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Why Birthdays Are Emotional For Parents

The Bittersweet Side of the Birthday Cake

Tomorrow is my child's birthday — he's beyond excited for his day. And cake. And presents. And singing. And happiness. And more presents. But that's tomorrow . . .

Today is my day. Today is my day for reflection on just how far we've come and how much has changed since that very first day this tiny little baby joined us in this great big world. And I can't help but feel just a little emotional — and even a tiny bit sad. Somewhere in between all the tears and fears, smiles and milestones, failures and accomplishments, and giggles and snuggles, another year has passed us by.

Just like that.

So, today I am reminded of just how fleeting time can be. Of how my "baby" is actually not a baby at all. Today I understand why more-experienced parents always feel the need to tell me, "Enjoy it. It goes by so fast" — and it stings my soul.

Today I recall how small his little body once was and how holding him was effortless. Today I feel older, even though it's not even close to my own birthday. Today I try to remember my life before I had children, except I can't. Or rather, I don't want to.

Today I think back to those in-betweens times. Those long days and longer nights when the clock barely seemed to tick by. Today I laugh at the words that have come out of his mouth, and I stand in awe of how much knowledge he now possesses.

Today I remember every mom I know who is struggling, but especially those moms who have ever had to suffer through spending their child's birthday without being able to hold their child.

Today I vow to cherish each moment, snap more pictures, take more notes, and live more in the present.

Because it's easy to forget one simple thing while feeling exhausted and running on nothing but coffee and willpower: Newborns become babies. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers become children. Children become big kids. And big kids become teenagers.

Just like that.

So as I tiptoe into his room to kiss his sweaty forehead before I crawl into my own bed, just as I have done in the 364 nights since his last birthday, the tears well up in my eyes. He's in the same bunk, wearing the same pajamas, curled up with the same blankie, in the same crazy position, yet somehow he looks a little different.

And it dawned on me. This is the last moment that I will see this child at this age ever again. Ever. Tomorrow he'll be a little bigger, a little wiser, and, well, a little different. And this realization is thrilling and exciting, but it also weighs heavy on a parent. Because, ultimately, birthdays are a measurement of just how fast our children grow up.

So, tomorrow, as he makes his own innocent wishes as he blows out his candles, I'll be silently wishing for time to move a bit slower. Because I know another birthday is going to be here, just like that.

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