My husband records The Jimmy Fallon Show and if we like the guest or musical performer we’ll watch it after the kids go to bed. Sometimes I’ll show one of Jimmy’s hilarious lip sync videos to my daughters, and we'll laugh ‘til our sides hurt. What I never expected was to see my younger daughter watching the show without me. But there she was, curled up on my side of the bed wrapped in my favorite lavender blanket.
“I thought you were getting ready for bed,” I said stifling a chuckle at the sight of her looking like such a mini Rachel.
“I’m watching Jimmy Fallon,” she said matter-of-factly, as if this was common behavior for a nine-year-old child.
I couldn’t help but shake my head and smile. “Watching Jimmy Fallon … in my bed … with my blanket!”
My daughter giggled. “I wanted to see Justin Bieber perform his new song.”
Now it made sense. “Well, we can watch it together tomorrow. C’mon, it’s time for bed.”
My freckle-faced girl with curls in disarray crawled out of my bed, her legs looking unusually long. She obediently clicked off the antics of Jimmy Fallon and made an announcement—almost as if she’d been reading my mind.
“I’m growing up!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
Just in the last few weeks, her grown-ness has been very apparent. The way she neatly organizes her excessive collection of Bath & Body Works products on her desk … the way she puts her completed homework back into her folder each day … the way she strums her guitar and sings with more confidence than ever before … the way she reads thick chapter books and rarely needs help with the words. And the obvious one—the way she comes up to my chin when she hugs me.
The only time she looks like a baby anymore is when she’s asleep. Because the school bus comes so early, I have the privilege of going into her room to wake her up. I call this duty a privilege because in the morning light, I can see a glimmer of the baby she once was.
One morning as I leaned down to kiss her gently on the forehead, I thought to myself, I’ll never get tired of kissing this face. Never.
This feeling of absolute certainty gave me an unexpected sense of calm.
Yes, she may be growing up, but my love for her will never change. I am certain of that.
As the day went on, I noticed other actions—performed in the name of love—that would never change … no matter how grown she is … no matter how much we disagree … no matter what unfortunate circumstances might come our way …
I’ll never stop watching as she walks away from me.
I’ll never stop imagining what is to become of her.
I’ll never tire of that open mouth laugh that sounds like pure joy.
I’ll never tire of watching her love animals or sing Amazing Grace.
I’ll never stop noticing new freckles that pop up on her nose.
I’ll never stop worrying when she is on a field trip or traveling without me.
I’ll never stop wanting to know what’s going on in that observant mind of hers.
I’ll never stop wanting to protect her from disappointment, heartbreak, embarrassment, or harm.
I’ll never stop kissing her forehead.
In a world that moves at lightning speed
In a world where value is placed on the latest and greatest version
In a world where statuses, trends, and information are updated by the minute
In a world with little permanence, I am finding great comfort in the certainty of my love for this child.
I mourned the day when she stopped playing with her beloved Polly Pockets. She doesn’t like dressy dresses anymore. The girl who once thought toothpaste was too spicy tries sushi and hot barbeque sauce. The child who was afraid to dive off the blocks, jumps in with a little too much fearlessness now. She is not scared of thunderstorms anymore and walks downstairs in the dark when she is thirsty.
In a face that seems to elongate with each passing day
In a mind that expands every day with new ideas, hopes, and dreams
In a body that grows stronger and longer each time she crawls out of bed, I am finding great comfort in the stability of my love for this child.
I can’t predict much of anything, but I can predict that I will never tire of kissing her forehead as she sleeps. My love for this child will endure harsh elements, discord, distance, and time. This I know for sure.
Perhaps it is one of the few things on earth that is eternal.
My love for her is fixed. And it fixes me.
The other day, we were hastily trying to get her lunch packed before school and she said, “Sometimes the people that love us the most act the most grouchy towards us.” I stopped scurrying around and looked at her and smiled. “Grandma told me that,” she added.
I knew. I’d overheard my mom on her recent visit after my second kidney surgery. I was exhausted, achy, and not being very nice to the people I love. I heard my mom explaining my unpleasant behavior to my daughter.
My mother’s explanation had stuck with her.
