Marking the time

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life36 Comments

This post ran on Ali Edwards’ site recently. I wanted to share it here, as well.


Time is a bullet train.

My daughter Aidan starts her senior year of high school in just over a month. Tack on one more year and she’s off to a yet-to-be-selected college, but one that we’re pretty sure isn’t going to be a hop, skip and a jump from our front door.

Even though there are at minimum 365 days that must pass between now and that time, I find myself mentally preparing for our nest to be lighter by one remarkable body.

And by ‘mentally preparing’, I actually mean, ‘putting it in the farthest corner of my disbelieving mind.’ You see when I agreed to go off birth control back in 1995 I had precisely zero knowledge of exactly what I was signing on for. I wasn’t one of those girls who daydreamed what it would be like to grow up, get married and become a mama. In fact, when I met my husband Dan, one of the first things I needed to get on the table was my lack of desire for children.

It had never even crossed my mind that I’d procreate. During my early teens I babysat for some singularly awful kids and that pretty much sealed the deal: parenting was not something that would ever show up on my resume of life.

But a funny thing happened when I turned 29. I started noticing babies. Everywhere I looked, there they were. And far from the howling, smelly, horrible little poop balls I’d imagined, they were actually—much to my surprise and shock—kind of cute.


Of course, that was 17 years ago—an entire lifetime if you’re my daughter—and what I’m looking at now is, just like embarking on the parenthood journey, an entirely new and foreign landscape to navigate. This singular creature whose care and nurture has been in my charge is preparing to move on and out. Now more than ever, grace and wisdom and love are needed to help her move confidently through this transition.

That is my most important task at hand.

Life does change in a blink. That isn’t some cliché. It seems like just yesterday, when I would tip toe around in the early morning hours to make sure she slept just a little longer so I could snag a cup of coffee in peace and quiet before the day commenced. Today, I could play my 13-year-old son’s drum set and neither she nor he would likely even stir.

It’s things like this that mark the time. Things like realizing they don’t need you to help them decide what to wear anymore. Things like realizing they now stay up later than you do. Things like seeing them develop their own ideas and opinions. Things like realizing they are not simply an extension of you.


As a memory keeper—a scrapbooker who’s out and proud of it—I’m more grateful than ever to have documented parts of her life—of my life—with this beautiful, amazing, surprising and delightful young woman.

I have a lot of friends who would say to me over the years, “I don’t know how you find the time for that sort of thing,” and I hear them. I really do.

I guess it’s just been one of my ways to mark the time.

I love you, baby girl. Here’s to another remarkable year in the life.


Photo by the amazing Margie Scherschligt.



Cathy ZielskeMarking the time

36 Comments on “Marking the time”

  1. #2

    Oh, how this speaks to my heart. I am blessed that sons #1 and 3 are still here at home (for a little while longer …) but son #2 kept telling us, from the time he was just a boy, “I want to be a Marine.” He never wavered. And a couple weeks after his high school graduation party, he was off to boot camp, and I was left to sit in his empty bedroom and wonder how this all happened. So fast! And wonder how to function with this gaping hole in my heart and in our family.

    I prayed a lot. A lot. The entire family had to adjust, but we helped each other and we got through. As you will, Cathy. It’s a heart-breaking, but exhilarating ride. Thank you so much for helping me grab so many life moments, through scrapbooking.

  2. #4
    Sue in Grapevine

    It does go by so quickly! I envy you your record of it all.
    Our job, as parents, is to phase our selves out of full-time parenting & move into an advisory & support role. You seem to be doing this beautifully.
    Lovely writing on a tender subject.

  3. #5
    Martha Saenz

    Ok so I only have one child and he’s 10, but just thinking about what’s to come has me in tears after reading this. Wow CZ, and to think that you didn’t even want kids! Amazing, isn’t it? Thank you for a wonderful blog post, and for inspiration to keep on scrappin’ even when there doesn’t seem to be enough time for it.

  4. #6
    Karen Lee

    I was exactly like you!!!!! Never wanted kids. Didn’t feel comfortable around them. Then, at 35, I couldn’t think of anything else! My son is now 16 and I would KILL, or DIE or do ANYTHING for him.

  5. #8
    Kris Van Allen

    My youngest, and only girl, Grace, is the same age as Aidan. I feel as if they have grown up together in a way, having followed your blog from early on (even before you took the long break from blogging). Thank you for sharing so much of your lives with us, so that we are reminded to notice and cherish every little thing in life.

