About a Boy


This is a story about a boy and his room.

When he went to sleep that night nine years ago, our first night in this house, boxes were piled high around him. Before he fell asleep, I read to him from his favorite book, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales — I’d packed it along with his teddy bear and his new checkered comforter and marked the box OPEN FIRST.

After the story, I lay next to him for awhile, the lights still on. He wasn’t ready, he said, to turn them off, or for me to go. So I pushed the hidden button on the teddy bear’s heart — the one that triggered the 30-second recording of me singing a few lines from “Help.” It had become his lullaby when he was an infant, when I was so sleep-deprived that I couldn’t remember the words to a single other song.

When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way…

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I watched him as he grew sleepy. His lashes were as golden as his hair, and dipped at the ends. His skin was perfect. I knew he was halfway between the years of wide-eyed wonder and those of surly rebellion — the Time of Bliss — and I wanted to savor every moment. What a boy, I thought, what a magical nine-year-old boy. When he laughed, it made me laugh. When he cried, it made my heart ache. If he were selling dirt door to door and I’d never met him, and didn’t need any dirt — just one look at that face and I’d have bought a truckload.

We sang along, and he pushed the button over and over, until he drifted off to dreamland, and I got to work.

I’d made up my mind that I was going to unpack all the boxes in his room — so that when he opened his eyes the next morning, he’d find it entirely different from when he closed them. The six months leading up to the 1400-mile move had been hard: his father had gone ahead of us for his job, while we stayed behind to finish the school year. That winter was brutal, one of the worst in memory — one ice storm after another, followed by difficult goodbyes to friends, to teachers, to the home and the places he loved. I wanted to make him happy — to give back some of the bliss he’d given me just by being him. To create a space that he would enjoy the way he had his old room, where he acted out characters from books and assembled Lego creatures both large and small.

Fortunately, he slept like a log. I hung clothes in his closet and capes and hats on wooden pegs, put pictures on the walls, books on shelves, and toys in his red, wooden wagon. I displayed his Lego creations, stored trading cards in a shoe box under the bed, and lay his moon-and-stars rug on the floor. Over his bed I hung the yellow Styrofoam sun with a smiling face.

By 4 a.m., I was finished. I’d even flattened the boxes and carried them to our box-filled garage. Before I went to sleep, I set my alarm for 8 a.m. — I wanted to see the expression on his face when he woke up.

At 7 a.m., he was standing next to my bed.

“Mom,” he said, touching my arm. “Mom, wake up, please.”

I sat up. “Why are you awake so early?”

“Cause something happened when I was sleeping,” he said.


“My room got nice. The boxes are gone,” he said. “You gotta come see my room.”

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Last week, after taking him to college to begin his freshman year, I packed up that same room. Some of his things will be thrown away, some given away, some kept for memory’s sake. He still had the Legos and the trading cards, but most of the other things had been replaced or boxed up over the years. There were a few drawings and pictures left on the wall — he’d mailed his favorite posters to his dorm, including several of The Beatles. His closet was mostly empty, save for a few hanging items wrapped in plastic — the judo clothes that had been my husband’s as a child, the wool blazer my mother gave him when he was a toddler, the tiny fake leather jacket he wore when he pretended to be Elvis, the honor-society tees.

I vacuumed curtains, bedding, and dried-up toothpaste on the carpet.

I dusted the sun with the smiling face.

The button on the bear had long ago lost its juice, but I sat down on his bed and sang the lullaby one last time.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down 
And I do appreciate you being ’round 
Help me get my feet back on the ground 
Won’t you, please, please help me? 
Help me, help me, ooh.

About the writer


Melissa T. Shultz is a writer, and an editor with Jim Donovan Literary. Her essays and articles have run in publications such as The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Babble.com, Newsweek, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, BetterAfter50.com, and The Los Angeles Times as well as CNN Radio. She was previously director of creative services for Food Marketing Institute in Washington, D.C. Her first book will be published by Sourcebooks in 2016. Follow her on Twitter and her blog, Sisterhood of Mothers.com.


