A Letter To My 51 Year Old Self

Dear Me 20 Years From Now,

I wonder if you’ve become one of those women who briefly lingers around, a safe distance behind, young moms carting their babies and toddlers through the grocery store with that far-off look in your eyes. If you gently smile at the mom when she looks up and catches your glance, obviously frazzled by how challenging taking 2 kids grocery shopping is, as if to tell her it’s going to be okay. If you look at her and miss that time, want so badly to trade 5 minutes of the independence you have now that your kids are much older so that you can rest a toddler’s head on your shoulder, or buckle a baby in their car seat, mindful not to pinch any belly chub in the harness.

I have a feeling that you might be, and there are some things I want you to know, some things I’m willing you to remember.

I want you to remember that they were the hardest thing you’d ever done. They challenged you, and they kept you up at night. They pushed your buttons, and they were never, ever quiet… unless they were in trouble. I want you to remember that you loved them the hardest you’ve ever loved anything, from day one, and every day after that.

I want you to know that you were completely overwhelmed nearly all the time. The thought of taking them anywhere by yourself made you want to hide in bed all day. You were overwhelmed by the responsibility. You had NO clue what you were doing. You were overwhelmed by how much they trusted you and how much they needed you. You were overwhelmed by how much you needed and loved them.

I want you to remember how it felt to lay side by side next to your 4-year-old before he drifted off to sleep. How you talked face to face, nose to nose, about his day. How you told him you were excited to see how much he wouldΒ grow by the morning, and how in the morning you’d lay in bed next to him and stretch his arms and legs out, exclaiming, “LOOK HOW MUCH YOU GREW LAST NIGHT!” How that put the biggest smile on his face.

I want you to remember what it felt like to hold your 18 month old on your lap, wrapping your arms around her and laying them on her bulging tummy. How the back of her head and the handful of baby curls at the nape of her neck felt and smelled when you rested your head atop hers.

I want you to know that you were acutely aware of how fast they were growing. Even though many days would pass in the blink of an eye, there would always be a moment when your world would snap to a halt, and you would look at them while they were doing something mundane and normal, and you would be painfully conscious that they were no longer the size they were last week, and that they would never be the size they are at that moment again.

I want you to know that you went to bed every night with one simple wish for the next day. To just do better.

Even though you were tired and challenged, exasperated and overwhelmed, you knew thenΒ that you would miss these days…most of them, at least. It was a truth that was hard to live with, and most of the time you ignored it because there was nothing you could do about the passing of time. If you spent your days mourning the ones that had gone by, you’d miss out on the days you were living in.

You knew you were on a light rail, moving at speeds you couldn’t comprehend. You had no control over the ride that brought you to where you are today, but believe me when I say you searched so very hard to find the emergency brake.

Please know, please remember that you tried to savor that time. Be at peace, knowing you spent late afternoons curled up with them on the couch, that sometimes you just sat and watched them move and run, that occasionally you took inventory of all the things they’d learned in the last week, and that you appreciated your time with them the best you knew how. Know that despite your very best efforts, there was no way to freeze time.

I promise you, you tried.


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    • Diana Curran on

      Jennifter, be encouraged. You don’t want it to stop, even though keeping them small would be wonderful, They will bring you more and more adventures and happiness that you can only dream of. Take and lable lots of pictures for sweet memories. I alway belived spending time on the floor or wherever we could grow together was the most importand thing I could do. I promise that when they are two they will do things that will make your dreams come true. Just remember all the hard days pass and so much more injoyable days are jsut around the corner. Don’t rust them growing but praise God they do. Enjoy every moment>
      Best of luck and a heart filled with love, joy, amazement, and change. It will be your biggest job.

  1. It could be the hormones talking since I’m two weeks postpartum with my second son, but I’m ugly crying after reading your beautiful words and thoughts here. Funny how the second time around you take more time to stop and smell the roses, er, fresh clean baby hair. Already at two weeks old, I can see how much my son has grown since birth. And there is nothing like a teensy, tinesy newborn to make you see just how HUGE and independent your older child has become. I hope all young mothers have a chance to read this and remember to slow down before it is too late!

  2. Jill, every word of this is so incredibly true. I, too, want to hide in bed all day at the idea of taking my kids out by myself. However, I want to share something with you that someone shared with me. I usually forget it but the words came to me as I was reading this. That overwhelmed feeling is what keeps us so keenly aware of the magnitude of what we are doing. Those of us who are overwhelmed by the mundane tasks are also the ones that are able to hold our baby’s feet in our hands and will ourselves to remember how that tiny foot felt. We are the ones who see the beauty in the mess our toddler has made. We are overwhelmed because IT IS overwhelming and it passes too fast. So, all those other people out there who are not as overwhelmed as we are – they are missing stuff. It is the taking note of it all that overwhelms us. πŸ™‚

  3. This made me cry. I’m so acutely aware of this every day, too, and I already miss this time on behalf of my older self. I do all I can to savor every moment, even when it’s tough and frustrating and overwhelming.

