On Mother’s Day


I won’t grow up…
I don’t want to wear a tie…
Or a serious expression…
In the middle of July…”

The words of the Peter Pan song float down the hall and give me pause. I grin and tiptoe into the hallway. I peek my head into his bedroom, where he sits among his Legos.

“What are you singing, sweetheart?”

He gasps upon seeing me. “MOM! You can’t hear it! It’s supposed to be a surprise!”

Wearing the look of someone properly chastised, I ask, “Hear what? I didn’t hear anything. Did you?”

The smile that melts my heart spreads wide across his 7 year old face. His eyes alight and his nose wrinkles as he answers, “I know you’re kidding, Mom.”

Scrambled eggs topped with a slice of American cheese. A hanging plant. A new pair of running sneakers. A pair of gardening gloves…typically pink. A trail hike along the Wissahickon. And four hand-drawn cards. These are my gifts every Mother’s Day.

One card is crafted by my oldest son under slight protest, and contains very few words…just a small illustration drawn in pencil with a cute joke. When he hands it to me, he leans in and allows me a treat…a hug…very rare for this private boy in the midst of his tween years.

Another card is drawn in marker…illustrated in detail…and typically pictures me, grinning broadly, face covered in freckles, donning a cape. That card comes from my 10 year old. With it comes a hug that lingers just a touch, delivered by the arms of an imaginative boy whose right hand and left fingertips still bear the dark blue smudges of the markers he’s used to create my card.

Two more cards are thrust into my hands, but I don’t look at them immediately. Their givers wrap their small arms around my neck, climb onto my lap, and lean their heads on my shoulders.  They are 7 and 4. Nothing about them smells of baby anymore. But it doesn’t make them any less my babies. When I glance over their resting heads at the cards they’ve made, my eyes well with tears as I see the white pieces of printer paper bearing the words, “I LOVE YOU, MOM”.

The simplest of messages.

The most poignant.

The only words that truly matter.

Written by boys whose awkward grips on their writing instruments are still a bit too firm. Whose letters are written with painstaking concentration by hands that’ve yet to know their shapes as second nature.

It is a few minutes before 8AM on a Thursday morning. I sit in a pew among a sea of fellow kindergarten parents in the school chapel. We await the entrance of our sons. I suspect I’m about to hear the song I stumbled upon my son singing last week. The song about staying a boy. And the lump begins in my throat.

The conversations cease, the parents sit straighter, and iPhones are hastily retrieved from jacket pockets and handbags as our boys file into the chapel. They wear hats…chef hats, fireman hats, hard hats, and fezzes…and wave enthusiastically at us as they take their places on the stage.

My boy doesn’t see me immediately. He peers out at the audience from under his hard hat. I know he spots me when that grin of his…the one that warms my heart all the way down to my toes…spreads across his face. I wave to him, blow him a kiss, and he tips his hard hat in response. And that lump in my throat warns me a mere fraction of a second before it happens that the first of my tears is about to fall.

“I won’t grow up…
I don’t want to go to school.
Just to learn to be a parrot…
And recite a silly rule.”

I wipe the tears…first with my fingertips, then with the heels of my hands…as they fall.

“If growing up means…
It would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree…
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up…
Not me!
Not I…
Not me!”

I cry because this boy…the third of my four sons…has come so far in just a year. I cry for the enthusiasm with which he sings…and because I know that enthusiasm has quite possibly reached its peak…it will soon drop off slowly or maybe more abruptly as I’ve witnessed with both of his two older brothers.

“I won’t grow up…
I don’t want to wear a tie.
And a serious expression…
In the middle of July.”

I cry for the magic of kindergarten. The innocence of their precious existence. The excitement of new friendships. The joy of learning to read and write. The independence that’s begun. The pants which were a smidge too long in September and are suddenly…surprisingly…an inch too short.

“And if it means I must prepare…
To shoulder burdens with a worried air…
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up…
Not me…
Not I…
Not me!”

I cry for Kate. For her first Mother’s Day without Gavin, the miraculous boy who made Kate a Mom. The courageous boy who imprinted on the hearts of so many without ever uttering a single word.

“So there!
Never gonna be a man…
I won’t!
Like to see somebody try…
And make me.
Anyone who wants to try…
And make me turn into a man…
Catch me if you can.”

I cry for the parents of the victims of the shooting in Aurora, CO, last summer. For the Moms who will spend their first Mother’s Day without their children by their sides.

