Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss It

“Cherish every moment, because you’ll blink and your kids will be grown up.”

They thought it was a good idea to tell me that while I was dealing with a teenager, a toddler, and a baby. While I was elbow deep in dirty diapers, bad attitude and laundry. When I was sleep-deprived and overwhelmed and at the end of it all.

“They” were lying. I was sure of it. The days were endless and there was no relief in sight.

In 1983 our oldest child, Ashley was born. Reagan was president.

Thirteen years later, we welcomed our daughter Rachel into the world, followed by Sam, two years after that.

For thirty-three years we navigated the joys and perils of childhood and for the past two years, we had only one child left at home. Today marked the very last childhood milestone for all our kids when our youngest boy Sam, graduated from high school.

Did I mention we’ve been doing this for over thirty years?

I’m kind of surprised by the amount of emotion this day has stirred up. It’s the end of a chapter for us but I imagined, after all these years, that I would be relieved and elated. Part of me is but I’m also a bit of a mess and find myself blinking back tears and reliving memories.

BLINK – Like the shutter on a camera, the image is captured.

BLINK – The doctor squeezes the cold, goopy gel onto my distended belly. I clutch Steve’s hand and smile at our girls. We squint at the screen as the shape comes into focus. “I have fathered a manchild!” Steve hollers with abandon.

BLINK – I’m sitting in our wooden rocking chair, in the dead of night. My feet are cold as ice. The rhythmic creaking of the chair breaks the silence of a still, black night. I cradle my son and nurse him and breathe in the sweet smell of him, intoxicated by the scent. I am smitten.

BLINK – He refuses to sleep. Ever. Not at night. Not during the day. This boy requires no sleep to sustain him. For years, this is our battle. The sound of his scream grates on me. He nearly breaks me. We have a love/hate relationship.


black and white photo, Sam Rutledge


BLINK – It’s my first day as a volunteer in Sam’s kindergarten class so I take my place in the back of the room as a silent observer. There’s a brightly colored rug in the center of the room, with squares in a rainbow of primary colors. One square for each child. They sit in rapt attention as Mr. Hunter reads to them. Except for Sam. He log rolls from one end of the classroom to the other, seeming to ignore the story. But as soon as a question is asked, Sam jumps to his feet like a jack-in-the-box. He knows the answer. He heard every word.

BLINK – Sponge Bob is blaring on the family room TV. Sam has removed all the cushions from the sofa. He lays on the stripped furniture and leans his head back to watch the cartoon upside down. Then he laughs with utter abandon and sheer unadulterated joy. My heart is full and I can’t help but join in.

BLINK – The bile in my throat rises as I pull a dead mouse out of his shoe. Don’t ask.

BLINK – As I describe Sam’s clothing to the security guard in IKEA, I sob uncontrollably. The store is on lockdown for twenty minutes but he is nowhere to be found. Terrifying images fill my head and I struggle to maintain my composure. Finally, my towheaded boy is found and I race to him. His Superman shirt is drenched in sweat and his heart is pounding like a drum. “I turned around and didn’t see you,” he cried.  “So I ran!” I hold him tight and swear I will never let him go.

BLINK – I walk into the principal’s office. Again. I’m so over these weekly phone calls from school. I am so over the nagging, the cajoling, the threatening, the pleading. I fondly remember when I had time to read a book.

BLINK – There’s an odor wafting down the hallway. Something’s died, I’m sure of it. I turn the corner and there it is – a room full of adolescent boys. Bright orange Cheetos crumbs are scattered over the sofa. Pizza boxes and soda bottles litter the counter. I have no strength for this so I go into my room, put on my headphones and escape.

Sam Rutledge

BLINK – Standing in the DMV with harsh fluorescent lights flickering above, I glance to my left. There’s a broad-shouldered man standing next to me, waiting to get his license. It’s my son.

BLINK – It’s graduation day. We survived. I scream and holler and shout as my boy, my son walks across the field with his head held high and his shoulders back.

BLINK – They were right.

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