  4. Yea, I’m crying here, too. That was really beautiful. I’m 9 weeks pregnant with #2 and time went into warp speed as soon as I got pregnant with #1. That time phenomenon is a sad sad thing.

  5. Okay, my 2 week postpartum self is in a heap on the floor. Looking at my three year old, I feel as though I could have written everything you did. Just beautiful!

  6. Where’s the mascara warning?! Loved this. I think these things about my 2-year-old all the time. I try to savor the moments as much as I can, and I will with our newest little one in the fall as well. I know one day I will miss the crazy, exhausting moments of early childhood.

  7. I am NOT hormonal, and this made me cry. I think this is my favorite line: “If you spent your days mourning the ones that had gone by, you’d miss out on the days you were living in.”

    Everything you wrote her is so beautiful and so true. I hope my self, 20 years from now, can remember similar lessons. Every day of my life is a constant negotiation between the things that “need” to get done and the things I want to do. “Need” = work (home and the paying variety). “Want” = spend every moment soaking up the beauty of my children and their desire to be around me. I know in a blink their 3 and 1 year old selves will be replaced by teenagers who have no time for me and probably despise me. I am constantly, acutely, aware that every moment is slipping away. I need to remind myself to live “in the moment” rather than mourning the ones that just passed.

    In other words, that is my very long winded way of saying thank you for the beautifully written reminder to live in the moment.

  8. Thanks for sharing these thoughts! Today has been one of those extremely overwhelming days with my beautiful 3 year old daughter and I needed to read that. In tears over here too!! LOL

  9. Yeah, this pregnant girl should not have just read that.

    I can’t even believe this pregnancy with baby NUMBER THREE (OMG) is almost over. It just goes way too fast and I think all we can do is remember yesterday, enjoy today, and look forward to the memories we will make tomorrow.

  10. SCREW YOU for being inside my head. I moved through infancy like a machine fueled by to-do lists, and I often kick myself for working so hard through that time. It just so happens I slogged through my iPhoto library last night in tears for the first time over knowing I’ll never have those baby days back, and I’ll never know them again, worrying that I didn’t stop enough (because there is never enough) but knowing I did my absolute best.

  11. Oh the tears! This is so very true. As I sit here cuddling my 2 week old while watching my toddlers run around I have those same thoughts. I often fear that I am not living in the moment, enjoying it enough because I am so overwhelmed, but I know that I’m doing my best. And time? So not fair. It needs to slow down. Beautiful post!

  12. WOW!!!! This is probably the very best blog post that I have ever, ever read . . . It is wonderful and I can relate to almost every sentence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. A very good friend and mentor of mine once said, around the time I had my first child, that “When raising kids, the days are long, but the years are short.” She was right.

  13. Oh my god! Love this. Really makes me want to go lay by my four year old right now. It is soooo true that time goes by so fast. I REALLY need to stop and savor the moments.

  14. Miranda Marrs Collins on

    Amazing. So much so that I believe I may print out parts of this to hang above my computer. Thank you. <3

  15. Yes, yes, all of this is true. …but then you wake up in your much older body and realize that you have another chance with GRANDCHILDREN! What a blessing! As a young mother, I was told to never mind the housework and spend my time enjoying my babies. I had to work fulltime and somehow the playtime was VERY limited. I now have an abundance of grandbabies and it is oh so wonderful. I can ignore the dust and the fingerprints because I know how quickly these moments disappear. Volunteering to babysit is a selfish request on my part because I don’t want to miss a second chance!!

  16. Wow…crying right now. This is beautiful and captures everything I feel so beautifully. Thank you for writing this πŸ™‚ And I’m positive you are doing a great job!

  17. Zach Stewart on

    this is sweet but unfortunately for me I felt no emotion for this since I don’t have kids but it made me think about my future children for sure.