  6. #9
    Steph H

    Cathy, while my boys are only 4 and 1, I read this with a steady stream of tears. It’s a good thing I have 13 or so years before this is a reality in my life! I wish I could stop time. (Except for that sleeping part. I cannot WAIT for these boys to sleep later than their mama!)

  7. #10
    Martha Moring

    Oh, Cathy, this makes me cry. My son is the same age as Aiden and 365 days ago I thought, “It’s all good, man. I’ve got two years left with you at home.” And almost overnight, that changed and he decided he was ready to finish high school a WHOLE YEAR EARLY!!
    “What?!” I said. “Are you kidding?”
    He was not.
    And he did what he needed to finish early. He was accepted to University, with almost a full-ride, and is headed there in a week.
    My last 365 days disappeared before my eyes.
    I am thrilled for the amazing ride he is about to embark on, but his dad, little sister and I are still reeling a bit.
    This post spoke to my heart.
    Thank you and enjoy every single second.

  8. #11

    I have one in stationed AF in Japan, another a junior in college and, believe it or not, one more just entering 7th grade! So I have one foot firmly panted in empty nester-ness and the other still being a mama and a teacher and a boo-boo kisser. As is usual when my daughter heads back to college on Sat, I know the tears will fall as soon as we pull away from her dorm. That’s been the scenario for 2 yrs and I’m going for my 3rd.

    I have to tell you Cathy that it doesn’t get any easier letting em go but the heart smiles you have in the years to follow at the things they do or say that has everything to do with all the years of raising these lil chicks of ours will rise exponentially….cause you never thought your heart could still grow that big AFTER they leave. I’ll be watching this space in 365 and will be virtually holding your hand with love and support when Aiden takes her first letting go steps.

  9. #14
    Janet Cox

    what a beautiful post. I have tears dripping into my coffee.
    thank you for that reminder of ‘why’ I scrapbook…

  10. #15
    Gypsy Chaos

    Your talent for writing made my eyes and heart and soul weep. I was laid off during my twin sons’ junior year. The thought of 2/3 of my kids – my youngest two – entering their senior year must made me melt. That’s when I decided to do Project Life. I started with Sep 1, 2010 and finished with our trip to deliver the youngest to my alma mater. His older brother chose the community college. Our oldest moved into her own apartment while we were moving in the college freshman. Three suddenly became one. Then two as daughter moved home again, lost her job and is now preparing for law school. And three during the summer. Youngest leaves THIS WEEKEND for his junior year! We don’t even get to go; his brother drives out to ‘help’. Sniff. Sigh. Time flies .

    ( I knew I would marry this guy when I suddenly switched from refusing to consider raising children to wanting to raise our children! Something is working; October will mark our 30th anniversary.

  11. #16
    Eileen Van Dyke

    My daughter literally just said,”two more weeks till I’m gone!”. 365 days ago when I was in your position. I thought that would be enough time to get used to the idea that my baby girl would be leaving me for college but now with just 14 days left – I’m not ready! So glad that I scrapbook to be able to record this time of our lives because it’s a big moment in my life as well as hers! Thanks for a wonderful post, nice to know I’m not alone in my feelings about this.

  12. #18

    Seriously. My DD is four and my DS is two, so I have a ways to go before college, but this post still made me all teary. The past four years have FLOWN by! Can I just say that I love that photo of you and Aidan – so beautiful!

  13. #19

    Cathy, I truly enjoy reading your posts about your kids growing up and changes in your family. I absolutely love the portrait of the two of you. She will continue to be your little girl for ever and ever in many ways regardless of the Seasons and the changes they bring into your lives. Enjoy!

  14. #20

    I would highly recommend the book Letting Go. It was given to us when our son was looking at colleges. Q

  15. #21
    Nita K.

    Love this post as much this time as when I read it on Ali’s blog. That last picture of the two of you is amazing! One of my faves.

  16. #22
    Kim Delaney

    Love this post, and especially the beautiful picture of the two of you at the end. I, too, am in the same boat as you with my oldest starting his senior year of high school Monday 🙁

  17. #24

    My daughter, my one and only child who entered my life via international adoption (Guatemala), enters high school in a little over a week. I have already started thinking about how, in four years, off she goes. My heart cracks a little each time. I remember when she was younger and very insistent that she would not go away for college. I remember when she told me she would always live with me. I remember laughing and saying, ” No, you will need to be on your own”. What was I thinking?! It is part of life,that they move on, but I don’t have to be happy about it, do I? Thanks for,sharing.

