cheek, a one-armed, half-hearted hug—and all the more precious because of that. It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

    • C says...

      OMG, sobbing.

    • Kim says...

      When I read the book that part stopped me in my tracks! It perfectly describes the process of your child literally growing away from you :( Like Mia says, it’s “the way”, but man…

  27. I feel sad when I get lost looking through old videos too. I happen to be obsessed with videos as making them is my career. It’s nostalgic but I think the movie Inside Out does a great job describing these emotions… with sadness touching all of those happy memories.

    Two things I do to make myself feel better is e-mail or text family & friends photos I run across with them and my kids. The other is editing together videos so I have a place I can easily watch my favorite memories.
    Here’s an example! https://vimeo.com/showcase/8114147/video/401536370

  28. I feel this way all. the. time. My two older kids are 14 and 15, born 17 months apart. Their babyhood and toddler stages went by in such a flurry of activity and diaper changes and crayons and books that I struggle to remember it and I rue that I didn’t savor it and write down everything they said. When they were much older, and I was much older, approaching 40, I begged my husband for one more baby. . . one more little solo baby that would allow me to indulge in every moment. We now also have an almost three year old, and he’s delighted us all. And we’re able to enjoy it all slowly, together, as a family. And this time around when my memory fades, my older children will be able to help me fill the gaps. ;)

  29. Lena says...

    Omg yes! I literally did this last night! I’ve had a rough couple of years which started after my second child was born. I was promoted twice in my publishing job which sounds like a good thing but was a total free-fall (have landed well on my feet in that job since, but still!), and then I was diagnosed with multible sclerosis a little over a year ago. This has of course made me examine my life – and while it has led me to a good place where I’m a lot more mindful when it comes to my body, our family, work, everything, it has also made me create a narrative about these past few years being totally dreadful, up until this reexamination of my value system/health quest that the diagnosis led me on.

    Anyway, last night I started scrolling through my phone specifically to find pics of myself before I changed my diet (I was not at my kindest to myself in doing that, I realise now!) – but what I found was all of these shots of my kids, and videos of them being just completely wonderful. And with one stroke it made me look differently at those years. It made me realise that everything was probably okay, and that yes, I’ve made all these changes that are good for me and have made me realise that I need to actively take steps for me to be okay, in balance and able to be a good mom, a good publisher, a good friend, partner, etc., but if they can be that totally adorably perfectly kidlike, then maybe I didn’t do the worst job back then either.

  30. Anna King says...

    Oh my goodness yes, my babies have just turned 18 and 16. The bittersweet ness of their growing up just never goes away. There is delight in every new stage, development and ability but always a bit of grief for the past smaller them. I miss folding them up in a snuggle on my lap, now I fit on their laps!! ( not that they would be keen on that 😂). I feel this most every September as they make a transition into a new school year. This September my eldest will leave home to go to University, gulp. The positive of the pandemic and our long lockdown in the UK has been spending so much time with them. Obviously they may not feel quite as positive about being imprisoned with their parents 24/7, but I’ve loved it. X

  31. a.n. says...

    yes, the word is masochism ;)

    • Sarah says...

      Uh nope, you missed the mark there.
      Definition of masochism:
      1: the derivation of sexual gratification from being subjected to physical pain or humiliation by oneself or another person
      — compare SADISM, SADOMASOCHISM
      2: pleasure in being abused or dominated : a taste for suffering

      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/masochism

    • annie l. says...

      it’s a joke, sarah.

  32. mimi says...

    My two are 23 & 21 years old. I have their baby pictures & toddler pictures hanging in my room. I listened to a podcast of Peter Walsh recently that he did on ultimatehealthypodcast #351 quite a few years ago. He put into words what I feel at this age– He said he had a woman/client who could not get rid of the baby clothes of her teenage sons. She had felt those were her best years of being a mom and letting go of the clothes was partially letting go of her – her role of a mom of babies where it was being needed and trusted and depended on constantly to fulfill their needs, etc. I truly miss being that mom, too.

  33. Nina says...

    This is something I really needed to read today. I am 39 and although I thought it would, the actual, concrete wish to have children never materialized. Not even when both my best friends had their first children in 2020. Then in January, my dad died (of COVID) and it got me thinking (with renewed vigor) of the importance of family and if my husband and I might be missing out. We have other plans for our lives, currently on hold, but I still got hit with massive FOMO in this regard. I know I could still have a child, but I am not healthy and it would be a risk both for me and the child. I am prone to nostalgia and related melancholy, I definitely relate to “nowstalgia”, and the book title “These Happy Golden Years” (one of the Little Farm on the Prairie books) tugs at my heartstrings. Long story short, it helped to hear that this will never truly stop, whatever I do. So it doesn’t matter what I end up doing. This particular bittersweet-sausade-mono no aware-nostalgia sadness will be part of life, whatever we do. There is a certain freedom in that. <3

  34. Amanda says...

    A gift and a theft is so accurate when describing the feeling. Putting away too small clothes is hard for me and every time my 2.5 year old son drops a baby word for the real word, I get thrown into a tizzy. Hes doing exactly what he should be doing but I feel like the time to take it all in, is too quick. P.S Last week I was doing the same thing, sucked into watching videos of him from last year…

  35. G says...

    Needed this today. With a two year old and a 7 month old, at home – everyday ALL. DAY – many days I find my body just begging for sundown. It’s such a battle. Rushing the days yet finding yourself in a season where you wish time travel were a real and simple thing.

  36. S says...

    Yes! And what’s the word for that feeling of missing something already, as it’s happening? The perfect vacation, New Year’s Eve with your girlfriends, rubbing your toddler’s back as you read “How Many Kisses Good Night” at the end of the longest ever day. So many days of this year-in-parenting have felt like the longest ever *decade*, but those waves of joyful heartache haven’t stopped.

  37. TAMMY SUTHERLAND says...

    On my first daughters third birthday, I wrote “The pain of losing who you were is tempered by the joy of watching who you are becoming.” That feeling remains, even as I marvel at the way they interact with the world now and the things they get excited about or show interest in. When I think of the toil of those younger years – wiping down the high chair, walls and floor after every meal and snack; wrestling with strollers and carseats; dealing with sit-down-on-the-sidewalk tantrums while trying to get to daycare drop off – I am grateful to be at this stage. And they still want to snuggle and cuddle so far, so I’ll take every bit that I can.

  38. Klara says...

    I feel VERY much the same! I gave birth to my first child past August. I had an emergency C-section and wasn’t mentally fully present and physically capable of enjoying him the first few weeks. Looking back after a few months, I felt so so sad about having missed out on the details of the first weeks. While feeling sad, I was of course missing out of the details of the present moment. Etc etc…! On top of that, time feels very fleeting during the covid measures. We’re just staying home, not seeing anyone, every day looks the same. I feel like I’m constantly running behind on my kid’s time being spent and struggle with how to handle it all.

  39. Erin says...

    There might not be a German word, but there’s Marianne Richmond’s “If I Could Keep You Little.”

  40. Hannah says...

    Some years ago I digitized tons of old pictures from my sister’s and my childhood. Yesterday, I came across them and sent some to my mom and my sister. I think my mom experience a similar reaction than you did – her “Oh, you two were so cute!” was slightly out of character for her and pretty much encompassed the “gift and theft” feeling. It’s a sweet melancholia that I get to experience through her.