  18. I want to thank you for this. As a mother of two boys – ages 5 and 4 – and 38 weeks pregnant, I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed these last few months and NEEDED to read this! Beautifully worded and touched my heart. Thank you for putting things back into perspective for me. I’ll now be stepping away from the computer for some snuggle time with my two favorite little men, and will remember be thankful that my boys still appreciate snuggle time with their momma. <3

  19. Janet Bran Bohne on

    I too cried. My daughter Casey linked me to this article on Facebook. She just had twins but she already gets it, what’s important in life and motherhood, and the boys are only 4 months old. I want to scream whewwww “we” did it and by “we” I mean my husband and I but also both of our families who helped our kids grow and thrive. A special thanks to my sister Jill who was always there for them through good times and bad. My kids are grown adults and they are healthy, happy and have made their own place and paths in life. I am a little older than 51 and my family is starting to grow again. I guess that is why grandchildren are so nice. Now you know that they really do grow up fast and you can slow down and just enjoy them. Casey, thank you for making me stop, read and reflect. Love Mom

  20. omg. bawled.
    my mom is in her early 50’s and still has kids at home. there is an 18 year age gap between me (the oldest) and my youngest sibling.
    i often think OH HELL NO, i’d never do that. but then i realize she is so lucky. she got to got to raise my brother and i into the teen years, then get to have that toddler stuff all over again.
    then again with my kids.
    maybe she’s onto something here πŸ˜‰

  21. i keep reading this over and over because it’s how i feel now – do i spend enough time with my little girl? It is truly amazing, the love you have for your child. Nothing like it.

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  23. Alas, you also have a chance to relive all the fun and frustration, Moms. It is called grandchildren. They are wonderful as you get to enjoy your children all over again. If you enjoyed being a MOM, just wait for the fun and time you get to have with a grandchild. SO, treat your children and bring them up in love that they will want to share their children with you as a great payback to you. ”
    the reward of not killing your teenagers are grandchildren”

  24. Stormy Lynn Hamilton on

    Perfect that I read this exactly a week before my son’s 2nd birthday. I wish I could just go back in time to the moment I first held him in my arms and relive every second of him being a baby. I’m so bawling my eyes out right now.

  25. Oh my word. This is so true. Can I just leave work NOW and got get my son (2 years old) and just snug him all day.?!?!?! This is priceless!

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  27. I simply want to say {thank you}…I tell my lil man everyday to stop growing…I try and do savor every moment with him…and thank you for reminding me that I am doing my life’s purpose.

  28. Jennifer Bilbro on

    Thank you for this. From someone that questions being enough everyday, this is so powerful. (crying at work too!)

  29. I am a 57 yr old women who thinks of this every day. I remember (like it was yesterday) the smell of my darling girl when she woke up. I remember her eyes as she watched me prepare her Dad’s breakfast. As I stumbled around praying for coffee, but I was nursing so I couldn’t have any!
    I remember so much and miss it. You young girls that can’t believe one or two years have passed…take it slow cuz it is gone before you know it!

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  31. Courage Lightflow on

    Nope. I’ll be the 50 year old Grandma with babes on her hips, so help me if I’m not I’ll be the crazy cat/dog lady and guilting my kids every time I see them not working towards making me Grandma! MWA HA!

  32. Crying my eyes out! I have four kids – ages 10, 6, 4, 1 – and I think EVERY day how I wish I could make time stand still. Since I know I can’t I cherish every moment I have with my babies. Thank you for this letter….

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  35. I just found you and this blog thanks to Amber Dusick and her blog. As an almost 53 year old mom with grown kids and grandkids, I can tell you that this post is 100% spot on. I do look longingly at young moms with kids at the stores, offer a sympathetic look when they are looking frazzled, and envy them. A lot. I find myself looking at my grown children, and squinting my eyes really hard to try to see the adorable toddler they once were, and then wonder how they got to be adults so quickly. This is where the glory of grandkids comes along – you get to live the childhood stuff all over again, but this time you REALLY appreciate it even more than you did as a parent. The only difference is that you know that while you are important in their little lives, you are not the all-knowing-all-ouchy-healing-superwoman-that-can-fix-anything that their mommy is. You are second best now. But that’s okay, it’s still better than being without them and their glorious innocence, unwavering love, and super tight hugs. Plus, you get to spoil them – that’s every grandparent’s right for surviving their own children’s childhood!

  36. After I read this, my 5 year old ran in with chocolate cake all over her face and tears started running down my cheeks as I wiped it all off. I hugged her extra long after that. Thanks for laughter…..and the tears! (visiting from Crappy Pictures)

  37. being 31 myself, just thinking of being 51 brings me to tears! lol

    but this whole letter brought me to tears. it’s so true and at 2 1/2, i already long for my daughter to be a baby again. time goes by all too fast. thanks for reminding me to remember all the little things.