“I won’t grow up.
Not a penny will I pinch.
I will never grow a mustache…
Or a fraction of an inch.
‘Cause growing up is awfuller…
Than all the awful things that ever were.”

I cry because there is something more awful than growing up. The group of Moms a few hours North of me can attest to that. The group of Moms whose children…the same age as my boy who sings so passionately before me…will not take the stage and sing in celebration of this Mother’s Day. Or any Mother’s Day. I weep for the babies of Newtown, CT, who never got the chance to grow up.

“I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up…
No sir…
Not I…
Not me…
So there!
We won’t grow up!
We will never grow a day…
And if someone tries to make it…
We will simply run away!”

I cry for Denise Richard, whose young son, Martin, died so tragically in the Boston Marathon bombings. For the shrapnel that lodged itself in her brain, and for her daughter who lost a leg in the same explosion that took her beloved boy.

 “I won’t grow up!
No, I promise that I won’t…
I will stay a boy forever…
And be banished if I don’t!”

I cry for Jeff Bauman. Who lost both legs in Boston. I cry for Jeff’s Mom and stepmom, who will celebrate a different kind of Mother’s Day this year. They will hug Jeff from the confines of his wheelchair. Because the recent loss of his legs renders him unable to stand up and wrap his arms around them in a Mother’s Day embrace.

 “And Never Land will always be…
The home of beauty and joy…
And neverty…
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up…
Not me!
No sir!
Not me!”

They bow. We applaud. I quickly wipe the remainder of my tears. Aware that my two older sons are several rows behind me. Knowing they’ll be embarrassed…possibly by my mere existence and certainly by my display of emotion…if they see fresh tears upon my cheeks.

This year, on Mother’s Day, I will savor every bite of my eggs. I’ll stop to inhale my fragrant flowers. Slip on my brand new running shoes. Slide my hands into my clean gardening gloves. Enjoy every step of our family hike…even the steps that are accompanied by complaints of tired legs and empty bellies.  Save each of the cards made for me by the four people I love most in this beautiful world…this beautiful, scary world whose tragedies rocked the existence of so many mothers in the last year.

In honor of all the Mothers whose children will never grow up…and for those Moms whose children cannot stand up…I will soak up every delicious second of my Mother’s Day.

Lucky to be surrounded by my children.

Painfully aware that so many Moms will not enjoy that simple…that most important…luxury this year.

Love, peace, and healing to you this Mother’s Day.

About the writer


Bethany is a wife, a mom to 4 boys, a runner, a lover of yoga, and a dedicated list-maker. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post and in I Just Want to Pee Alone. She can be found on her blog, I Love Them the Most When They're Sleeping, on Twitter as @4godssakeboys or on Facebook.


Samantha 1 year ago

Stumbled across this just as I was thinking of my baby boy in Heaven. I too have 4 boys and I try to cherish each moment, though at times it can be difficult. Thank you for this. I read this at just the right moment. You will never know how these words have touched me, and I am so thankful.

Marta 3 years ago

Heartbreaking and true. Inspiriting and beautiful. I cry for all those mothers too.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thanks for reading, Marta!

Meredith 3 years ago

This one made me cry. Newtown really had an effect on me. As did Jeff Bauman and the whole boston tragedy. It’s funny how you profiled them all in this piece. It’s true…everything changes when you’re a mother…every single thing.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Meredith, Boston was so senseless and heartbreaking. But I could barely breathe over Newtown. Thx for reading.

Momofdbb 3 years ago

That is a lovely post. The last holiday I celebrated with my DD was Mothers Day . Two years ago. She gave me a necklace that says Mother. It has a matching necklace that says Daughter. Many times she would , in her 7 year old joy , come up to me and insist that we touch necklaces. She said so out hearts would touch. The nurse gave me her necklace the day ahe died. I am still wearing it. They are always touching now. My two boys gave me a bear this Mothers Day and I remembered her and her dream of being a mother , and I smiled at her memory with tears.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    I have no words. I can’t fathom the pain. Sending my love to you.

Momchalant 3 years ago

If I wasn’t reading this at work, the tears would be pouring. For now, I’m holding back and they will probably fall later. This is so beautiful.

I had the same thoughts about all of the children, mothers, and fathers lost in the recent tragedies. Thank you for posting this.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    I love your story, you strong, strong girl! Thank you so much for reading! Happy Mother’s Day, and happy birthday!