  41. Gemma says...

    This is nostalgia in big version!!! I feel the same too, specially with this fucking pandemic. It feels like nothing will be the same again! But hold on! And thank you for your incredible blog!

  42. Sequoia says...

    This whole comment thread is pure poetry. The salve my heart so desperately needed tonight.

  43. Elise says...

    Oh Gosh Joanna, I cried just reading this. I know this feeling all too well. I try to imagine everyone I meet (especially those who are cruel or unkind) as little boys or girls. It helps me to find a little compassion for them, or room to reason with them, when I have none.

  44. cg says...

    bittersweet wistfulness.

  45. Lisa says...

    It really is excruciating at times, isn’t it? Looking at those photos and videos…..it’s a thin line between pain and pleasure! If you really want to give yourself over to it, watch the video for Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman on Youtube. So painfully beautiful!!!! To pull myself out of this state, I remind myself that one day I’ll look back on today with that same feeling of nostalgia- so I put the phone down and immerse myself in my kids entirely! It helps break the evil spell! :)

  46. Loren says...

    When my nieces, who are now 26 and 28, were babies, they were the most adorable little girls imaginable. I used to hold both of them on my lap while we ate holiday dinners and when they saw me walking up the street they would burst out of the gate and hurl themselves at me. They sat on my lap until they were well into their teens. Now they’re grown up and I love the women they have become, but oh my goodness how I miss those delicious little girls. My heart hurts just thinking about it.

  47. Azlin says...

    Oh yes Joanna…I feel that way. My 3 boys are all teenagers now and my heart really aches when I watch the old videos and photos. What I regret was not taking more videos and photos and backing up because one of my old phones just died on me. And to add to the sadness the pictures and videos reminds me of so-called happier times in my marriage before everything broke down. I miss those moments when the kids were so adorable and such angels…but not all is lost. They’ve grown up into generally lovely teenage boys 🥰🥰

  48. Tristen says...

    Oh gosh. If I start watching baby videos, that’s it, that’s my day.

  49. Meg says...

    I love your perspective, “A gift and a theft”. I wrote a friend today that I was really feeling my girls growing lately and that it was a blessing and a curse – but something about that turn of phrase did not sit right with me. Stealing a gift and a theft to use from now on. haha.

  50. Ramya says...

    Yes! I have been thinking of exactly this while remote-ing for a while from Costa Rica with my 7-yo son (I’m a solo mom). We’re in a beautiful, safe community where he is able to wander around on his own with his new friends, something that wouldn’t be possible at home. I’m seeing that he’s now at the stage that he would prefer their company to mine (maybe it’s been that way for a while and I just haven’t noticed?), and it gave me a gut-punching glimpse of the day when he will be all grown up and leave home. I also see him doing more and more “big boy” things every day – flip jumps into the pool, surfing (he had his first lesson the other day), confidently going up to other adults and talking to them. He’s always been fearless but all of a sudden, it has less of a little boy quality to it, making me think – how/when did this happen!?!? P.S. Your boys’ baby photos are adorable!

  51. Rachel says...

    I was telling my mom that I was feeling this the other day and she said, “How do you think I feel?”

    • G says...

      So, sweet!

  52. Eileen says...

    Oh my word, do I feel this wordless feeling. My boys are 3 and 6 and every time my photo cloud sends those throwbacks, I get the feeling. It’s such a quandary because I remember, consciously thinking, when my boys were babies, don’t grab the phone for a photo. Be here in this moment. You’ll remember! Now I look at photos, some memories that I’ve already forgotten and feel this feeling of… melancholy?… over what I might have forgotten in the baby haze. Should I have taken more photos? And yet, I don’t want to be so busy trying to capture the memory by photos that I miss being there. Karen Walrond linked to a photographer (wish I could remember her name) who does a photo of gratitude each day. I’ve tried adopting the idea and love it. Helps me find an in between of the feeling and gratitude for the memory.

  53. Katy says...

    I thought that you were going to triumphantly announce that there was indeed a word for the pure bliss of the moment that a child falls asleep on your chest, knowing that he is utterly safe and secure.

    Or later – a word for the feeling of a new parent who FINALLY has a sleeping babe and can do ALL the things, but can’t get up (even for a pee) because she knows that the number of afternoons of pure snuggle bliss are fleeting. Or most painfully, the sudden fear of the mother of a distraught pre-schooler who realizes that this might be the last night her sweet little one will be lulled to sleep only by the magic of her arms.

  54. Jennifer Slattery says...

    Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  55. Avigail says...

    Yes I try to look at my kids every day and say ‘let’s kiss and hug and remember this moment because you will never be this little again!’ Each day they grow a day older! It’s so so painful. I miss them smaller but I’m also so proud of who they are growing into.

  56. Erin says...

    Have you seen Rob Walker’s art of noticing newsletter? He has a section on the dictionary of missing words with a new entry each week. This reminds me of that.

  57. Michelle C says...

    I went down this same rabbit hole on my phone last weekend! Pandemic life had been full of me saying “ok” whenever they suggest anything remotely like: I want to snuggle/read/sleep next to you in your/my bed. Hey! There’s. Global pandemic, we could all die tomorrow, all I want to know is that I maximized my snuggles. Much love!

  58. Kris says...

    Yes. So much (and my youngest isn’t even 1.5 yet!). Honestly, COVID has made this so much worse, I think. Instead of making and looking forward to making new memories daily — walks to school, seeing school recitals, planning trips, museum days, birthday parties — we’re on top of each other cooped up in a tiny apartment dreaming of space and solitude, me closing my bedroom door on my little kids to literally lock them out (because I can’t focus with the necessary intensity while they climbing on me, as much as I love an occasional visit). It is literally breaking my heart every morning. I know I’m missing the special moments but it’s so hard to find joy. I look back on old videos wondering if family time will ever feel that light and funny again. And, if it does, will I be devastated that I failed to make those same memories during these many months, esp with the baby. This is just so hard. Xoxo.

  59. Liz F says...

    Part of it is that we can now, with hindsight, see those glimpse in our babies/toddlers of who they were becoming. When my son (now almost 5) was a baby, then a toddler, he had such a variety of faces and expressions that I always thought were “possible personalities”- the different personalities he MIGHT become based on his experiences and tastes. Now I look back at baby pictures, some that don’t really look like him and others where I think “wow there he is! I just didn’t know it bc he was so new!” I find this to be a treasure- being able to to look back through them and see him becoming himself.

    • Emily says...

      I feel this way too! It’s so easy to connect the dots working backwards.

    • cilla says...

      Yes, me too.

  60. Anonymous says...

    I had a tough move across the country last year, my son moved away, my job changed dramatically, my mother passed away…and I have wondered while I try and rebuild my life if all those years of work and dinners and school runs, and bedtime stories- were those the best years? What does that mean about the future now…? They are supposed to move on.

    • Rebekka says...

      Sending you so much love and grace for your new beginning. Rebuilding – examining what was and figuring out what to keep, mourning what can’t be salvaged and mustering the time and patience to find, incorporate and get used to the new parts – it’s work! Be gentle with yourself, you deserve it.

  61. AJ says...

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m so excited to watch my kids grow but when I see old photos and videos it feels like that kid— that version of them—is gone. I’m so grateful we live in an era of constant photos and videos. I can’t imagine our grandparents and grandparents parents etc parenting and not being able to rewatch their children’s childhoods.

