When a memory keeping mama’s babies aren’t exactly babies anymore

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life37 Comments


cathy zielske.com
I’m writing this from a Mictrotel in Ames, Iowa, having my morning coffee and killing an hour before I head over to Iowa State University to watch my daughter’s team compete for a bid to the D3 National Collegiate Ultimate championships.

My kids aren’t really kids anymore. I think you know this, if you’ve been with me for any length of time, but it’s been so interesting to observe my own transformation as somewhat of a mommy blogger turned middle-aged blogger.

I remember thinking it was cute to say I was middled aged when I turned 40. It wasn’t just cute, it was pretty factual. If I lived to be 80, then 40 really was the middle. Over the past few years, I’ve had fewer stories to share about this whole mama thing, which is funny when I think about it, because if anything, parenting requires an increasing level of sophistication the longer you’re at it. Just when you think you know what’s next, I can attest to the fact that you really don’t. And that actually makes it exciting. And challenging.

I’ve mentioned before that as my children have matured, fewer of their stories are mine to tell. That’s a fact and one that I have honored, because it is the very least I can do, considering how many stories about them I have shared publicly over the years.

Three  years ago, my daughter wrote a post about what it was like for her to grow up in the public eye of a scrapbooking mama. I gave her no direction (as if she would have taken it) and I loved what she wrote.

I’ve worked hard during the past 5 or 6 years to be a better parent. A better wife. A better friend. I’ve changed a lot of my once negative behaviors because when you really connect to the fact that time is not on your side here on this big blue ball, you can do things you never realized you were capable of.

I yelled a lot when the kids were little. I used anger as my way of getting people to comply. And by ‘people’ I mean my three immediate family members. I have asked Aidan a few times what that was like for her, to have a mother who yelled and basically acted like a young child at times when things weren’t exactly going her way. She’ll tell me she really doesn’t remember, but I want her to know that when she does connect to how much that must have sucked, I’m here and I’m ready to listen.

I think that while their stories to share are fewer and far between, I know there are stories of my own that can fill these pages when I’m wanting to write about something other than how to design a kick ass scrapbook page.

I feel that in the past few years, I’ve really dropped off in sharing personal things. I know that is the very thing that has connected many of you to me and kept you coming back.

Just know that I’m working out ways to tell stories from this middle place, a place I am so deeply grateful to be right now, even with all of its imperfections and changes. Because at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


Note: My daughter’s team, after facing a tough semi-final loss in their first game on Sunday, regrouped and came back with so much heart and tenacity, winning their remaining three games and earning their bid to the national championships next month. I may have cried just a little. Talk about a privilege to witness.


Cathy ZielskeWhen a memory keeping mama’s babies aren’t exactly babies anymore

37 Comments on “When a memory keeping mama’s babies aren’t exactly babies anymore”

  1. #1

    Needed to read this today! Mine are only 14 and nearly-16, and time is flying by faster than ever. I’m 47 (and feeling quite middle-aged nowadays) and just trying go with it and savor more than ever.

    Congrats to the girls. That is awesome!!

  2. #2
    Tiff Firth

    I’m nearly at where you are now, regarding my children’s stories are not mine to tell. Particularly my eldest. I ask now if I can share a photo, a scrapbook page or a story. Thankfully she’s still ok with it but I respect her decision when she’s said no on occasion. So your post resonates deeply with me

  3. #3

    I was just thinking about this as I start Week in the Life. Next year I send another to college and we’re down to one kid with us for another three years and then, empty. I’m trying to stay in the moment and revel in the details yet not get too sappy and sad. But I have to say it’s a hard balancing act, and some days I’m better at it than others. I’d say it helps that the senior has a waist-high pile of laundry in his room. 😉 But I am thankful I realized I need to appreciate all of this while my kids are still around, and not after they’ve moved on to their next great thing.

  4. #4

    I’m in a similar boat – kids are 15 and soon to be 18. I’m not dealing with their impending adulthood as well as I should be! I just want them to be young forever, but at the same time I’m so proud of the people they are and I’m trying reeeeeally hard to let them do their thing without being an annoying mom! 😏

  5. #5

    My youngest (of six) left for college across the country two years ago; distance meant he’d only come home between semesters. I was dreading the day he left his entire senior year, and I cried off and on for weeks after we dropped him at his new home-away-from-home. But then being empty nesters became our new normal. Our lives changed but we began to embrace new traditions and new schedules and new routines and new “just us” special moments. And I realize now that every season of life has its own beauty and its own sense of joy and purpose. I am counting the days until my boy gets home for summer break, but when we take him back to the airport in August, I’ll be okay. Hugs to you and thanks for sharing your stories.

