Graduation came and went and all seemed to be well.
Elle and I both survived even with a lot of emotions swirling around.
I mean, I had sent my first off the year before and survived, and we were heading out to spend some serious time with Elle on a family trip in the next week so I figured the emotions might hold out a little bit.
…at least until we sent her off to begin her college life right after our trip.
And Elle?  Elle was much more like me graduating all those years ago than Max was.
I still remember dreading that day when my friends and I would have to split up and spread out. I remember my own graduation night well…driving up the canyon with all my best friends after hanging out with big crowds all night.  As we drove we watched the sun rise with “Forever Young” blasting through the radio.  
We all had giant tears trickling down our cheeks.  
It was the end of life as we knew it.  (Little did I know all the grand adventures that lay ahead and that I would still be dear friends with all those great friends in the car with me twenty-six years later.)
I think Elle felt that same dread I did all those years ago as graduation approached.
She loved high school so much and tried with all her might to will that day not to ever arrive.
But graduation came and went, and I think we were both surprised that we were still standing (ha).  She had stars in her eyes about her own graduation trip coming up in a couple days and I was trying to grapple getting ready for trek the next day and leaving for our family trip to Europe immediately following that.  
But there were little things that started unraveling my sanity bit by bit.
Things like packing up Elle’s room (since she wouldn’t be coming back at all after Europe…straight to BYU- Provo summer school and then straight to BYU-Hawaii from there).  We couldn’t bring any of her stuff with us on our trip so we were packing early to send things up with my parents after graduation.  (That whole deal is still a little crazy…time-frames with those two different BYUs have been pretty tricky this summer!)
Gradually emptying out her bedroom filled with so many memories constricted my heart a bit.  
The tennis trophies and awards, her old film camera, the funny stuff she wore for spirit days, prom dresses, pictures and notes…all ready to be boxed and shelved away.
To gather dust.
My heart constricted even more walking into her room to see her graduation stuff laid out the day before graduation and school work all graded and returned.

I sat and looked through some of the notes, tests, graded papers that symbolized how hard she worked her whole high school career.

And the stark realization that it was over pricked at the back of my heart.

There were last gatherings of friends.

How good they are to my little girls.

What good influences they’ve been on Elle.  How much they have built and loved her.  And grown together.

It started pressing into my heart how much I would miss not only Elle, but them and the light and fun they have brought in and out of our home over the years.

The night after graduation Dave and I lay in bed and my unraveling went from a slow leak to a flood of emotion.

I started spilling out my heart to him.

And the more I spilled laying there in the dark, the more sad I realized I was as tears started filling my ears and plopping down on the pillow.

We talked for a while and I calmed down.  Dave was so sad too, but fell asleep right as another wave of emotion hit me.

I went and curled up in my closet so I wouldn’t wake him up because suddenly everything was shaking.

And the emotion erupting wasn’t just Elle graduating.  As I sat there now bawling in my closet, (it was a true “ugly cry” by this time with my face uncontrollably contorting so much it was almost painful), I became overwhelmed with how much I missed Max.  How I wished I could give him a giant hug and how two years is so dang long.  I marveled at how much had changed in ONE YEAR since he just barely graduated.  What would be happening this time next year with Elle?  How did Dave and I get so old?  How was our life with small children passing right there before our eyes?  How quickly would the time go before all of them are grown and gone?  Before I know it I will be a crinkled up little grandma and the grand memories of the beauty of life as we know it right now will be only that: memories fading away.

Sitting there I missed holding them (all of them, even the little ones) as toddlers on my hip.  Working out money and job systems with them.  Building them.  Memories of baby food smashed into high chair crevices, Cheerios crushed into the floor, tantrums and pushing and pulling and heaving to parent them in the way we felt they needed.  All those years of teaching them… to read, to write, to pray, to look adults in the eye, to enjoy beauty, to seek God.

All those years of praying my guts out for them, worrying my heart out about their decisions, their goals, their dreams, their understanding of Christ, their futures.

All the richness and beauty and chaos of the last couple years and bits from all the years of motherhood was suddenly flitting in and out of my mind as I tried to grasp hold of it and hold on with all my might, “for babies grow up, I’ve learned to my sorrow.”