  62. Em says...

    My eldest turned 12 today and the realization that we’ve already had her in our home longer than the time stretching before us hit me like a punch in the gut. I have never been able to look at old photos or videos of my kids without weeping… Even photos from last year. : ) It’s both incredibly heartwarming and intensely painful!

  63. raysim6113@gmail.com says...

    i have a five year old daughter and a four month old son and youre making me SAD :( time for another ;-)

  64. Rachael says...

    Last night my kids were looking at vacation photos (vacations—remember those?!!!). In particular, we’ve taken photos every 2ish years from Artist’s Point in Yellowstone. Watching them flip through those photos and seeing all six of my kids age in reverse just wrung my heart out—seeing long gangly teenager legs melt into squishy toddler cheeks and little diapered bums. I really could not handle it. 😭

  65. Julie A. Colando says...

    or a Japanese word for it.

    My babies are young women now. I would give anything to go back in time for a day or a moment. I adore them grown up–truly. But I have a visceral response to photos, videos, thoughts of them as babies, toddlers, kids.

  66. Kristen says...

    My little guy is just over 6 months, and pictures of him as a newborn make me tear up already. I feel stuck in this place of being so excited for the things I will get to do with him in the future, mourning the endless newborn snuggles of days gone by (and also mourning the days of pregnancy when he was all mine – safely curled up in my belly), and loving every second I get to spend with this happy little boy who gets more & more personality every day. Motherhood has made me experience time & love in ways I never expected. It’s beautiful, primal, and complex. I’ve loved him so deeply since conception; before those two pink lines even told me I was his mother. I wish there was a word to convey the deeply emotional love a mother feels for her children’s past, present, and future.

  67. Ellen says...

    I started taking photos of them the day before their birthdays. I saw this in a movie once and thought it was a great idea to catch a glimpse of how they used to be.

    But I get sad and nostalgic all the time, I feel that they are growing up way too fast!

  68. Liza says...

    Always bringing the relatable wisdom, Joanna! I feel like you could be the female Jerry Seinfeld, but the introspective version! Haha. But came here to say I’m not a mom, but an aunt to two adorable (red headed!!) kiddos (2 and 5). I used to see them so often pre-pandemic, especially because they lived in my hood here in the city but covid drove them to the burbs :/. I have been looking at vids and photos of them often and it’s been striking me with a similar ache :/! I miss the littler version of my niece so much especially (she’s the older one). I keep thinking about how it’s a loss, because eventhough technically it’s not, it’s just that we’ll never see that baby or toddler again as she was (the integrated version is pretty great too though! And seeing how the amazing qualities I saw in her even as a tiny baby are shining and growing even more now. Incredible.) I miss them so much in general because of this pandemic and not being able to see them much (despite that the drive is close) and literally just said tonight to someone “I feel like I’m missing their youth.” I especially don’t want to miss out on the toddler phase of my nephew since I’m *missing* my niece’s so much right now. I don’t know yet if I’ll have my own kids or not so I’ve tried to really build and nurture my relationships with my niblings – and they’re important and meaningful to me. Anyway I’m rambling, but I guess I have been left wondering how this is for other people (especially parents!) and now I feel less alone. Hearts to everyone here. ❤️

  69. Jessica says...

    Ugh, ALL THE TIME.

    Secondary infertility made it much worse – knowing that every moment is the one and only time I’ll experience a kid at this age is just gutting. And in some ways that feels unfair to the kid I have now. He’s a wonderful, super imaginative, big hearted five year old who I couldn’t love more.
    But when I look at old videos – the time he was just learning to walk and talk, “reading” me books he vaguely memorized at 3, the Christmas morning video where he couldn’t get over cars going down a simple ramp – I’m only seeing the adorable times. Not the fact that he would bite my nipple at 18 months, or that he was really stubborn at 3, or that he lost interest in that toy in less than two weeks. And I am longing to have “it” again – because I so wanted a second kid – but not giving credit to how much I get to enjoy him now. It can feel like my “wants” are cheating my “haves. ”

    Anyhow, I don’t know if that makes sense. But yes, I’m nostalgic and sad for what I’ll never have again. Just hopefully not to the detriment of what I get to experience now.

    • Sequoia says...

      “My “wants” are cheating my “haves. ”” so poignant, and so true!

    • Jule says...

      Jessica, I am in exactly the same situation as you – I have, after years of brutal fertility treatments, a five your old girl who is our life’s joy every single day – yet so many moments of joy in seeing her grow up are tinged (sometimes ever so slightly, sometimes heavily) with the knowledge that it is extremely unlikely that we will get to experience this again. I yearn for another pregnancy, for another milk-breathy baby on my chest, for another chaos creator at the table, another first-time walker, etc. At the same time, I am so aware of the trap of yearning so much for something I cannot have and not see what I DO have. You described it so well: “It can feel like my “wants” are cheating my “haves.””

      Still, I mostly manage to be mindful and genuinely soak up every minute of our wonderful little family together. These, right now, are the good old times.

    • C says...

      Jessica and Jule, right there with you both. It’s so hard. Thank you for the poetic language – I deeply relate to my wants cheating my haves, though I try hard to just be present. It’s when my son is asleep and I am scrolling through photos that I let myself feel the most sad. My strategy lately is trying to remind myself how lucky I am to love being a mom so much, and to just let myself feel the sadness and grief. Sending you both a lot of love and solidarity.

  70. Jenica says...

    I feel this way when I linger too long on thoughts of my past. I’m almost 30 and when I think of my childhood, my 14-year old self, my 19-year old self, it truly feels like different lifetimes ago. At some point my life went from feeling like a continuous line of well-connected memories to a bunch of snippets from different lives. It is indescribable. I use gratitude to bring me back out of this nostalgic sadness. Instead of longing for the sweetness of youth, of past memories, I am grateful to be here to experience the fruits of a new day.

    • sara says...

      wow. i love that you honored this thought and yes, indescribable. i realize a lot of people would say this isn’t worth lingering on and that makes it particularly special to me. and yes, fruits of new days.

  71. jen pham says...

    I think the word is “Saudade,” which is actually Portuguese <3

    • L says...

      Exactly! The Portuguese channel this feeling into song, and the music is haunting and beautiful. “Saudade 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.”

  72. Caroline says...

    Don’t know of a German word for this Johanna, but something I read a few days ago puts the feeling into words so poignantly that it brought me to tears:
    “My oldest turns 18 today. How the time has flown! I wrote the following letter to him in 2005, when he turned 2.
    ‘I will miss the little boy you are today. Each night when you go to sleep, I say good bye to a little boy and feel bad that I’ll never see that same boy again. But when the sun rises, I find myself falling in love anew, with the beautiful person you are becoming.’
    (tweet by Michael Yeh, chief of endocrine surgery at UCLA)

  73. C says...

    Oh wow, yes to all of this. I’m struggling with secondary infertility so my heart is full of longing, gratitude, and wondering if I will get to do it again. I am more present in all of it than I might otherwise have been and I’m grateful for that and for my little one. My husband and I text each other pictures from across the room as they pop up in our picture apps (one year ago, two years ago, etc) of our son when he was impossibly tiny. I knew it went fast because that’s all everyone tells you… But gosh, it goes FAST.