  18. #26
    Stephanie Sajjadieh

    What a lovely post and even lovelier picture! As a high school teacher for over two decades, I have had the pleasure of shepherding hundreds of students as they negotiate that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood, but I still felt unprepared when my own daughter, my only child, left for college in 2005. We have always been close, and I feared that our relationship would never have the intimacy that it had when we shared our home. After eight years, the last three watching her move into the workforce and her own apartment, our relationship has continued to grow and evolve, with a new and different power and depth. Now when we meet for our weekly Thursday dinner we come together not only as mother and daughter, but also as friends. I have followed your blog for years, Cathy, and I feel certain that you and Aidan will continue to share the same wonderful relationship, one that feels so like the one I treasure with my darling Olivia.

  19. #27

    Cathy this is a great post. Thank you for sharing it again. I’m currently doing Hello Story with Ali and I love the story structures she has given us. One was ” time” and I have really enjoyed reflecting back as my baby girl has just turned 12. Tomorrow she will shave off her long hair for Child Cancer here in New Zealand and we are incredibly proud of her. She has raised $1054.80 so far. Many incredibly generous people have supported her to do this amazing thing. Aimee is one of 11 kids from her school participating in this event and together they have raised $5932.00. An awesome effort for 12 and 13 year olds.
    I love that my baby girl is about to do something so wonderful but yet a little daunting for her as well.
    As I have read your blog and watched your children grow I have also thought oh mine will be there soon enough. I love that your daughter is so incredibly strong, creative and confident. I hope/think that my daughter is on her way there as she makes her way in the world.
    If you want to check my girlie’s page out she is here:
    Love that photo of you two. Amazing photography.
    Cheers Karen

  20. #28
    Missus Wookie

    This post made me teary last time I read it and it did again today – but then my 19 year old daughter got into the university of her dreams today and heads off in a few short weeks. It does fly past doesn’t it?

  21. #29

    I am one year behind you, but feeling it every day in all the little things. How can I possibly bear it? This is truly one of the hardest parts of parenting I’ve encountered so far.

  22. #30

    I have tears in my eyes! And then I saw that amazing photo of you and Aidan and those same tears are running down my face. I’m just a few years behind you, my baby boy starts high school next week and my baby girl starts middle school the same day. Time is absolutely marching on. And like you, I never imagined myself a mama. So, at 52, with an 11 year old, I can relate!

    Enjoy every moment! I know you do and I know you will!

  23. #31

    Yep, ditto here as well….it’s not a pretty site here….drying my eyes on my bathrobe sleeve… lordy, mine is a junior this year — I pretty much had a major melt down on my hubby when she drove away in the car by herself the first time! I know it’s part of the process, but man, I’m just never ready when the next milestone happens!

  24. #32

    I live in California and am taking my daughter to Indiana on Monday to start her Freshman year in college. It’s hard to believe that this next rite of passage is only two days away. It was hard booking two tickets to Indianapolis & only one ticket back home. It’s hard to believe she’s not going to be here this time next week. It’s hard to watch her be stronger than I am. Nothing is easy about this transition. My prayer is that, as parents, we’ve said all of the the things we’ve needed to say & done the things we’ve needed to do to launch her into the world as a compassionate and loving person, and that she knows how much she is loved.

  25. #34
    Jeanne Ann

    It’s funny how part of you is mentally preparing for the heartache of having your child go off into the world, and rejoicing in that. My baby, who I never could have pictured at 16 when she was born I am now having to picture as an adult who in 2 short years will be out of the nest and on her own doing what she thinks is best. You are lucky in that you have documented all those little things and those big things that when you both look back years from now will make you smile and cry. I haven’t been as steadfast in the documenting in the past few years as I once was, and I feel like it has slipped past. Time to buckle down and see it through!

  26. #35

    This made me teary..and I’m only 28, dealing with poopy diapers, cleaning tiny fingerprints off furniture, and “tip-toeing around.” I just already know how much I’m going to painfully miss these kids.

  27. #36

    My oldest dd is the same age. Looking at colleges, starting her senior year. Crazy how time flies! My other one is only two years behind her. I can’t even imagine not having them home living with us. Most of the time anyway. lol

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