Yes, yes, I know the whole deal about how grand it is to have older kids too, because those little babies of mine are morphing into them.  And oh how I adore them.

(I promise to all those young mothers out there that having older kids is just as equally amazing as having those little toddlers wrapped around your legs, just different.)

But right then and there I missed those babies.  I missed the “growing” and the good and the bad and the ugly all wrapped up together.

I missed the grand chaos filling up our house before it was even really gone.

My heart yearned to hold those two oldest children of mine close who have been best friends for years and who have been such an integral part of our household for so long…who have set such a great example for the youngest three.  Who, in many ways, have set such a great example for me and Dave too.

I prayed, sitting there in my closet.

And as I did, peace gathered around me like a blanket and left me with so much gratitude for life.

My emotions settled and I knew it would all be ok as I finally drifted off to sleep.

I woke up the next day with the puffiest eyes of the century.  I think my heart matched my eyes, all puffy and sore.

But somehow those puffy eyes could see so much more clearly.  Sometimes a good cry is the perfect remedy.  Oh how I have loved having these children teach me so much over the years.

And although I feel like Lucy did in that picture above as I let them go…

I also feel like Claire in that next one.

Because as I already know from Max being gone, as much as it hurts to let them leave, it gets pretty amazing to watch them “become.”  I’ve probably said that ten-gazillion times, but I have to keep reminding myself when the gnawing missing comes along.

I don’t think that part will ever leave.

But feeling it, and the unraveling and re-building that comes along with it makes me feel alive.

The pain of love is just as real as the joy of it all.

And I’m so grateful these children I adore so much make me feel it all.

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  1. I cried just reading this! I'm in the thick of that baby/toddler stage you reminisce about (my three are 3.5, 2, and 8 months) and I already feel the time passing so quickly as I dig my nails in and try to hold on. I know I will miss this, too…and I hope I will cherish the "big stage" as much as you seem to. Thanks for your honesty. And congrats to Elle!

  2. Crying reading this knowing that moms all over the world feel this same painful love. So beautiful to share these moments with others. Thank you.

  3. Congratulations on your transition to this next stage of parenting! How exciting!! I'm sure there will be many new, joy filled experiences as you watch your children launch into adulthood and new dynamics in your family as you settle in to having 3 girls at home for the next few years.

  4. I cried as I read this…I have three little ones and they are getting big so fast it makes me panic how fast time goes by. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing! My oldest is only (almost) 15 but I can feel the speeding train of time already pushing days quickly by. I am excited/dread the letting go phase of mothering too. I love being a Mom & having my days wrapped up in Mothering. I'm so grateful I can.

  6. Oh man, you sure know how to tug on my heart strings! I'm so grateful to be a mom. I love this post, and today, I will go home from work and hug my little babies and beg them to never grow up and leave me!

    What wonderful and amazing children you have raised. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Your sweet and honest words have been on my mind since reading this post. I'm years away from living this experience, but it sure pulled on some heart strings! Knowing you, I'm sure you will be able to create or find joy in the adjustment of having only 3 kids at home. It's truly a talent that I admire! Thanks for being so honest with your feelings with us people on the internet – it sure gives me some guidance on what to possibly expect in the later years!

    Chaun from

  8. I already commented once today by just wanted to share that this post has been with me in my heart since I read it. I found myself getting frustrated and snippy with my 3-year-old (after his 72nd "one more thing" during naptime) and reminded myself that this stage is so, so temporary and that I'm going to long for these days in the future. Every stage of motherhood seems to come with both beauty and hardship and it's all just fleeting moments that evolve and transform into different beautiful and difficult instants. Thank you for helping me gain and embrace this perspective as I travel on this shortest/longest, most difficult and magnificent journey of motherhood.

  9. If I've learned anything about this beautiful gospel it's that it's a gospel of restoration. Any and all loss we feel here in this earthly life- whether it's losing those we love to death or losing our babies to adulthood- will be restored to us in a fulness of joy through the grace of God.