  74. S. says...

    I am in the *trenches* with 19 m old twins and a 5 year old and it guts me to think about how much I’ll miss this time, while currenlty living in this time which is, to be honest, a sh** show. I literally wore earplugs tonight making dinner to curb the whining and the crying and the fighting and the screams. But I know – I’ll “miss this time” like crazy….

  75. Josefine Garcia says...

    My son is turning 5 in just a few weeks and yes, this is definitely a thing and how is he turning 5?! I just can’t wrap my head around him being a real full on kid and what happens next? Will time move even faster? I have an 8 month old daughter and now the glaring differences between them have also highlighted just how big he’s gotten and how stabby his bones are when he cuddles me compared to her baby squish and so I feel this feeling all the time as I hold on to her for dear life knowing how fleeting it all is and as I savor every moment he looks at me with adoration since I know he won’t worship me in this way forever. The heartbreak and beauty of watching these beings find their place in the world is unlike anything I could have ever imagined and in the darkest times fills my life with such purpose and meaning that I am left to weep with gratitude.

  76. Megan Powell says...

    I’m a new mom (my son is 9 months now!) and I’ve been saying this for months. Motherhood to me is three things all at once:
    -Missing who they were
    -Wanting to stay exactly where we are now
    -Looking forward to what’s ahead.

    I feel all three in the exact moment sometimes. I try and slow down and just appreciate what is, but it’s also hard when I look forward to him talking, and walking, and playing. And also missing those sweet newborn days, and the milky smell he used to have.

    • Klara says...

      6 months old son today – new mom waving back at you! And YES for those 3 things all at once!

  77. There was so much uncertainty when we adopted our son that I didn’t let myself look at babies or even fully believe he was ours to love and hold once he was home with us. I’m still trying to understand what it all means, and looking back at pictures of those early days is one of the ways I can convince my brain that I’m truly a mother. He’s such a sweet gift to us!

  78. We’ve taken to watching these old videos together as a family, and it helps. The kids are enamored by their younger selves (who have remarkably similar personality traits to their current selves.) They call it their own version of AFV (their favorite show) but funnier.

  79. Inbar says...

    Always love your reflections and articulations Joanna. Yes I feel it every day, my girls are 15 & 12, young women in body, teens in mind and children and all of the above in heart. I yearn to hold their little hands, share in their wide eyed wander but like others have noted, while our little ones are now big , we have also gained so much, the maturity (and I’m talking of the adults here), a little more time for us, for our interests, a little more distance and perspective to see these growing people and their place in the world that is separate from us. Yes I ache for their sweet breath in my ear, for bath time silliness, but there are new joys and discoveries that we can lap up. Sometimes I think of it as a kind of time travel, revisiting their childhood through photos and videos, it’s unsettling and exciting. xx

  80. Lindsey says...

    Yes! This is me so much and my daughter is only 3.5 years old. She’ll be my only child which makes my heart ache even more because I know I won’t have these experiences again. Watching her get older and more independent each day makes me more and more terrified of no longer being able to protect her as much as I can now. What am I going to do then?! Why can’t they stay little forever?!

  81. Sage says...

    I just think of my son as a Russian nesting doll. The newborn, the 6 month old, the 18 month old are all in there. Soon this 2.5 yr old version will get wrapped up in a 3, 7, or 17 year old version, and that’ll be okay too and lovely in its own way. (I always thrill when I see sweet relationships between 30 yr old men and their mothers!) There was definitely a moment when he turned 2 when I was like – oh, that part is *over* over; I’ll never have a baby like that again – but maybe the baby age is still so fresh in my mind that I can’t get myself to miss it much, hahaha. And regardless, I spend hours upon hours looking through old photos!

  82. Anne says...

    It brings to mind the Portuguese word “saudade” which loosely means to miss someone with your heart. I, too, have been delving too deep into old pictures and videos of my kids. Even a year ago they were so different!

  83. Marisa says...

    I am completely losing my mind lately with desire for a third baby. But I never, ever imagined my life with more than two kids. This is absolutely not a judgment of other people’s families, but for me it feels like more than two kids is more than my share of environmental impact on this dying planet. Our home, our bicycles, our adorable little travel trailer, seemingly everything in our lives is perfectly set up for our two wonderful kids. My partner looked at me like I had way more than three heads when I confessed how I’ve been feeling.

    But I am aching SO SO SO HARD for one last baby.

    • Betsy says...

      I felt that way too. I was part of the zero population movement back in the 70’s. Two adults, two babies. The minute my 2nd baby was born I knew I wanted a third. However my husband was #3 in his family and felt like it was a stretch for his family so he was happy with 2. When he was finally ready for #3, our 2nd was 5 and I was back to work and felt the moment had passed. For awhile I still felt the ache but as our 2 grew older, I came to appreciate that we stopped. We had more financial ability to afford lesson, sports trips, college events, etc. Now we have 4 beautiful grand girls. Yay!!

    • Le says...

      I have this ache too. I am 40 and had to take meds to have our two so to seriously try would mean reentering a stressful and hard headspace that is difficult to go back to. I feel so blessed, and yet there is still that longing.

    • Alison says...

      Me too, Marisa, aching so hard for one last baby. And also feeling like our life with two children is just right. And me too with the husband that looks at me like he wishes I would see things his way on this one. We usually compromise well when disagreements arise but this is one we are not finding a compromise on. Maybe the compromise is that post-pandemic we’ll host lots of cousin sleepovers and that will satisfy the longing for more kids in our family.

    • Marisa says...

      Thank you, Betsy, that helps! I know that a third would seriously limit our ability to travel, and I think part of what’s putting me in this head space now is that things like travel seem so irrelevant. Having another baby is like the only exciting thing to do! But the pandemic won’t be forever and we’ll be getting kids to school, activities, and traveling again, and having two kids will be so much easier in that reality.

    • Allison says...

      Betsy, your reply was exactly what I needed to hear today. We decided, just this morning, that we are going to stick with 2 (currently 4.5 and 7) for basically all the reasons you listed… “the moment has passed” included. My mom’s biggest regret is that she didn’t have a third (adult) child, like me she didn’t particular want a third baby, so it is so nice to hear another opinion!

  84. Jovana says...

    I pretty much feel like that all the time and have a hard time looking at pictures of my littles. A while back I was watching an old episode of Bourdain and he was in Portugal – and the episode was all about ‘saudade’ – a feeling of longing for a time past- but something about the way that word sounded captured and all the breadth it tries to encompass captured this feeling (you describe) better to me that plain ol’ “nostalgia”

  85. katie says...

    Yes! It’s part of my revenge procrastination bedtime routine. Watch Grey’s and then usually end up on my phone, looking at old pics. It starts as an effort to cull the most recent dups but soon I’m two years back. My second is about to turn 3 and he is just SO precious. Boys are 3.5 years apart and I look at my 6.5 year old and definitely miss his cute 3 yo self, esp since a few months of his were clouded during early pregnancy with worries about baby #2.

  86. Rose Eileen Cearley says...

    Seeing old photographs of my girls, who are now 36 and 31, nearly breaks my heart—-melancholy and loss. Oddly enough I was talking about this with a friend just this weekend.