  6. #6

    I can relate. The thing that is cool about your blog is that many of your readers have had kids growing up in our homes roughly the same ages as yours so you have always been a kindred internet spirit. Loved hearing about Aiden’s ultimate tournament, they don’t have that as much in Arizona don’t know why, sounds like crazy fun. I think the stories that come out of these middle stage years will be some of the best ever keep sharing. I am expecting my first grandchild sometime this week and watching my son graduate from college in 4 weeks, I feel so grateful it makes me teary eyed just pondering the wonder of it! Have a great day!

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I, too, have followed along with your kids on social media. I can’t believe that you’ll be grandma soon, plus that son of yours! Love seeing all of his theater stuff over the years. 🙂

  7. #7

    I love what you said about stories not being yours to tell, something I’m still learning as a grandma whose grandkids aren’t babies anymore. I think there’s always a place for us on the scrapbooking spectrum – at least, I hope!

  8. #8
    Carol Clayton

    Thank you for this, Cathy! Although I am quite a bit older than you, hubby and I started our family late in life so I watched my Courtney grow up right along with your two. Once Courtney graduated from high school, I have scrapbooked less and less because like you, I didn’t feel it was my place to document things she might not want to share with others My own life, which was full of taking care of my elderly mother, left little time for me to do things that I felt were worth scrapping about. After eight years of taking care of my mom, she has moved on to a sibling who is more physically capable than me, and I’m trying to get back to scrapping about things that I care about. I find that I have been devoting a lot of time to political issues lately, and it has actually given me a passion that I feel the need to document. I’ve actually bought new scrapbook paper for the first time in forever, and that in itself makes me feel energized!

  9. #9

    So funny you would post this today. Yesterday when my “kids” were at the house for Easter, my daughter pulled out the scrapbook of her early life that I had actually completed. She is the mother of my only grandchild, who will be three later this month. We all sat there for over an hour pouring over the pictures, looking at similarities between them and laughing at the crazy haircuts, outfits, and costumes I forced my daughter into. My scrapbooks aren’t anything as beautiful as the ones you have made, trust me on this, but I’m glad that I took the time to make them. If for no other reason, than to document who they are, where they came from and what influenced their early lives. I love that they love to look at them. I only wish I had done more years for them. I’ve loved seeing your kids grow up. And I’ve loved that you have shared them with all of us.

    1. #9.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Marian, yes! And it’s really not about the design, but about the stories and the love. Always.

  10. #10
    Mary Jo

    I just want to say I absolutely respect the fact that you respect their stories are not yours to tell anymore. At least without their permission. I have definitely learned to ask permission before posting photos or any type of story or even Facebook status update without asking my kids first. My fourteen year old son has made it very clear he is uncomfortable with an online presence and I respect that completely. But it’s so tempting at times to just post something because people want to know and they ask me why there are no photos of him anymore. 🙂
    Last night, a family member commented to my son how she was surprised how big he has grown since she never sees photos of him anymore. And it made me happy to see the look on his face when he realized I had honored his wishes. It went a long way towards solidifying his trust in me and there is no way I’m going to break that!
    But as I’m turning 46 this year and kind of in the same place to where stories are more just my own, I am looking forward to seeing what you share. 🙂

  11. #11

    Yes, Cathy, Yes. The middle place. Thanks for sharing that (too) with us. I am totally with you. Glad you got some time to cheer on the Ultimate team and to bask in seeing Aidan in her element! Sigh….


  12. #12

    Yeah, I probably did come for your way with words and pages that told the stories of your young kids…. over time, I just enjoy the things you teach me (and that’s both crafty AND real life!) You have a way with words that just makes it fun to come visit with a coffee and contemplate.

    But ya know….. you’re still a great big enabler…..!!! I’ve just dropped a chunk of change on copics. That’s on you Missy…. and your way with words and s#!t.

  13. #14

    Great story, observations, and convictions. I understand everything in your post except what the heck kind of sport your daughter plays. Not all your readers are hip to team athletics; well, at least not me. My four kids’ priorities have always been academics and the creative arts, with zero interest in sports. I know the focus of your piece isn’t the sport per se, but when a game is part of your story, would you please identify it at least once? Thanks–and congratulations to your daughter and her team.

    1. #14.1

      Hey Ann…. the sport is called Ultimate… it uses a Frisbee like disk, and from a kiwi perspective, is kinda like basketball/netball crossed with football/soccer…. but with a disc.

      It’s really fast paced and athletic. Very fun to watch too. My hubby used to enjoy playing it back in the day.