    I'm not sure how it will work, but if I were designing Heaven, every time I would see one of my children they would start out as a newborn in my arms and then gradually- over the next few minutes or so- grow into their adult spirit selves. That way I could experience all those things all over again- those smiles and snuggles and sweet moments- every day. 🙂

    Never fear, mama. God knows. 🙂

  10. I sat here reading this with my 5 week old baby asleep in my shoulder. She's my fifth child and I consider it a blessing and privilege to call these children mine. This was so beautiful to me. It made me cry tears of gratitude. To keep challenging me to find joy in the journey. One day I will be where you are – and I will experience those same emotions. Thank you for sharing your feelings with everyone. You are teaching by example that's for sure.
    Love from alberta canada!

  11. I had to smile at the teacher's notes like "Oh yeah" and "sweet". I'm also puzzled that all the girls are blond. There must be a few dyed ones or what kind of gene pool do you have in the desert? 🙂

    On a more serious note: Without having your experiences, I still think that your feelings are very valid and I believe to cry it all out is good! But if anything – remember your own words (in this very post):
    "Little did I know all the grand adventures that lay ahead…"

    1. Both of my parents had dark brown hair and all 5 of us kids started out blond, with most of us ending up with a lighter brown as we got older. One still has blond though.

  12. Oh Shawni my mother heart goes out to you. My oldest is counting the days (and years thank goodness still have 3 !) Before he heads out on his mission and my youngest just celebrate her 12th birthday. I spent that night crying to my hubby as he shed some tears too, That we had no more primary children and that we've officially moved until the next phase ~ teenagers !!! I love it so much already with two young teens and my little tween ~ but i cried for the fact that they are no longer babies !! Everyone tells you oh hold on and have fun because they grow up so fast ~ its true !! They were right ! Oh how i had hoped they would be wrong. There were times when they were babies ~ all 3 under 3 years old when i thought i would never sleep again and that the phase i was in would never end ~ now i sometimes wish i could go back and do it all over again ! But oh how i love these little teens and tween. They are amazing. I'm excited for their futures and think that it's still ok to get sad every now and then. Boy they do grow up quick. I'll be praying for you as you navigate these new phases in your life. We are all in this together and need to uplift and encourage each other. You're doing a great job mama !!

  13. Beautiful words Shawni! I shed a few tears as my oldest is a senior this year and I'm going to be experiencing all of this next summer. I'm grateful to read your words and soak in your advice for this next stage.

  14. Oh man, this is so beautifully written and so poignant at this moment. I was crying for your torn up heart! Plus that ugly crying is hard on the body! I was crying too, when each of you left but I cried a little less by the time we sent Charity off because by then I knew the joy that was to come with the "refiner's fire" that the world provides and because I was beginning to see that life becomes so exciting as our dearly loved kids discover who they are and where they're going when they have to figure it out for themselves! Thanks for capturing the Mother's Heart here though as these precious people leave home. It' just gets better but it's a different better! It's a good idea to cry about that! Love you dearly! Mom

  15. Oh man, I'm crying now! I started following your blog when your kids were close to the ages that mine are now, and I can't tell you what a blessing it has been! So often I can appreciate the stage we're leaving behind or urging along, because I understand it from witnessing the process through your words and photos! You've spoken the language of my mother heart for almost a decade of my journey, and you've just done it again. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Oh man, totally teary eyed over here!! You have a way with words, and a way of explaining just how I feel as well. My oldest of 5 will be in 8th grade, just one more year until high school (BAH!) and my youngest is starting kindergarten. I feel like I am in a new stage of life right now, one that gives me excitement yet it also makes me wish it could all slow down because I know life is going to steam roll forward whether I like it or not. Thank you so much for your insights, you are an extraordinarily beautiful person.

  17. Goodness. I'm reading this after being awake with my 7 month old, and "attempting" to go back to sleep by reading through some blogs. This is beautiful. It's gut wrenching, bittersweet, and a lot of other emotions all blended together. We are in the "baby food smashed into high chair crevices," stage, but reading your post makes me cherish it, even if it is hectic, and crazy. For I also know, that in the blink of an eye they'll be graduating and headed into adulthood full force.

    Thank you for posting this! Thank you for bringing me to the present. I've read your blog for years, but this my first comment.

  18. Well now I'm a blubbering mess. I'm dreading it all…though I know it will be amazing to watch them "become" it's slipping through my fingers. I only have 2 more summers, and I'm trying to pack them in as much as possible. Oh,my aching heart…

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