Anonymous 3 months ago

I so know how you feel. Both my older boys moved out. I felt so sad and empty each time one of my kids left home. One of my sons is moving bAck I live close to his college and I am thrilled. Hang in there life has turns. You never know what’s around the corner.

Lauren 6 months ago

Great article! My girls are still little and time is already going by too fast:)

Puzzle Game Apps 7 months ago

These are truly wonderful ideas in on the topic of blogging.
You have touched some nice things here. Any way keep up wrinting.

Vicki 8 months ago

And I’m crying….I have a 2 year old and SO not looking forward to how fast time is going to go!

Megan 9 months ago

I experienced this vicariously through “Andy’s Mom” … I was 8 months pregnant with my son, watching Toy Story 3, crying my eyes out for how Andy’s Mom must have felt, packing her boy’s room for college, knowing how I was going to feel in 18 short years.

This was so sweet, thank you for sharing.

carpoolqueenof7 9 months ago

this took me back to walking into my oldest child’s room just days after her departure and opening her closet. I still cry when I think of what was left behind…Her letterman’s jacket,an old grade school jumper (why?) and graduation gown. I tell my friends after their children leave for college..DO NOT GO IN THE CLOSET.

Danielle 9 months ago

I have two handsome boys myself. A 2 year old and 1 month old, both sandy blonde haired and blue eyed. I somehow hope as the years pass it get easier to watch them leave because reading this broke my heart. No where near ready for those days. Great read!

Debbie 9 months ago

Oh great! We are going out to dinner and now I have to re do my make-up! Wonderful story of your son!

Mary 9 months ago

Tears! My 9 year old son asks me to snuggle with him every night. Some nights I really just want to hurry along and get other stuff done, but lately I’ve been snuggling him every night that he asks- because I know he’s a heartbeat away from not wanting that anymore. Beautiful article!

Nat 9 months ago

Thank you. I have two boys :’)

Ashley Barr 9 months ago

Reminded me of the children’s book love you forever that book will always make me tear up when I read it but it’s such a good book

Tricia Sayers 9 months ago

I knew I shouldn’t of read this stupid feelings.

Georgia DiBattista 9 months ago

Oh yes! It is so hard! I cried my eyes out, after my daughter moved into the dorm, and she hadn’t even been living with me.

Sue King 9 months ago

Would you really pack up your college son’s room? Like he won’t ever come home?

Lisa Michelle 9 months ago

Dammit I have something In my eye

Kyrsten Suzanne Shapiro 9 months ago

Oh so sweet. I have something in both of my eyes.

Andrea Sene 9 months ago

Reminds me of the end of toy story 3. Andys mom hugged him and said ” I wish I could always be with you” Every time my boys take another step toward independence my heart breaks a little even though I thrill in watching them progress.

Kimberly Nelson 9 months ago


Veya van Noort 9 months ago

We moved to another country in August, and my little two year old girl’s room was the first one to be done. Obviously.

Suzy Weinberg Snyder 9 months ago

My oldest son is almost 13 and the thought of him leaviin for college in t short years breaks my heart. I think I will go with him :).

Henrietta Barron Scott 9 months ago


Jennie Reis 9 months ago

Oh wow. My heart hurts. The thought of my almost four-year-old going off to college makes me want to freeze time. ♡

Savanna Hartman 9 months ago


Nicole Kosby 9 months ago

Now I want to wake up my toddler so I can hold him

Jeanine Daddario 9 months ago

I love this! Made me cry!!

Kimberly Davis 9 months ago

High school graduation in 2 months and 21 days. My brilliant, talented and amazingly wonderful baby girl is so grown up. I don’t know how this happened and you made me break my no crying rule. Thanks… I think.. I don’t suppose you found a rewind button??? Sigh. Didn’t think so

Mandy Conn 9 months ago

In just a few short months our last two will be leaving for college. This one hit home for me.

Melinda Holmes 9 months ago

hmmm… dried up “toothpaste” on the bedroom carpet… yes, keep telling yourself that’s what it was.

Dana Wisniewski 9 months ago

Anyone else thinking of toy story 3 and Andy leaving for college? Can you tell I have toddlers?