“But Mama,” my child continued, “No matter how grouchy you are, I’d never want to be anyone else’s child.”
Never – there it was again. Such comfort in that word when it’s associated with love. Such comfort in love’s stability when so much is out of our control.
My friends, let’s sit with that notion for a moment. I think there’s something very hopeful here for us. If you are facing uncertain times … if you are standing on shaky ground … if your world is crumbling down around you … if your beloved people are growing up or away too quickly for your liking, try this:
Try watching them walk away. They might even turn back to wave.
Try watching them out there on the ball field … the stage … the lawn mower … the driver’s seat of your car. They might even look up and smile when they see you watching.
Try watching them eat their favorite cereal. Even drippy milk looks beautiful when running down the chin of that precious face.
Try watching them find you in a crowd. Watch how their chest relaxes when you make eye contact.
Try watching them sleep. Look at the peace settled upon those perfect eyebrows and flawless lips.
Although nothing much is predictable in this life, I am willing to bet you’ll never tire of these sights. Take comfort in the fact there is something that will never change: fierce love for that face you know by heart.
They might be growing up
The world might be crumbling down
But you are grounded in love.
You can be certain of that.
For simple strategies and daily intentions that enable you to choose love, connection, acceptance, and peace over criticism, chaos, and negativity, please consider my latest bestseller ONLY LOVE TODAY. This daily inspiration book is one you can open to any page in the book and you will to find a 2-minute reset and perspective shift. For wearable reminders inscribed with healing mantras from my writings, click here. Phrases include: ONLY LOVE TODAY, I CHOOSE LOVE, SEE FLOWERS NOT WEEDS, COME AS YOU ARE, and TODAY MATTERS MORE THAN YESTERDAY. The reminder bands come in metal, leather, and silicone. There are also hand-lettered prints to post throughout your home or place of work. Thank you, dear ones, for walking beside me on this life-changing jourey to let go of distraction and perfection to grasp what matters most. Together, there is hope.
I take my ten-year-old twin boys to soccer practice and wait as I always have, this year I wait in my truck, but in years past I’d bring a chair and watch from the sidelines. I listen to NPR and watch as car after minivan after car pulls in, barely stopping long enough for a boy to tumble out, and then speeds off and into their ever busy lives.
Last week one boy busted his head open, needing a bandaid (and eventually needing stitches), he ran towards me and I toward him. You see, he knew I would never leave them alone at a practice.
It is my greatest joy to watch these boys grow up. It is a privilege, an honor, and, I think, my obligation.
Your words always land in my heart and affirm my soul. You remind me to cherish and I am forever in your debt for that. Peace to you.
Rachel Stafford says
“He ran towards me and I toward him.” These simple words made me cry. I am grateful you were there in your son’s time of need and could share this beautiful story with us. I am also grateful for the level of importance you place on your role as parent. Too often it is undervalued by society. Your words remind us why it is the most important job. I am truly blessed by your perspective and your affirmations today. Thank you for this amazing contribution.
Thank you for writing. Thank you for the perspective and hope that every day is a new start, full of beautiful ordinary moments to savor if we slow down and allow ourselves to feed off of them. Thank you for bringing me to the verge of tears with every post because you understand and because there is always hope.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Johanna. I am so blessed to know you find HOPE in my messages. I feel HOPE when I write and pray that it makes it way into the words.
After many, many years of infertility testing, and tears, we had 2 babies. I enjoyed every moment of carrying our children, from conception to delivery. I was high risk for problem pregnancies and a little unsure about this journey, I had been placed on, when the last one failed….
I find it difficult to trust in the Lord to handle everything, and just relax and parent as a Christian mom without being concerned about the ways America is changing and becoming so vocal and critical of many things I appreciated in my life. It’s as if, we’ve forgotten the way to communicate and appreciate nature, and life without electronic distractions, which I’m doing right now….
In our house we have a lot of music playing often. Piano’s, voices (classical aria’s in
French, or German) , Cello, hammered dulcimer, guitar and even very unique drums. Communication through music can be quite creative, especially in an English Country dance band, with some family members being callers at the dance.