Amanda 3 years ago


    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thanks, Amanda! XO

Gin 3 years ago

Now I’m in the midst of a full-on Ugly Cry. This is so beautiful!!

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you for reading, Gin!

Shanan 3 years ago

I was thinking of mothers who have lost children as well. It is heartbreaking but I hope somewhere they know that we fellow moms are thinking of them.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    I agree completely, Shanan. Thank you for reading, and I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Nina 3 years ago

This is fantastic, Bethany. And I LOVE seeing you here.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you, girlfriend!! I hope your crowd spoiled you on Mother’s Day! XO

Cassie 3 years ago

Oh, so sweet! My boys are too young for these things now, but I look forward to these moments, tears, and memories in my future. Happy Mother’s Day!

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Cassie, when my boys sing, it gets me every time. When my son sang the Peter Pan song, it put me over the edge! They are just so precious. Thank you for reading!

Wendy 3 years ago

Just beautiful!! As a single Mom, I got nothing for Mother’s day from my three kids. I got a bagel and coffee in bed after demanding it this morning lol (two of them are teens). I have three healthy children. Something I’m SO grateful for everyday. I love my children with all my heart and soul. I did need the reminder again today. Thank you!!

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Wendy, I love that they did something for you today! Prompted or not! We Moms will take what we can get, right? Thank you for reading!

Anna 3 years ago

Incredible post, thank you for this. A perfect read for Mother’s Day.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Anna, thank you! And I love your Mom’s advice about the census!! Oh, the quirkiness of those close to me is always what I love most about them. I hope you had a great day!

Lisa Gonzalez 3 years ago

Wow that was beautiful.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you for reading, Lisa!

Peace 3 years ago

Amazing post, thank you.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you so much!

Stephanie (www.whencrazymeetsexhaustion.com) 3 years ago

Wow. Bethany, THIS is incredible. Thank you for sharing this. <3

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Stephanie, thanks for reading…I love your writing, btw! Hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

      Stephanie (www.whencrazymeetsexhaustion.com) 3 years ago

      The fact that you’ve read some of my nonsense makes my heart swoon!!! Nothing compares to this, though. Wow. Just Wow.

Nan 3 years ago

Just yesterday I was told of my friend’s next door neighbour, whose son was crushed, killed instantly, by a concrete table in a pointless and horrible accident. A sweet boy with careful parents and an adoring little brother. Gah. All of these mums, today I am saying a prayer for them.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Nan, how terrible! My guys make me so nuts at times, but things can change for the worse in an instant. I’m trying to remind myself that during those times they drive me nuts. Not always succeeding:-) But trying…

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting 3 years ago

Jesus. Holy tears, Batman. Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL post.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Lisa, thank you so much for reading…and, Mom of seven, I bow down to you. Hope they spoiled you today, Mama!

Ariana 3 years ago

So beautiful. Thank you. Motherhood has so many bittersweet moments…how lucky we are when there is more sweet.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Ariana, amen to that! Thank you for reading! Hope you had a wonderful day…

D. D. Falvo 3 years ago

Stunningly beautiful, Bethany. I loved every word. <3

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Dee, thank you! I hope you had a wonderful day!!

Andrea 3 years ago

Loved this. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Andrea, thank you so much for reading!

anastasia 3 years ago

How incredibly touching.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thanks, Anastasia!

Katie 3 years ago

Beautiful post, I too am crying now. Happy Mother’s day to all the moms out there.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you, Katie…I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

grownandflown 3 years ago

Oh, my, you are so right about the many moms (and dads) in unbearable pain this year. As I enjoy my Mother’s Day with my two kids and husband, I will not forget those whose hearts have been broken and will never mend.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    I watched my four kids running ahead of us during our hike today, and it’s unfathomable to think of spending Mother’s Day…any day…without them crowding up my existence. Thank you for reading…hope it was a great day!

Gingersnap 3 years ago

Aw. I’m crying now, too.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you for taking the time to read!

joanna 3 years ago

Wow. incredible.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thanks for reading, Joanna!

Rebeccah 3 years ago

Beautiful post. Just beautiful. Happy Mother’s Day to all celebrating and love to those who are struggling with all that today is. xoxo

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thanks so much, Rebeccah! Very well said.

Alison 3 years ago

Beautiful, Bethany.
Happy Mother’s Day to you, and all the Moms in the world.

    Bethany 3 years ago

    Thank you, Alison! I hope you enjoyed your day!


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