  87. Sara says...

    Oh Joanna, you nailed the ache. I feel it everyday — even when I’m knee deep in my three kids and at wits end. The pause to feel the overwhelm *and* the sweetness is the great paradox of parenting I think. I continually want to be here now and fortheloveofgod to be left alone blessedly alone.

    I hug my long limbed newly minted 6 year old with a loose front tooth, snuggle my 3 year old darling girl who adores hugging my legs randomly, and then hold my 1 year old baby extra long at bedtime because I’m wistful for all of them. Lately I’ve been pausing while giving my baby his bottle just to feel the full weight of him in my arms; I’m hoping that my arms will remember the weight but fear the phantom limb where my babies used to be. To have these feelings at all means we are inordinately, over-flowingly blessed. And still the ache.

    • Brittany says...

      Your second paragraph is a beautiful poem! Truly poignant.

  88. Sarah says...

    My January 2021 Covid project was organizing a box of photos that I’ve been toting around me for the last 20 years. Photos of my own childhood and I had the feeling you’re describing, Joanna, but about my parents. How have they aged so dramatically the last few years? What were they feeling at all those moments? Did I ever really see them for who they are? Is it too late?

    • Chrissy S. says...

      My son is only 2 and lately I have had so many emotional moments thinking time is moving too fast. He’s right at the age where he can watch an entire movie (so enthralled he forgets he’s in my lap – my dream) and I think him finally slowing down for a minute so I can sniff his head again like I did when he was a newborn is making me ache for the earlier days.

    • Betsy says...

      Not too late. It’s never too late to connect and appreciate them as people not just parents.

    • Caroline says...

      Oh, yes, this. In the years since my parents passed, looking at old photos of them from childhood through adulthood, I am overwhelmed by a desire to have known them as one of their contemporaries would have — what would we have made of each other? would we have been friends? what could I have learned about what shaped them into the people I knew as my parents?

    • Sage says...

      That’s partly why I write emails to my son, haha. I always wish he could catch up to my age – like, he can grow up a bit but maybe I could stay 28 for a few more years or a decade or something…? I made him an email acct when he was born, and I write to future-him once every couple months, just random tidbits about our days together. I hope that when he’s a young adult reading those he’ll feel like he got to know the me from “back then” too.

  89. Kristin says...

    Yes! My son is only 2.5 and I still feel this every time I look at old pictures or videos. So lucky he is growing, and so sad that he will never be this little again. I’m due with a little girl in May and I can’t even imagine how much the love and this exact nostalgia will be multiplied, but I know it will. Thank you for this post!

  90. Omg, yes!!! Been feeling this a lot lately. Mine are 11, 8, and 5. I’m partially blaming our Google Home. It’s slowly killing me with old photos.

    • J says...

      I hear you Meagan! Google Home has become my nesting place at random times of day. I see old photos of memories I forgot about, and it is all so bittersweet!

  91. Carrie Lynn says...

    My 23 year old son just moved to Brooklyn. My heart breaks and I have to stop myself from calling him every single moment. They are part of us or yet they have a part of us with them. We long for their littleness. The smell of their cute heads when they wake from a nap. The way their sweet chubby skin feels on a hot humid day. And those scratchy little high pitched voices you try to hold in your memory only to know they have drifted up into the atmosphere like a lost balloon. So glad you had the videos to reminisce.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “ We long for their littleness. The smell of their cute heads when they wake from a nap. The way their sweet chubby skin feels on a hot humid day. And those scratchy little high pitched voices you try to hold in your memory only to know they have drifted up into the atmosphere like a lost balloon.” My heart!!!!

    • Katie H says...

      That is beautiful, Carrie Lynn

  92. Laura J says...

    You need to read Catherine Newman’s
    Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood’s Messy Years

    There is quote that addresses this, that I can’t find right now but is what you describe.

  93. Jennifer L. Sullivan says...

    My mom died two months before the birth of my first baby. He was the only thing in the world I looked forward to in those days, and I was so grateful to have this stake in the future. So it came as a major shock to me when he started to outgrow his baby clothes. I remember holding a 3 month onesie and crying at the thought that a pocket of his life was behind us, that he’d moved up to a whole new 3-month band of clothing. This feeling has stayed with me as all my children have grown, this tiny shock that they have passed through parts of the future I’d envisioned for our family. I share your pain!

  94. Lisa says...

    Joanna, yes, yes! And I’ve actually been feeling quite alone as a result of those feelings.
    My husband and two boys sit for hours watching old videos, laughing and cooing and I feel like the worst mom ever because I can’t join in. It just makes me so sad.

  95. Maclean Nash says...

    As kids we used to watch old VHS tapes of our birthdays, running in the yard with with sprinkler on, whatever my parents thought worthy of filming.
    My mom would yell at us to turn them off and we never knew why until she finally described, in her own way, exactly what you just did.
    I dont know where those tapes are now, but I think watching them now would hurt my heart too. I don’t have kids, but even I have a sort of homesickness for my younger, freer, naïve self.

  96. Andrea says...

    I have been thinking of this so much lately. My two girls, age 14 and 16, are changing so quickly. Some things I’ve noticed lately:

    * at some point, your kids will go into their rooms, pull away from you, exert their independence, and you think, this is it, they’re never snuggling into me again, squeezing around my waist again, whatever-you-choose again. I promise you, they will. It may be a month or year or two, but they will. Let go of this worry now.
    * My oldest has made the transition from ‘mama’ to ‘mom’. At first my heart ached a bit, but it suits her so much better now. I am riding this wave alongside her and I want our relationship to reflect both who she is and who I am, not what I crave or don’t want to let go.
    * I’ve worried that I haven’t done the best, always been there, etc…it’s not what our kids remember. The weeks I traveled for work, they don’t think about me having been gone – they remember “Dadurdays” (Saturdays with Dad) and the good parts of all of it.
    * As our kids grow and change, we do as well. I’ve already discovered things about me I didn’t know before now that I have the space as they become more independent.
    As the time passes and our dependence on each other as mother and child lessens, we each grow back into ourselves as individuals and life just gets more beautiful all around.
    Take heart, mamas. The beauty abounds throughout the entire journey.

    • Gosh. Yes! To all of it.

    • Sara says...

      Andrea, thank you so much for this.

      My mom and dad (before he passed away) have always said that every phase of having us four kids was as good as the last because every stage brings something great. And you wouldn’t get to discover it if you didn’t bid farewell to the last phase. I hold tightly to this on days when it all feels like it’s going too fast.

  97. Audreyalice says...

    Must be in the air today! I watched about 30 old videos of my boy and got a little weepy.

  98. Old videos and photos of my dear children always prompts me to say aloud – “Oh, I MISS that baby” – and my kids giggle and roll their eyes and say “I’m right here, mom, it’s me!” They’re not wrong, but I truly deeply miss the little people they were in the past. Will never get them back, and the heartache is such a strange sensation. How can one little person be so many people in one?

  99. Karen T. says...

    I’m feeling this so hard right now as my HS senior chooses a college, a roommate, a life outside of our little nest. We raised our boys with wings more so than roots so my head tells me he/we are ready for this but oh my heart. I went down the rabbit hole on old videos and photos recently (too much time on my hands thanks to COVID) and I’m falling a little bit apart. So bittersweet.

  100. Julia Graeper says...

    I really dislike the feeling of nostalgia.

    • B says...