Prayer and meditation helps us reflect on our lives, and appreciate what we have been given, which could change at any moment.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you for sharing your story, as well as how you are cultivating a home environment based on what fills the senses and enriches the soul. So helpful.
Thank you for this post. I have a nine-year-old daughter of my own that I’m going to share this with. She’s the big sister and has a big personality and sometimes struggles with feeling secure about her place in the family. I want her to read this because it so beautifully portrays the unconditional love of a mom for her baby. I want her to be firmly grounded in that assurance for her whole life. Thank you!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Helen! What a beautiful idea. I am so honored to know this piece might help a child understand the special place she has in her mother’s heart.
Elaine A. says
I love how you always remind us to cherish the small moments. 🙂
My oldest is 11 (and a half) and sits it the passenger’s seat by me now… oh man, it’s getting real!
Rachel Stafford says
Whoa. That IS a game changer right there! Thanks for making me smile. And thank you for the beautiful HANDS FREE LIFE review you wrote, my friend. Your support is a gift.
Not sure how you manage to bring tears of appreciation and joy to my eyes with every post. As soon as my son was born I have made every effort to stay in the moment, knowing that later on I would want to remember the every day memories. You are so right. I will never tire of watching my son be who he is. Thank you for reminding me.
Dolana J. says
Thank you for this post. I am really struggling with how fast my kids are growing. My 9 (almost 10) year old son doesn’t NEED me to walk him to class anymore, and he no longer perform our special goodbye ritual run-jump hug. My 5 year old is starting Kinder and is as independent as he older brother. These are all things I am proud to see as well. I love the perspective you give and appreciate you and your posts.
My daughter turns ten tomorrow. As the day gets closer I too can’t help but notice how very grown up she is. This article came just the day before her birthday and brought tears to my eyes. It felt like just yesterday she was in a rush to come into this world. She was cranky and always hungry, I was so young and so scared with her. Now I look back at all of the crazy things that happened and wish I could rewind time and hold her, just a little longer, kiss her sweet sleeping face a little more, and squeeze her hand a little tighter every time she held hers out to me. Thank you so much for your blog and words, they have made me slow down, and enjoy my life and family so much more than I did previously! Your words mean the world to me!
Erin Taylor says
Beautiful, Rachel. It can be so easy for us as parents to mourn the little child that we are “losing” as the our older child emerges. Your words bring comfort to that bittersweet feeling. No matter what else changes in our lives or in this world, our fierce love for our children will never change. Thank you.
What a GREAT post, Rachel……I do still watch my “kids” walk away….except now they are
29, 28 and 26…and 2 of the 3 daughters live minutes away…My husband and I stand at our front door and watch as they get in their cars, buckle up and drive away…..FYI…before they pull away from the curb, they look to see if we’re still watching them and wave! A routine I’ll never tire of…..thanks for the reminder!!!
p.s. your new book arrived while I was away in OBX last week for family vacation….cant wait to get started!
Today as I was leaving the school playground I stopped for a moment to watch my 10-year old son hanging with his friends on the basketball court and joking with each other as they waited for the bell to summon them to the doors of the school. He turned his head, saw me looking at him, smiled and then turned back to his friends.
When I turned to say goodbye to my 7-year old daughter who was hanging upside down on the monkey bars, she shouted “Not without a kiss!”. It was an upside down one, but one that made me, her and all her friends giggle and smile.
My son doesn’t want his mother to upset his “cool” at school, but he is the one who insists on long cuddles at bedtime. My daughter loves to hug and kiss in public still and also insists on long cuddles and betime. I take every smile, kiss, cuddle, hand-hold and “I want us to talk for a bit before you turn out the lights” and cherish it. These are the things that I take with me through the day, that make my day brighter. Both of them are growing up and it is my job to make sure my love for them is as apparent to them now as it was when they were babies, toddlers and small children, even if I have to find new ways to show it.
Your posts reinforce all the things I try to do and sometimes forget to do. And you remind me it’s okay to forgive myself when I do forget, or slip, or completely screw up. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
Rachel Stafford says
I love everything you have written here. I love it so much. Thank you for this blessing.