      1. #14.1.1

        Thank you so much, Kelly, for kindly clueing me in. I have never heard of Ultimate. It must be a Yankee thing. We live in the South where the ultimate sport is football, basketball and baseball are footnotes, soccer is an asterisk, a Frisbee is what our dog chases, and a kiwi is a fuzzy little fruit. Netball? Down here, that’s either volleyball, tennis, badminton, or ping pong. I always figured I was pretty much a zero on sports, but now I know I’m actually a minus! I greatly appreciate the enlightenment.

        1. #
          Cathy Zielske

          Ann! There is some great ultimate down in the south! My daughter’s team competed in Texas last month. And the nationals are in Kentucky! (Is that still considered the south?) 🙂 It’s just not a sport with a big profile at all.

      1. #14.2.1

        Yes, Cathy, you did indeed write”Ultimate,” but you were writing in a language I don’t speak. (See my reply to Kelly.) The “National Collegiate Ultimate Championships” was obviously an event worthy of parental pride, but I couldn’t figure it out. “Collegiate ” and “National” and “Ultimate Championships” meant it was really rigorous: Debate Club finals? Science Fair runoffs? But why was the team wearing shorts? Well, ignorance obviously isn’t always bliss. Thanks to you and Kelly, I’m humbled but wiser. Hooray for your team!

        1. #
          Cathy Zielske

          Ha! yes… I think sometimes I feel I’m too much of an ultimate mom and that I don’t want to give people more info on it than they need. Will do more next time. If you search ‘ultimate’ on my blog, you’ll find a good chunk of posts featuring sports photos and both my kids.

  14. #15

    Cathy, my son got married two weeks ago, so now all kids are married and what was once a house full of rowdy boys is down to just hubby and me. Yes, it’s a transition! We sigh over wonderful memories, and try to focus on the newly appearing perks of an empty nest … but oh, how we loved parenting those three kids!! God has blessed us, and we are now expecting a grandson this summer. The next chapter!

  15. #16

    So happy to be reading that your daughters team is going to Nationals! As a lady ultimate player myself, I loved reading that you wrote this post from the sidelines of her games. My parents have never seen me play ultimate but it has been one of the biggest influence in my adult life. I’m so happy to have found a card making inspired with ultimate playing kids!!

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh man, I wish I could go back, rewind time, and be a young ultimate player. That sport, as you know… it’s seriously amazing.

  16. #18
    Leslie B

    I have always loved reading your blog posts…your site’s been bookmarked for years and it has been the first blog I visit each morning. My kids are around Aidan’s age so I’m right there with you on the “my-kids-aren’t-babies-and-now-wtf-does-life-look-like” thing. Thank you for continuing to share as you navigate through life and its various phases. I’ve appreciated your candor and you really have helped me look at my own life experiences in a new light. Also, if you haven’t started listening to Dear Evan Hansen, you should get that cast recording. it will wreck you…but it’s amazing and funny and beautiful.

  17. #19
    Dawn Carpenter

    As usual this post was so relatable – I was a young mom ( first kid @ 20) and this year as I turn 40 in less than 4 weeks is such a season of change. My oldest is off touring South East Asia – she’s been gone 3 weeks and still has 8 more until she’s home; prior to this the longest we’ve been apart was 10 days. Thank god for technology as I’ve been able to talk to her every day. My 2nd (and only boy) is graduating this year – he had the privilege of doing a dual credit program & is already done school and working his dream job! And my youngest is finishing her last year of elementary school.

    I too felt like I spent their younger years as the screaming crazy lady – always angry and impatient – but the kids don’t remember that part – so I need to let go and focus on the postive parts. Why do the negatives also feature more prominently then the positives?

    Again – thank you for the inspiration and reminding us that this is all part of the progress.

    1. #20.2
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh, not wrong! I love it too! I have a little workaround on my phone that I customized (for my computer, too!) If I remember to just type “A” and “Z” together, it autocorrects to Aidan. 🙂

  18. #21

    Loved reading this today, Cathy! I’m in the middle of the same stage. In the last few weeks, I’ve had 2 attend prom, start the whole dating process (which is very scary to me (and somewhat exciting) as I realize that I must be doing something right in that people of the opposite sex actually find my children charming (including my cave man son and dramatic daughter). Older daughter has completed behind the wheel driving and is awaiting her driver’s test in a few weeks. Sigh, and then baby girl who is 10 has jumped into the adolescent phase right in front of me with sighs, eye-rolls, “mom, you’re embarrassing me!” and “just never-minds.” I’m sad. I’m happy. Bittersweet and still hanging on by a thread two the memories of three sweet babies! So, I’ll just take a deep breath and watch from a safe distance while carefully and gently directing as needed and when called upon.

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