      Me too, Julia. There are so many people I miss so much it makes my gut ache. And there are so many people I’ll never see again, for many reasons, but it’s just another piece of life Covid has ripped away from so many people.

  101. Kim DeRose says...

    YES! This is absolutely my experience of parenthood. I have been particularly feeling this way as of late, and reading your words and the comments of other parents is so validating. There are a lot of things people don’t tell you about parenting, but the immense amounts of grief that are woven into the experience is definitely something I wasn’t expecting. You’re right, it is such a privilege to watch these little people grow (my children are 7 and nearly 2), but it is so heartbreaking. Also, as someone who fought tooth and nail for my children with yeeeeeeaaaars of infertility treatments, it’s also a real mind f**k to finally have said children (also SUCH a privilege) only to realize that it’s all so impermanent and they aren’t really yours to now keep. If and when it does happen, you then have to continually remind yourself that you you are blessed with an experience.

  102. shade says...

    Our son is now 7 – will be 8 in a few months, and I specifically mourn the loss of him at age 3. Sometimes other ages, but really really sad about him not being his 3 year old self anymore.

  103. Mariana says...

    In portuguese the word is saudade. That first photo made think of my chubby babies, now 3 and 6. Que saudades!

  104. Lisa Z says...

    I absolutely felt this! My kids are 21 and 23 now, and once they became teens (in adult sized bodies), I truly grieved the loss of those little kid bodies. I had no idea that was a “thing” until it happened with my own kids. It’s what old ladies mean when they say the years go fast and you never get them back, as hard as that is for young moms to hear. It’s the darn truth!

  105. celeste says...

    You do have the cutest kids. I’m so excited for mine’s future dreams and wishes to come true & when I look back, it’s only a badge of honor. Like yes that was me pumping in a storage room and trying to keep the bottles away from lunches in the company fridge and finding day care that was like family but maybe worrying a little they’d like the lady better than me. Who is that woman in the pictures that was a warrior and yet so exhausted?

  106. HeatherL says...

    We just found some video of our daughter at 7/8-ish on an old ipod. So cute! So sparky! Such energy. Now she’s a teenager-beautiful in a different way. It just keeps changing. I do miss those little kid-baby days!

  107. Talya Kingston says...

    I have found myself thinking the exact same thing. My eldest child has just applied to colleges – do you know what that means?? He’s going to be leaving me! And I know… I know… I know how lucky I am to have healthy growing children. But if I squint at this face I still see the toddler and five year old and eleven year old that he was two minutes ago.
    If there is not a word for this, then we parents should invent one STAT!

  108. Something I learned in developmental psychology that has changed me forever: at every stage of life, there are gains AND losses. Gaining a wonderful toddler means losing an adorable baby. Gaining an independent young adult means losing a nestling who relies on you. *Becoming* a young adult means losing your childhood. It’s all heartbreaking, and it’s all beautiful.

  109. Karin says...

    As they say about childhood…the days are long but the years are short.
    I have very few videos of my children because they are adults now and video was a huge ordeal then, and the videos we carefully took were only playable on now-obsolete-technology, so they’ve just become pieces of plastic. What breaks my heart about growing up is 1) you have no warning when the “last time” will be – the night when suddenly your child doesn’t want a bedtime story read to them anymore, and it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN and 2) not being able to recapture their little baby voices (which you can with videos, but only until the technology moves on!)

  110. Andrea says...

    It makes me feel sick. I love them so much and want it all to just slow down.

    Someone, quick! Tell me why it’s nice to have older kids!

    (I love to wallow but can’t handle it for long these days)

  111. Emily Lorraine says...

    Oh, I completely feel like that. Pandemic or not. Every moment of my children’s life is a birth and a death, a wonder to behold and a grief unimaginable. The pure joy of their laughter, the heaviness of their sadness, the unfairness of pain and yet all of it as long as they are safe with us. I don’t even know what I will do when they grow up and move out. I can’t imagine my pain but I know, already, it will be so large that I have already begun trying to figure out how I will fill it.

  112. Rebecca DeBarba says...

    Awww I feel this to my core tonight. On the eve of my soon to be 18 (gulp) year olds birthday. I am filled with gratitude and longing. Longing for the days when he snuggled into my lap and held my hand as he fell asleep. And absolute gratitude to bear witness to the amazing man he is becoming. I remind myself that we raise children to be able to fly. So this Mama swallows the lump in her throat and smiles because it’s an absolute privilege to love them so…..

  113. Kiana says...

    I had a real wake up call today because I was buying my kids clothes online for next winter and I realized that my daughter is now no longer considered a toddler by GAP’s standards. She’s turning five in March and now gets booted over to the “Girl” section. My son, who’s only 8 but lanky and tall, can now fit into GAP size Large pants which are made for ten year olds (eek!)

    It’s going by so, so fast and I’m not ready for this. I feel so nostalgic over them but in the present. Looking at the past would be more unbearable. Please help!

  114. Emma says...

    This resounded SO much with me. I have an 18 month old and we’re pretty sure that’s it for us. So when we watch his “baby” videos (he loves to watch himself!) I’m filled with such sadness and yet like Joanna says, we’re so, so lucky to watch him grow into a funny, confident little guy. I wish I hadn’t wished away the newborn days full of sleepless nights and cutting out dairy- they grow up so quickly!

  115. Liz says...

    Yes! I can almost never look at old pictures and videos, it hurts too much. Both to think I’ll never have that time ago and to think of how I could have parented better. Glad others feel this way!

  116. Christy says...

    I feel this all the time and have since my daughter was born. It’s a constant saying goodbye to who she used to be, but also a constant saying hello to who she is becoming. So you gain as much as you lose, and that’s comforting. Parenthood is so painful but very rewarding.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      So true.

    • C says...

      Thank you. I love this.

  117. Jill says...

    I’m sure there are Japanese-speaking readers who can speak to this with more authority, but the Japanese phrase ‘mono no aware’ alludes to this sense of sadness about transience and the passage of time.

  118. Laura F says...

    Oh–wait until your kids are older than YOU were when you birthed them! At the beginning of quarantine, I took all of the artwork I’d saved for each (a bathtub-sized rubbermaid tub EACH), photo’d each one, and made Snapfish books for their birthday gifts, and if there is a word for being ‘disemboweled by the velvet grapefruit spoons of the angels until you laugh rainbow tears’, I’d love to know what it is. Exquisite pride, joy, mourning, longing.
    It maybe got me more than photos and videos do, because these were the products of their very HANDS AND SOULS.

    • TYm says...

      “disemboweled by the velvet grapefruit spoons of the angels until you laugh rainbow tears”
      LOL! Love that.
      My kids are at that “elderly” stage, too. It’s amazing, and kinda disconcerting, to see them interacting with their own babies and lamenting the passing of time as they grow.

  119. Lourdes says...

    OH MY GOSH!! Yes! Every single day. I was telling my husband the other night that every time I watch our son play my heart aches. It aches because he’s growing up so fast. While I know it’s a blessing, I still ache for every stage that passes way too quickly.

  120. Ceciel says...

    Oh little Anton and his guitar–my baby (6 year old) adopted a similar pose on the couch with his guitar when he was about 1 year old and I can sort of still hear his babbling and crooning right now. And I also happened upon old videos (on my husband’s laptop) that sent me swirling. My middle son (almost 9 now) when he was just 2 dressed up as Anna while his big sister was Elsa, telling her “no, my turn” as they reenacted frozen. Love this remembering.