I am sitting here in my kid lived in van, beside the lake, so I can catch the wind. It is so hot outside and I am eight and half months pregnant. Having just read your post, tears streaming down my face, I am forever grateful for your writing and reflections and for having stumbled upon your blog a few years ago. My daughters are 8 and 5. I teach full time, live on an Island, commute off each day and are about to embark on babyhood again.
It is a tume of great change in our household: great uncertainty, mixed with happiness, fear and excitement.
Your post resonated with me, because although we are expecting a new baby girl, my thoughts are constantly focused on my daughters….how beautiful and wonderful they are. How quickly they are growing and changing. How my parenting is…is it enough, what will happen to us and them individually after the new baby arrives? Will I stop paying attention. Will I be enough for us all? Thank you for your post today Rachel. x
Rachel Stafford says
Holding your hand from afar, dear one. What an exciting and anxious time. Blessings of peace and comfort to you today and in the days ahead.
Thank-you for holdng my hand Rachel and for the thoughts of peace and comfort. I am grateful.
As I was reading this, it was like you knew what I felt in my heart. My oldest daughter started kindergarten this year. Everytime I see her doing her homework, I revel in how she concentrates and dutifully writes. During the first week of school, I went in to wake her up in the morning. As she lay sleeping, I was in awe at how she looked. She was laying the same way she would when she was a tiny baby. Needless to say, I was in tears. My baby is growing up way too fast. And like you said, I will never get tired of doing anything of the above. Thank you again for reminding me to slow down and live in the moment.
Once again your post hit home. My “baby” started kindergarten last week and I have been having a much harder time losing my “stay at home 8-3 job” than I ever imagined. I feel as if a part of me is missing. After over a decade being home with children I am having a hard time adjusting. Thank you for your encouraging words. They helped so much.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You always seem to know exactly what I need to hear! My sons are growing up way too fast (20 & almost 16)! They both test me daily, as I’m sure I do them as well! I really needed to be reminded that they are still watching and listening even when I think they are not! My youngest is racing dirt track cars and every time he pulls out on the track he gives me a thumbs up knowing where I am always sitting & watching! Thank you, for reminding me that no matter how grown up they get, our love for each other will never change! Cherish every moment with them, as they grow up way too fast!
Ambrey Nichols says
Thank you! I keep watching in amazement as my 3 year old is growing and learning words, making sentences. It just astounds me. I love this writing because I feel exactly the same. No matter what happens that love for him will be there always. I cherish the moments that I am blessed to experience everyday with him.
My “baby” is turning 12 today. Thank you for the gift of these words – so perfect for today. A reminder of what a gift our children truly are each day, we just need to take time to notice. Much love to you.
Rachel Stafford says
My Natalie just turned 12 in June and she is a marvel. Cannot believe the person she is and is becoming. I am excited for you, dear Heather. Big hugs to your beautiful 12 year old today and her special mama.
Just wanted to let you know that your words touched my heart today. I often feel like you are speaking the truths inside my own heart and today it was especially true. Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories. You have such a gift for writing.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Jill. I appreciate this loving feedback more than I could ever express.
Another gem! Thank you Rachel. The return to school/work/post school HW time has really hit me. And I was bemoaning the commute home on the subway and preparing dinner and doing HW just before I read this. Then I realized how this time cannot be returned to us. I can never buy it back. And pretty soon my daughter will be taking herself home. So much to savor if I just connect and feel the amazing love and gratitude I have for her. Thank you.
What a beautiful post. I now love the word never, and will use if often, as it applies to love.
I played Polly Pockets with my granddaughter this summer, and in my mind I was wondering if it would be the last time. She is nine, and her interests are changing. But on that day…we spent at least two hours, in Polly Pocket imagination. She set up her stage to put on a concert for all of them. I had to scramble to create seating for all of them from shoe boxes, jewelry boxes, and my craft supplies. We took pictures and videos, and when I create the scrapbook layout, your words will help me create the journaling with “I will never…” prompts. Thank you!
Rachel Stafford says
I love this so much, Sandra! What a GIFT that 2 hours was to your grand-daughter and to you. Thank you for choosing love when there were probably so many other things “to do”.