  38. I started tearing up before i even finished the first paragraph. I have an 8 mo old and there’s a pic of his first real bath on my fridge and I realized one day, he’ll never be that tiny..he’ll never have that huge grin when the water first ran over his body. It’s true, it’s been hard and tiring but I wish he’d stay tiny because I know time’s just coming and i can’t stop it. Beautiful post xoxo

  39. Just was sent here from Crappy Pictures… this was amazing. I too have a 4 year old and a 18mo old and just turned 32… I cannot express how much I loved this, or how much this means to me to read this. I want to print it and frame it and read it every day. I always say things like this to my husband and kids when it gets “overwhelming”… love it now, because soon enough its going to be so silent in here you can hear a pin drop… and then the house will be clean and boring. My sweet little 4 year old always tells me… mama I have to grow up, but I will still snuggle you.” (Lord I hope so! ha) Thank you so much for your amazing words. This was wonderful.

  40. This rang so incredibly true for me today. My little one stuck her hand in a bowl of hummus, wiped it on me and then stuffed pita crumbs down my shirt. She then drank my water (which is now full of floaties, by the way). Maybe on another day, my patience would be tried but I read your post this morning (saw it on crappy pictures) and really all I can think about is how wonderful it was when she put her head on my shoulder when I carried her asleep from her stroller, that she wants to explore the world, and that I love this child more than I ever imagined I could. Thank you for writing this post – it’s beautiful and so so true.

  41. Kathilee Porter on

    Crying and thinking about how much I love that I wrote a journal to my daughter who is now 10. It’s what I give every friend when I find out they’re expecting. A way to record what it was like cause even though you don’t believe it now – you will forget.

  42. I too was directed here from crappy pictures, and after the day (and previous night) I have had, something told me that I needed to read it. I am glad, grateful, and genuinely thankful that I did. I had 1 1/2 hrs sleep in my own bed last night since I was up with my 4 month old son, and after a rough and cranky start to my day I urged myself to stay focused and patient with my 2 1/2 year old. By suppertime I felt defeated. After cleaning up mini disasters all day long, including vomit on a brand new fairy costume with built in, seizure-inducing mini lights, I had been reflecting on what I learned from the day (such as ‘don’t ever buy a costume that has a tag which reads: Don’t Wash’.)
    But when I read your letter, I too succumbed to tears. After my son was born I knew already how fast the time was going to fly and I tried even harder to find that emergency brake. I vowed even harder every day to try better. I’ve had the tears about one day being an empty nester and how my daughter attending preschool means she is leaving the toddler stage. So in short, what I really learned today was that this is the good stuff, and some day I will pray to God to give me a chance to clean up just one more mini disaster or to have broken sleep because it means I am needed in a way that I never will be again. Thank you crappy pictures for directing me to this and thank you Jill for re-gifting me the wonderous sense of motherhood.

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  44. Colleen Cipolla on

    Okay, so I beat you all I am almost sixty. There will be a day you will turn 60 and you will reflect on your life not only looking back at your parenting skills but also your childhood, your adolescent years and the years you spent with your own parents. Regrets, yes, mistakes, many, but through it all you are stuck with the life you have and so thankful for all of those people who have stood by you through thick and thin and gave your life purpose. You will be thankful for those parents that gave you life in the first place and stood by you no matter how much you messed up. I am not perfect but I am at peace knowing that I have four great adult children who have wonderful partners and eight beautiful grandchildren. What more could a person want to show what they accomplished during their time on earth?

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  46. Terrie from Atlanta, GA on

    Did you just happen to repost this in October? Oh, my ~ I’ve recently turned 51, and realized that I FORGOT TO HAVE BABIES! All too busy living the Life, in a city where it was okay to be single and I was around kids every day. After 25 years of teaching and an “newish” ex-husband who forgot his vows, 51 means something very different to me as it will to you. How smart you are to savor the memories now! Living with Intent . . . that’s the only way to ensure your dreams will come true. Xoxo

  47. Just read this. Sobbed like a baby. I have a 21 month old that is growing too fast and too wonderful and it hurts and is amazing to see…

  48. Maggie Buckley Pinque on

    Ah Jill…
    As a 51 year old mom of two teens this brought me right back to the toddler years. THANK YOU TO AMBER for posting the link on her page today (with a hilarious accounting of your week).
    When my kids were babies (15 months apart) my mom told me to enjoy it as the time flies by. I explained it was terribly hard to enjoy while I was in the midst of living it. You captured it perfectly.
    Crunchy Cake (62) – I am happy you were able to regroup. Sometimes we just can’t.
    I love the teen years. I know…I’m surprised too.
    BUT – this is where all the hard work really starts to show.
    Rock on Moms. We’re all just doing the best we can.