  121. Roxana says...

    Just reading your words brought on that ache in my chest. I’ve done the exact same thing. It’s not the pandemic, it’s the cruelty of time. My kids are 9, 7 and 4, and when I think of how quickly they’re becoming lanky and losing their teeth, their penchant for mispronounced words, and their little kid-ness, I get a catch in my throat.

    I’ll no longer apologize or get annoyed at myself for keeping too many of their old clothes nor for keeping their 82 million scribbles and pieces of “artwork.” I’ll no longer correct my 9 year old son when he says “pacific” instead of “specific,” nor will I deny their requests to lay in bed with them as they fall asleep at night. Childhood is just too short and just too sweet.

    Thank you for the (sob!) much needed reminder.

  122. Ashley says...

    I had almost the opposite realization last week! I was sick with covid and my kids just totally rocked taking care of themselves! They are 5,7, & 9 and I have never been more grateful for their growth and independence. They made their own meals and put away their laundry. They let me take naps, they brought me tea and blankets. I adored them as babies and toddlers, but I have a new found appreciation for being past that stage.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That is awesome! (And glad you’re feeling better) xo

    • Kate says...

      Mm Ashley love this account. I am looking forward to that so much! I try not to wish away these days but our four and five year old playing independently for two hours without needing anything makes my heart sing! Our 2 yo and impending arrival a much different story of course!

      Glad you are feeling better, too!

  123. Lilly says...

    Well, now that you mention it, I’d propose “himmelhoch jauchzend, zu Tode betrübt” – Goethe coined it, it’s from his tragedy “Egmont”. Here’s a rough attempt to give you an idea: “cheering as high as the sky, saddend to death”. 2 feelings rolled into one expression. Well, Goethe being Goethe.

    (and oh, my, such cute pictures!)

  124. Aida says...

    My twins just turned 18. I get very teary just looking at baby pictures. Videos I’d have to watch alone because it would be an ugly cry! So we’re so brave to watch!

  125. e says...

    I have 8 year old twins and last night thought to myself- HOW are they 8? I tear up every once and a while thinking about them growing up and looking at old pictures. I wonder the same thing! Will I always feel this way?

  126. Rachel says...

    “A gift and a theft” — perfectly said! I’m nursing my 7 mo old as I read this (our 2nd and last baby) and have felt so many times this year how I can’t wait til she’s older, because going from a very independent 2.5 year old to adding a newborn has been crazy — but I am also constantly reminding myself to savor these moments because they’ll be gone before I know it!

    • Lotta says...

      I can so relate. Have a infant and SEVEN year old. And going from independence to newborn stage is a trip ! Exhausted delirious baby days again. Which have both beautiful moments and also a daunting feeling knowing what’s in store and when.
      I feel sadness looking at my 7 yr olds baby videos and wonder how she got so big this last year or two but also feel a desire to speed things up to have more time to self again (8-10yrs??)
      It’s way more work than I remembered!

  127. Neval says...

    Is the feeling you’re having similar to mono no aware? This is one of the concepts I often think about in life: “the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.”

    If yes, you should read the short story named Mono no Aware by Ken Liu. I have a feeling it’ll stay with you.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes xo

    • Sage says...

      Neval, thanks for the story suggestion! Loved it.

  128. Angela says...

    Yes yes a million times yes. I feel this way all the time and often wish I could push a pause button. Although every age is precious and I am so grateful that my beautiful children are growing and healthy/happy, I oftentimes cannot shake a sense of dread about time. It just moves too darn quickly… especially with the hectic schedule that accompanies motherhood. I’ve been so lucky to be close to my parents throughout every stage of my life. They just grew right along with me and I hope I can be that presence for my kids. It’s been especially strange this year as I unexpectedly had a baby a few years ago. So I have a 10 year old, 7 year old and a toddler that just turned 2. The age difference has been mind boggling as I watch my toddler do things for the first time and her older sister – be still my heart – wearing braces and on the precipice of her teen years. It really makes me reminisce about my older children’s early years and as strange as this sounds, I miss them. Even when they are right in front of me. I see so much of both of them in the baby and she could not be more loved by the whole family. My boss once told me to enjoy every minute and stop stressing about the fact that my kids weren’t going to be babies forever. He frequently talks glowingly about his three college-aged children and assured me that as they become fully formed people, it only gets better and better. I’m sure he is right and it gives me peace in those quiet moments when I feel as though my heart could burst. I just love them so darn much and wish I could protect them forever.

  129. Ginny says...

    OMG! I feel that way all the time! Especially now that I have a 13 and 10 year old that both seem to have grown up exponentially in the last year. They are no longer little kids, partly due to time passing but also due to this particular past year. Late at night I often think about the vocabulary words that have been discussed over the past 12 months: pandemic, police brutality, systemic racism, coup, sedition, domestic terrorism, insurrection… I long for those days when they were squishy babies/toddlers and oblivious to the worries of the world. However, I hope that by having them be of an age that can grasp these difficult subjects they grow into better adults.

  130. Kim says...

    I did the same thing a few weeks ago. I looked through all the photos and videos on my husband’s phone of us and our two kids, 6 and 5.

    There were even some of us before kids, when we were cool and youthful and had disposable incomes, ha ha. We’ve been together over a decade and it feels like no time at all and also, about 7 different lives.

  131. Erin says...

    My two boys are approximately the same ages as Toby and Anton, and yes, I feel this way. Where are the cute, squishy babies I had just a minute ago? The toddler who, when he swiped at my coffee mug one Saturday morning and was told “Coffee is not for babies,” walked around the room saying in his most charming, inquisitive tones, “Coffee, babies? Babies, coffee?”

    The boys are great fun now, too, and on the whole I like parenting older kids better. (They can hold interesting conversations with me now! I’m teaching them to cook! Plus, I get enough sleep, which is amazing!) But I do miss the nonstop cuddles, cuteness and general hilarity of having tiny kids.

  132. Laura S says...

    nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

    maybe that comes close.

  133. Eva says...

    The German word might be: Wehmut.

    • Karina says...

      I was thinking it could be ‘Loslassschmerz’ but I think ‘Wehmut’ has more emotion. Thanks Eva

  134. I could feel this viscerally, somehow even without having children of my own. Clutched at my heart! Also! One of my brothers (a research scientist and biotech company negotiator, among other things, has recently started a side hobby- just for fun- fixing old motorcycles. Its name? MasiMoto :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, masimoto!!!!!

  135. Sara says...

    I have said this from the moment my son was born. It feels as though I’m mourning the moments as they happen. Mourning and savoring.

    • rachel says...

      THAT is so well said! so much joy to look forward to but as those joyful moments come you just know that one exact moment, in its newness will never come again :'(

  136. Ari says...

    I wish I had a word for this, as I’ve been feeling it lately as we prepare our PK3 lottery application. I was snuggling with my son the other day and thought: what if I just cloned him, and continued to clone him so I can have versions of him at every age for the rest of my life? It’s unethical and impossible, but a good premise for a depraved sci-fi film that most moms would watch I think… :)

    • Ari says...

      **PARENTS, sorry

  137. Alix says...

    Completely understand! I did this last week with my 5 and 10 year old and was a mess of tears.