Tara Boell Treppiedi 9 months ago

omgoodness, yes, tears, but thanks for the reminder that one day we’ll miss them (tweens!) that is so sweet

Donna D. Early 9 months ago


Nikolaj Larsen 9 months ago

why would I need tissues? Who the hell would wank to this? you people are sick

Diana Armijo 9 months ago

Awww so sweet an sad. Makes me sad lately knowing my son is finally 1 years old an he’s getting bigger everyday. He won’t be little little for too long now :'(

Lauren Stallings 9 months ago

Not the article to read on my son’s fourth birthday

Denise Marie Hulsey Mace 9 months ago

Oh god, right in the feels.

Paula Summ-Watters 9 months ago


Monica Arias 9 months ago

So so many tears. The years go by much to fast

Eliza Deary 9 months ago

Hehe. Help was my toddler’s favorite word. So I sing that song and he times the helps. Still little. Still precious sweet moments of wonder. <3

Catherine Marie 9 months ago

Oh my

Chelsea Schoaff 9 months ago

Waaaaaaaah oh I need to hug my boys. Like right this minute. Sadly, I am at work and they are at home making memories. The mom guilt is strong.

Kimberly Rhodes Taber 9 months ago

Yep! I’m crying! Lol

Shan Grech 9 months ago

Ohhhhh I can’t even.

Amber Dawn Lewis 9 months ago

Crap. Why did I read this?

Danielle Wetenkamp 9 months ago


Lauren Martin 9 months ago

Oh damnnit

Renee McFadden 9 months ago

Jeez! My eyes! Ahhhh! Feelings everywhere!

Jennifer 1 year ago

We are looking to move in a few months and have two boys, a 9 year old and a 5 year old. They are looking forward to the move with some trepidation. This post really hits home. How beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

Sarah H 1 year ago

My son is almost 6 months old. I am looking forward to his whole entire life. This made me tear up. Thank you.

Allisen Shaw 2 years ago

Tears flowing! My boys are 9 & 13. Although I’m excited to know the young men they will become….I don’t want them to go!!

Erica Wint McGillicuddy 2 years ago

A nice reminder while I am “in the trenches” with a 3 and 5 year old. It’s hard, but I know will go by so fast… :_-)

Tammy-Epp Sylvestre 2 years ago

Awwwwe this is so precious!!!

Jennifer Flavin McMullin 2 years ago

This made the tears flow. I remember setting up my sons’ rooms when we moved a short distance to our new house- they were 2 and 6- they are now 9 and 13 and we have since had another son who is four. The time goes by so quickly, I know how lucky I am to have them in my life and am cherishing every sweet moment.

Love 2 years ago

Oh like a knife to my heart! I have a preschooler and 4 teenagers, and I spend more time than I’d like to admit sobbing in my heart about the inevitable day they’re all going to leave me.

Carrie Weaver 2 years ago

Gets me every time. Touching

Karyn M. Osuna-Poindexter 2 years ago

Oh, sweet baby Jesus. I was fine until the very last line. My son is 7 and when he was just a wee bit, I created a lullaby for him that I sing to him every single night. And I plan on singing it to him until I take my last breath. The thought, the very simple idea of him growing up and away from me is, but for a second, wonderful, and fills me with freedom. Then, I’m slammed with such sadness that I can’t bare. This story definitely hits home.

Mommadiesel 2 years ago

My blonde blue eyed baby boy will be 30 this year. ” Send in the clowns” was the song I would have to sing after the wind up music box wouldnt play it anymore. Next month he will have his own baby girl and I know he will finally understand what I really meant when I would tell him that even when I’m gone he will still and always will be my baby boy. Now I got to go blow my nose n wipe my tears away so he wont see them when he stops by to have lunch.

Christy Laverty 2 years ago

wow, my aching heart. What a great piece. My girls are 10 and 8 and I always wish I could slow down time. We spend so much time in our lives worrying about stuff and forgetting to slow down and cherish those every day sweet moments with the people we love. This is just so sweet. Thanks for sharing it

Andi White Sousa 2 years ago

Beautiful story and memory. My boy is only four, but it seems like yesterday I was rocking him to sleep as I sang Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” the only thing that would soothe him. The little details in this story will forever trigger happy memories :)

Tina Ayer Jageler 2 years ago

Oh wow. Cried like a baby. My son is 4 and my last baby. He’s getting more and more independent, but still loves to sit on my lap and give me kisses. I’ve got to remember that these days will soon be gone.

