The Free Motion Quilting Project: Where Did My Baby Go?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where Did My Baby Go?

We've all heard this phrase.  I think I've heard it hundreds of times from my parents, and other parents I know, but for the first time, today, I understand what this question really means.

It is not a rhetorical question meant to insight the guilt and chagrin of the child.  For some reason every time I heard this phrase as a kid, I always felt guilty for growing up, like I was somehow doing something wrong by getting older!

But as a parent, I now understand that this question is really an expression of heartache.  Of course we want our children to grow up to healthy, functioning adults, but it's also a sad marker of time passing and days and years we can never return to.

Whats behind all this emotional rambling?

Today James started real school.

Where did my baby go?

Yes, he's been in preschool for 4 years, but for some reason starting pre-kindergarten today seems different. It's the start of real school - longer days, friendships that will grow each year, and soon he'll be able to read and write and before I know it he'll be all grown up.

No, my five year old is not leaving for college today, but I can suddenly see and feel just how soon that day will come.

Where did my baby go?

This might seem ridiculously silly, but I can honestly see a total change in my perspective as a parent from this event. 

Last week I began working on a quilt design for a quilt representing a mother and child.  Last week I depicted the two figures as trees rooted together side by side.

That's as good an explanation for my previous line of thinking as I can illustrate.  I felt James as a permanent fixture in my life, rooted next to me.  The other quilt I've designed with mother and child, the figures were literally interconnected:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But now these illustrations don't work for me.  They don't accurately represent the true nature of our children - gifts given for a short time.

It seems silly that I of all people could forget this.  Yes, we can have children, raise them, love them, but there are no guarantees they will stay close.  Once grown, it is the child's decision to stay close or to fly away to distant places.

Last night I could suddenly feel James's absence from my life.  From now on, he will be away at school from 7 until 4 - the longest block of time ever.  All summer I was looking forward to this time to quilt and work, but I wish I could just have a few more years of my baby back.

I know I'm not the only parent who lives with regrets.  I should have played more, worked less, paid more attention, smiled, laughed, cuddled, and hugged more often.  No matter how much time we have, we wish we could have a bit more.

I know it's normal to feel this way.  My dad warned me that I might grieve a bit today and he was right.  It's sad, but it's a good sad.  I'm grieving the years gone, and at the same time making a dedication for the years left.  They will not be missed or wasted.

Today I'm going to start working on a new quilt design and again the mother figure will be a tree, but this time the child will be winged like a bird.

Our children are like birds.  They roost for a short time in our loving branches, but one day they have to fly away.
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Sorry for the bad sketch, I only had paper towels to draw on!
Today James didn't cry a bit, but I did.  I explained what would happen at drop off over and over so he unbuckled his seat belt, picked up his backpack, held a teacher's hand and walked into school without a blink.  He was ready to go.

He was every inch my brave sweet boy flying off to new adventures, and I could only sit and watch, wish him luck, and drive away.

Here's to the years we have.



  1. Awe, I so know how you feel. My oldest son's first day, I let him get on the school bus(he wanted to so bad). The only hesitation was mine, not his:)

  2. It has been many years since I experienced this stretching and breaking of the apron strings. My youngest is in college and we have had an empty nest off and on for about 5 years now, but those moments of each child spreading their wings and venturing off to school are etched vividly in my mind. Each time brought tears for the very reasons you describe. Motherhood is an emotional journey for sure, but so worth it!

  3. Congrats! You have made it to a major milestone!

  4. I love where your paper towel quilt sketch is going so far despite the tears it brought to my eyes. Always give thanks for each day you have with your precious child. Right now I'm working on a small memorial angel quilt for a young mother still grieving the loss of her first, unborn child. My grandchild. So difficult but there should be something tangible for us to remember her existence, however brief. Another reason for quilts.

  5. Leah, my heart goes out to you. My "babies" are 30, 27 and 24 but I remember dropping the first one off at school like it was yesterday. I came home and cried like a baby. And as I got used to one phase, another emerged and there were more good byes to be said to the way things were. But each phase molded the relationship in new ways and eventually as the childlikeness innocence gave way to adult resposibilities my love changed too from wanting to protect, to more gentle guiding and eventually to admiration for the men (yes, they're ALL male) they've become. Enjoy the adventure!

  6. Even though I do not have children and even don't plan on having any, you made me cry. Thank you :)

  7. Leah, you brought tears to my eyes once again.
    Except i'm in the "phase" where both of my girls have moved out (they're 21 & 22), and believe me when i say
    even that time comes tooooooo fast!
    Cherish every moment.
    And now you really & truly know why. =-)

  8. Oh Leah ~ I remember those days, and my heart still twinges a bit at the thought of the number of sendoffs, school, camp, sleepovers, college, on and on. My thoughts and prayers are with you all, what exiting times... as a stay at home momma who raised three children, I know exactly what you mean, growing pains, not only for the children, but for the momma's too. Thanks for sharing

  9. I ask myself that same question all the time and my 'baby' is 25!!!

  10. aw... that's sweet.. They grow out so fast don't they... He's adorable!

  11. One day I'll get there too...

  12. My youngest (6) finished her first year of kindergarten in June. Her first day will be etched in my memory and soul till the end, her teacher (whom,btw, had taught the other 2) saw my face, put her hand on mine and said "The last one is always the hardest to let go." She was right ;) I shed a tear of bittersweet happiness for my eldest girl, was extremely proud and excited for my middle girl and I bawled like a baby when I let my last one go. I still get weepy thinking about it.


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