I stumbled across your blog and book while distracting myself one afternoon on social media. It’s ironic in that I have been telling myself over the last few months that nothing good comes out of this mindless distraction. It is taking time away from myself and my family. However, finding your book and blog has been a gift…like those mentioned above, your writing and perspective has brought me to tears. I only wish I had found the blog sooner. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Your blog is uplifting and a gentle reminder of the important things in life. I am half way through your first book and have already noticed positive changes in my life. I am hopefully that my three little boys are noticing a change as well. I wish you well and just wanted to say Thank You!
Natasha Bullas says
I watched my 10yr old walk down the school hall away from me today and teared up at how quickly she is growing up, her last year at Elementary and yet she still seems so young. Thank you for putting into words what I was feeling.
I have two foster children and try every day to help them feel grounded, if not in love then in a caring way. One told me the other day that I was the best foster mom ever because even if I’m not the most fun person or sometimes I’m really strict, I support him. Was a very cool conversation. The other has been moved around a lot (and is even available for adoption) so is not very open yet (we’ve only had him for a month). Any ideas on how to support/ground him? I want him to know he’s not fighting the world on his own.
I love this. It’s so true. My 5 year old is just starting kindergarten and I can hardly believe she’s so old already. I notice more and more how she’s changing and growing. We’ve both been sick this week and she overreacted to something small. I knew it was because she was sick. I still overreacted to her overreacting because I was feeling awful also. When I put her to bed that night I apologized for being so grumpy. She said, “it’s ok mama. I will always love you, even if you’re grumpy.” Those words are so comforting!
I will always feel a grounded thrill when he holds my hand. A grounded peace that we have survived a day and i get to kiss that forehead at night.
You express these feelings perfectly Rachel. And i love the certain tears that your writing evokes. <3
There’s a feeling of comfort and anticipation when I see Hands Free in my email. I know there will be something that speaks to me when I read your post. I’d like to think that if we met, we’d be friends, because that is how you write. Like you are talking to your friends. I realize that there are millions who read and you can’t be friends with everyone you meet. But I thank you for writing in such a honest, personal way, that the feeling of friendship and mutual respect shows through. Thank you for your authenticity – admitting that you behaved grumpily following your surgery; without apology and with the recognition that an opportunity for growth (yours and your daughters) was real. Thanks for that validation and encouragement. And your vulnerability. Every day presents a new challenge or opportunity, depending on how I’m feeling that day. I have room for lots of improvement, but I am seeing positive changes in my relationships with my two sons, by slowing down, observing, holding my tongue, and really listening. Thank you so much for your encouragement, your sharing, and your heart.
Rachel Stafford says
Dearest Kim – please know your beautiful, heartfelt words have brought me to tears and have given me the affirmation my heart was longing for tonight. I am so grateful for your words, for your encouragement, for your support, and for your friendship.
Kim….I feel the same way when I see “Hands Free Mama” in my email inbox……
makes me stop and read and “listen”…..and I usually hear what I needed to hear
in that exact moment…..when I hadn’t even known I needed a message of hope
Just wanted to let you know how much your post today touched home. I have 4 children, although they are not children anymore. Their ages are 34, 32, 29, and 23. I have been divorced for 2 years after 32 years of marriage. I raised my children when there was not all this technology. I was a very hands on mom and still am. I read books to my children every night before bed, played with them, sang songs to them, and never missed a dance recital, piano recital, soccer game, basketball game, volleyball game, hockey game, or any activity that my children were in. To this day, I still don’t. I have a family dinner every Sunday that includes 15 of us. The TV is not on during dinner, and there are no cell phones at the dinner table. It is just us, talking and laughing. A lot of laughing. As each child leaves with their other half and their children, I am there, walking them to the door with I love you’s and kisses and hugs. I stand and watch as they get in their car and wave until they are out of sight. My 32 year old daughter has 2 children and is a competitive body builder. I have never missed a competition, even traveling with her when she competes. She is competing this Saturday out of state and I was going to stay home because my cousin will be in town. I told myself, “I have never missed a competition, she won’t mind, I want to see my cousin, it has been so long and we are so close.” The look on my daughter’s face when I told her broke my heart. I immediately told her I would be there, I had no idea how much it meant to her for me to be there. Her beautiful smile instantly reappeared. At the age of 32, she still wants her mother to be there for her. I feel Blessed beyond words. I also feel Blessed because I have been taking care of her 2 children since the day they were born while she is at work. My grandson is 7 and my granddaughter is 5. Now I am attending all their activities, reading to them, singing songs to them, and playing with them. And there are no distractions.