Nicole Robilliard Beck 2 years ago

Oh, my heart!

Jennifer Kiss Hunter 2 years ago

My boys just turned 15! OMG, only 3 more years? Where does the time go?? :'(

Rebecca Pursel 2 years ago

My son will be 18 months old this Friday and i just bawled like he was leaving for college tomorrow..

Sweetie Darlin 2 years ago

In a few short weeks I will watch my first child walk across that stage with her high school diploma. I can’t even think about how just a few days ago I was changing diapers and wiping snotty noses. Now she is on her own path to become Miss America. My little happy go lucky blonde haired baby girl. This post in a sweet remembrance of how those moments of happy will stay with us always.

Jessica Sato 2 years ago

I have read this before and it always makes me cry. I can’t even imagine the day when my son is grown.

Toni Como-Clayton 2 years ago

Oh, I cried…sobbed a little…my oldest is 9…..

Shalane Jarnagin 2 years ago

I have two little ones of my own and find muself crying sometimes wondering what I’m going to do when they leave me.

Sheena Buteau 2 years ago

My two baby boys, 5 and 8. It’s already beginning. They’re starting not I need mommy that much anymore. Both in school, both making new friends, both growing up way too fast. The boys they have become are amazing. I’m so proud of who they are!

Sarah Theriault 2 years ago

Ah! You can’t do this to me! My one and only baby boy is already 20 months old.

Sarah 2 years ago

I’m crying now, hahaha. My son is only 2. My first child and only child and the years have gone by too quickly and this post reminded me how they will continue to go by too quickly and before I know it, my little man won’t be so little anymore. Right now he’s sleeping soundly in my bed because we have to share a room, me being a single mom and having to live with a roommate in a tiny 2-bedroom. Haha I wanted him to start sleeping in his own little bed again so the other night I had him sleep there. He did great but I was utterly exhausted the next day which didn’t make any sense. How can I not get good sleep without those little feet laying over my chest or those little arms wrapped tightly around my head? I can’t wait to see the man he’ll become but, then again, I don’t want tomorrow to come.

Lucy Dale 2 years ago

Jesus I’m tearing up just reading the comments! I have my one and only 2.5 year old boy so I’m not gonna read this post!

Soph Tarttelin 2 years ago

Whenever my mum came to see my functions band play I would dedicate this song to her……last sang it to her in October 2006. She died in the January of 2007. It will always be my song to her. We always need our mums. :-(

Janet Solesbee 2 years ago

Such a beautiful story!

Karen Thomson Cain 2 years ago

Sigh…I remember when my little blond boy stepped off the bus, the first thing he looked for was me! BIG HUGS for me!, Now that he’s 12, he races past me, though he does appreciate it if I have the front door open, so he doesn’t have to stop his full-blown teenage mayhem that is a twelve year old boy.

When he is at camp this summer, I will be quietly boxing up the stuffed bunnies, elephants and bears. No more eggs and ham, no more Poo and you, no more Easter baskets with that filmy neon green grass drifting down around each egg.

Occasionally I still get glimpses of my sweet baby boy. Over Spring Break, at Fiesta Texas, my sweet boy broke away from the pack of all he-wolves, the mothers were following a discreet distance behind so as not to embarrass them, ran up to me, said ‘Love you and I’ll be right over there’, and was off like a flash, back to his world. Having him acknowledge me in his world, even though I never lost sight of him, makes me feel as though he’s not ready to lose sight of me yet either. It warmed my heart to know that even though he was hanging out with his friends, and trying to be ‘cool’, he still wanted to know where I was and wanted me to know where he was at all times.

I know many more changes are on the way, some I welcome, some more bittersweet, but all I can hope for is that he knows he always has a home to come home to no matter what, I’ll always leave a light on for him, and as his momma, I’ll love him forever and ever, no matter what.

Michelle Tamasa 2 years ago

I dunno if I want to read it… I identify with your blog posts way too much….


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