  49. I really enjoy your blog. It was just brought to my attention via facebook and I intend to make it a regular read. I also linked this particular article on my own blog. Its new, and I’m just learning, so I am probably not informing you of this trackback correctly. But, I know what a trackback is! Hope it brings you more traffic!

  50. Just as everyone else, I was ALL IN tears!! I have 6 and 3 (next month) year old girls and with the impending birthday of my “baby” I have been groping madly for the emergency break!! I sometimes wonder if I was supposed to have kids, I get so overwhelmed! When I yell at my 6 year old for not listening to me (I take it so personally!) I feel SO SO SO guilty! But the snuggles, the cuddles, talks about their day, watching them grow and learn so fast the L.O.V.E….It’s all so awesome and I can not imagine my life without them, not even a little bit! I am bookmarking this to read often! I absolutely love it! Thank you! Devan (found you on Amber’s crappy pictures site) πŸ™‚

  51. I loved this!! It reminds me that all that time I spent holding my babies and ignoring the laundry and dishes were the right decisions. I am reminded that even though i had to hear rude comments about co-sleeping, I don’t regret it. I have no regrets of how much I loved on my babies. It still went entirely too fast.

  52. I found this blog through Crappy pictures and read it this morning. I’ve been in tears on and off all day watching my 4 yr and 23 mth kids play and learn with your blog resonating in my mind. I often think to myself that I hope I remember this exact feeling this exact moment. So often the memory fleets. I do remember my first born at 6 weeks look up at me as I was feeding him in a parent room. We locked eyes for seemed like an eternity. I remember marveling at how two tiny cells could combine and create such a beautiful little person. How those big blue eyes are a part of me. I will always be with him through those eyes. I have never ever loved as hard as I have these past five years. When I had my second I wondered just how I could love another as much as my first – would the love split in two? No! I quickly learned that the love I have just grows- so much that it hurts and I feel I might burst. Thank you for sharing this amazing letter. I think I’ll write myself one too xxx

  53. So beautifully written. Would love to share this with my friends on facebook if I can figure out how… Im a mother of a 9month old boy and Im already astounded by how quickly time goes and how fast he is growing. It really does scare me but makes me appreciate every single moment with him πŸ™‚

  54. I am an 80 year great grandma I can relate to your stories I was fortunae I had a grandmother age nieghbor, who came and babysat and helped when my children were toddlers 3 2 & 1mo,as my mother was miles away,You may not know thier are older women in the chuech or a nieghbor who would love to help you younger ones . The holy word saya older wemon teach the younger weman how to love thier husbands and children . My regret was I didnt know the one who sticks closer than a brother untill my kids were grown who I could call on when I felt overwhelmed or didnt know what to do. He was always thier I only needed to call on him. He is now my constant companion and friend. His name is JESUS He is the all wise knowing God and he has a wonderful plan for your chidren and you, seek him and you will find rest and peace Love Sarah

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  57. Thanks, Jill. You just made me cry while using public transportation. Now I, exhausted since my day started at 4:30 am, will go home and be all “nice to my kids”. Even with a headache. I blame you. (JK– love this and fabulous post.) Today is a test of endurance. This helped.

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  59. My twins just turned 5 in October and my son just turned 6 in September. I have told numerous people that I can’t remember the last 5 yrs, it’s all a blur. I was so busy taking care of a 1 yr old and twin newborns and before I knew it I had 3 walkers to chase after and keep out of trouble. Then I had 3 talkers at different stages of language to decode. Now at their ages I have 2 Pre-K and 1 K and they are learning to read and can write. I held a baby in church today and just to hold his little 2 month old body, reminded me so much of my kids. My little girl wanted to hold him as he was asleep, she marvels at how small he is and when I tell her she use to be that little, she laughs cause she can’t believe she was that tiny. I can’t believe it myself most days, time is going by too fast, I want to slow the ride down and can’t find the stop button. They are my world though and I wouldn’t know life without them.

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  61. Sitting at my computer trying to muster the energy to do the work that absolutely must be done tonight after an EPIC bedtime battle that drained me. I stumbled on this which I needed to read very badly. Thank you. Your words are so often brilliant, but these are some of my favorite. Hugs to you all from the all the Millers.

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  65. Allison Holdman on

    I just love this so much… I come back to this post all the time and always get teary… congrats on your new baby boy πŸ™‚

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  68. Irma Gabriela Thomas-Fitch on

    Yep, I needed to read this cause I’m enjoying every second with my little ones and when it gets hard, I forgot how much I’ll love all this!

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