Rachel Stafford says
You are a shining light, dear Marci. The world is a better place because you are in it. You have blessed me beyond words by sharing this beautiful glimpse of your life and your love for your children. Bless you, dear one.
Since my daughters’ births I have fallen asleep with them nightly before leaving their sides. We have read books, shared tickle fights, argued and hugged until all of us pass out from exhaustion. I have always been questioned about this connection and often ridiculed for teaching them a “bad habit.” Shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I read a mother’s essay about how she always fell asleep with her son and how grateful she was for those moments. I have not questioned myself since that day. My daughters are now 9 and 7 and I don’t know how long this nightly ritual will last but for now, these are the moments that a busy single mom and two quickly growing girls have to reconnect and focus on each other even if for a brief moment. I am grateful for today’s post and all of your posts, my bracelets, XO before you go and everything you do to slow us down, catch us up and ease the pressure that the world demands from everyone. God Bless and Thank you!
Rachel Stafford says
I am so grateful for this glimpse into your life, dear Lori. It is full of love … goodness … laughter … and hope. I am so happy you are in this world raising daughters who are grounded in love. Thank you for living BY HEART … not by what other people think is best. Thank you for choosing LOVE.
One thing I’ll never stop doing is enjoying our time together!
“…in the morning light, I can see a glimmer of the baby she once was.” – this is one of the best sentences I’ve read on the net in a long time. My younger son started Kindergarten last week and my older son started 3rd Grade. I can’t believe how big they’ve both gotten and this quote really hits home for me.
I’ve been a long time lurker of your site (thanks to my wife!) and most of your articles are read with tears in my eyes, but this one really got me so I had to comment. Thank you so much for sharing!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Jim. I love that you pulled that particular line from the piece. I am touched by your powerful compliment & so grateful you are part of this community.
Shannon B. says
Thanks so much for all your posts. This one brought tears to my eyes. Just this morning, after my 6 year old son got dressed, we just sat on the floor, with him in my lap, cuddling. We both have missed this time…something we haven’t done since I don’t know when. Looking at him like that, on my lap, made me realize how little he still is, even though he acts older sometimes. It also made me realize that we were getting back into the yelling, rushing, running around type of mode that we had managed to stay out of for a couple weeks. It helps to bring me back down and remember the important things. So glad I found your post…it always inspires me to remember the little everyday things that need to be enjoyed, and to just slow down and relax and spend time with my loved ones.
Beautifully said. I feel the same about my daughter, who is now 32. I had the privilege of being in the room when my grandson was born…and in the middle of labor, she had a much-needed sleep thanks to an epidural — and still looked like my baby.
This one was hard to read. I am standing on shaky ground and I feel like I am losing them slowly but it’s happening. My oldest is 16 and I really chastise myself for wishing time away. I am upset with myself for putting other things first. I wish life had a rewind button because I would give anything to go back and do it again.
I really enjoyed that post and read it with a smile on my face. Sweet and tender and with a comforting thought – good stuff here!
I love watching my children – especially when they don’t see me watching.
From one “forehead kisser” to another… I still do this when my daughter comes home from college. I still savor that “mom” moment and linger in it as long as she will let me!
This was a great read. Just what I needed today. Thank you for sharing these thoughts!
I love the insight and inspiration. I’m getting this book and can’t wait to read it.
Take me off the email list to get responses from readers about articles. I enjoy just reading the occasional blog.
Oh Rachel, you’re so good at making me cry. Thanks again 🙂
John S Green says
I remember watching Johnny Carson late at night, after we bought our first TV, when I was twelve years old. I still laugh out loud when I see his character, Karnak.
It’s so satisfying to see your daughter growing up… the “noticer”. I use that term now (giving you full credit!).
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