  138. Charlotte K says...

    The word IS “nostalgia”–from the Greek for “return” or “home” (nost) and “pain” — algia. We think of nostalgia as a form of sentimentality, but it a condition that arises when we return to the past and feel a loss, or sadness. My siblings and I spent the weekend discussing a mysterious family photo one of us shared in email–a group of us sitting on my parents’ front porch with various grandchildren and in-laws. When? why? Who is taking the picture? What brought us together (I wasn’t in the photo, that hurt in its own way–where was I? How could I have missed this?) I gazed at my sisters in their 20s and 30s. I barely recognized my brother. I saw the little boys who are now young men, laughing wildly on tricycles, and thought about their lives and all we’ve all been through. It’s wonderful to have this picture that has been hiding in the bottom of a box for 35 years, but … it’s also wrenching. So much time passed, some of us will never be together again, the children are different people, grown-ups, with children of their own. Soon we’ll be gone, they will have their own nostalgia.

  139. Kir says...

    I always feel this way when I look at old videos and photos of my three kids, 17, 14, 5, and often feel like I think we were more of some positive feeling at some point in the past. Sometimes I feel I missed more than I wished, and it is also why I haven’t done any photo albums for the last 7 years even when I have intended to do so. We have had family transitions, great memories, and moments, and we are still ok, but somehow it always leaves me longing. Sometimes it is a reminder of something we loved, but often it isn’t something I can duplicate now anyway!

  140. Gabrielle says...

    I don’t know the word for it, but this is precisely why I do not take many pictures: looking back at them just induces sadness in me. There seems to be a mania for taking and archiving hundreds upon thousands of pictures, but as for me, I prefer to be in the present moment. Incidentally, it is very freeing to not have to take pictures!

  141. Jenn says...

    Oh, Joanna. I so relate. Parenting has truly brought to life the concept of “bittersweet” for me in a way that no other life experience or relationship has.

    I recently went through all my boxes of childhood memorabilia and painstakingly organized photos, old letters, notes from friends, diplomas, etc. Blame the pandemic. I showed my mom the final product and she just dissolved into floods of nostalgic tears. I was shocked. I’m 37.

    On a related note, sometimes (only sometimes!) I think people mistake the longing for another baby for the longing for the babyhood of your already present children, which will never come again. I recognized the distinction in myself when we had our second and this urge would overtake me.

    Sigh. The aching art of letting go…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “ On a related note, sometimes (only sometimes!) I think people mistake the longing for another baby for the longing for the babyhood of your already present children, which will never come again. I recognized the distinction in myself when we had our second and this urge would overtake me.” = this is so wise

    • Ella says...

      Jenn, I find your articulate comment about longing for their babyhood profoundly helpful. As someone who longs for another child, but for reasons due to infertility, most likely will never have one – I am so grateful for your wisdom. I have never thought of it this way and it makes me appreciate the time I DID get with my son all the more. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  142. joy says...

    Yes. I absolutely feel this way.

  143. omg YES. videos of my daughter as a baby and toddler are like a portal into another world: they capture the sweetness, the heartbreaking cuteness, the squishy dependence. nothing like those videos makes me feel like time is slipping through my fingers, and maybe we should have had another child. BUT that other world the videos show doesn’t include the mindnumbing boredom of days with a baby and toddler, the constant vigilance (I remember trying to pee as fast as I could because who knew what mess would be waiting for me when I returned), or the crippling anxiety and PPD.

    (one of my absolute favorite videos is my daughter at 6am in a tent while camping in Big Sur. She’s 2 years old and her lips are like pillows. she’s trying to gently lead me into turning on the iPad to watch Frozen. Her: “What do you want to watch?” Me: “How about Daniel Tiger?” Her: [puts one finger to her chin, looks off, as if thinking, then her face lights up like she’s had an idea]: “Do you know Kristoff?”)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes, so true. The photos don’t show the hard parts. And how sweet of your daughter!!!

    • ainsley says...

      @joy, that’s such a sophisticated social interaction for a two year old! such charm she already has : )

  144. Roxy says...

    “Each year is a gift and a theft,” I love that. I also have the experience with my kids (ages 2 and 5) where I’m simultaneously experiencing them as they are right now but also experiencing them as myself, in the future, looking back on these days and feeling nostalgic. It’s so bittersweet, to feel nostalgic for the current moment. There must be a word for
    that as well! (ps – my husband and I always laugh at ourselves because we often can’t wait for bedtime but then watch videos of the kids once their asleep because we miss them! Parenting is bonkers).

    • NM says...

      Omg same. Kids! Go to sleep! Oh they’re asleep? Let’s look at videos of them awake. Haha.

    • Erin says...

      THIS

    • Alexandra says...

      Roxy – a commenter in a prior CoJ post called what you describe “nowstalgia” which is the perfect portmanteau, and IMO the most accurate way to describe what it’s like to be a parent.

      Today I was showing my son the photos that popped up of him in my memories.. last year, two years ago… three. And I realized that in another two years I’ll be looking at the silly photo I shared of him today, longing for the bright, hilarious little 4.5yo boy he is right now.

  145. Oh yes! In fact I had such an emotional, nostalgic day on Sunday. When the light gets just so in the early spring I find it hits me. (I live in Arizona where February is early spring.) Two of my babies were born in early April, my daughter just last year, so these chilly-warm days and lighter evenings remind me of being pregnant and waiting for their births. I feel nostalgic for those days and early months but wistful too thinking of the hard parts that awaited me, especially with my first when motherhood was new and left me tender and vulnerable. There’s love, nostalgia, gratitude, sadness to not experience those days again. So many feelings!

  146. Yes! I have been organizing thousands of photos I’ve taken of my kids (8 years worth) and, while I absolutely love having photos of them growing up, it also makes me feel sad. Sometimes I feel like it went by so fast and how do I not have all these moments in my brain? And I wonder about whether it is possible to hold onto all these versions of my children while also loving who they are now. But, I am so glad to have the photos and videos!

  147. Rachael Schiffman says...

    Parenthood is SO bittersweet for this very reason. Was just looking through newborn pictures of my almost four-year-old because he currently loves seeing pictures of himself “when I was in the hospital.” So addictive to look at them but so heartbreaking! And simultaneously so joyful to watch them grow.

  148. Rachel says...

    I type this with my sweet, six month old baby boy sleeping on my lap: sometimes I get sad in the moment about my baby growing up and this age going away! Like the intensity of the joy and fun and love sometimes takes a sharp sadness because I fear it slipping away. Am I crazy? Is this just parenting? Am I destined to have 7 children to keep this baby love going forever? (Also, this is coming from someone who said she’d never have children until a surprise pregnancy changed everything. Life is so weird!) ❤️

    • katie says...

      I absolutely wonder how it’d be with a pile of kids – if I feel this love with two, wouldn’t many be amazing? (or extreme chaos). While I’m totally not serious, I def have thoughts of envy for that Duggar mom -she had years of babies and then there was basically no time before she got grandbabies! babies and babies all the time!

  149. I feel the same ALL the time, and my “kids” are 28 and 24! I’m always telling them stories about when they were babies and how cute they were. Luckily, they still are. :)

    btw, Anton has so much of Alex in him!

  150. Kristen says...

    I can’t stop smiling at Toby’s bedhead in the last photo :)