I’m Rocking My Babies and Babies Don’t Keep

I’m not sure what it was about her movements that caught my attention. I  don’t remember what she was doing. I just remember that out of the corner of my eye, I saw my little girl’s sweet hands and they looked and moved like the hands of a girl much older than my daughter. I had to swallow hard over the lump in my throat. Somehow I must have blinked and now yet another part of my baby girl has been replaced with this self-assured little woman-to-be.

“I know why you bought me this shirt, Mama. You know how much I love chocolate. That’s what that heart means. ‘I heart chocolate’ means that I love it, right? I heart this shirt, Mama.”

And I heart you, little girl. I heart your sense of style. I heart that you rarely go anywhere without a journal and a pen or pencil so that you can write your songs and stories whenever the inspiration hits. I heart the hundreds of pictures that you draw every day and that can be found in every room of our house. I heart that you tell me about your day in so much detail that I feel like I was right there with you. I just heart you and I heart being your mom.

Then there’s this one.

He lost one of his front teeth about half an hour before we made it home from Alabama. He pulled it himself. When did he get old enough to pull his own tooth? The permanent tooth is already starting to peek out. I dread it. Those permanent front teeth always erase the last traces of baby.

I smile every time I think of the phone conversations I had with this one during our trip last week. He subscribes to the “less is more” method of communication. For example, here’s a portion of one our check-in sessions on the phone last week:

Me:  So how was school today?

B: Kinda good.

Me: Just “kinda”? What was kinda bad about it?

B: Three people were sick.

Me: Oh, no! That’s not good. What’s wrong with them?

B: (pause) They were sick.

Always the overflowing fount of information, that one. But I’m going to keep listening to whatever he’s saying whenever he’s saying it.

And how did this little curly-haired baby whose mama was his very best friend:

…grow so quickly into this goofy boy who has an army of friends and a nickname and probably even secrets that his mom doesn’t know:

He’s growing up way too fast. I’m nervous about what’s ahead for him. I’m trying desperately to keep our communication open and easy because I know that we’re fast approaching a time when he may not want to tell his mama the stuff he so readily tells me now.

Yesterday I got to spend some time with my friend’s little boy. He’s having his first birthday this month. As my friend was buckling him into his car seat and sending him off to spend the day with his fun Aunt Whimz :), she remarked, “I know you all told me this would go by quickly, but I had no idea you meant it would be this fast!”

I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that not only does that first year go by fast, but in my experience, the time continues to go faster and faster. Sometimes I feel like I need to just sit down so I can catch my breath, but I’m afraid that while I’m resting, I’ll miss something else. So since they won’t slow down, I’ve decided I will. This poem was in every third baby shower card I received, but since I’ve decided that my Snoodles will always be my babies no matter how old they get, I think this poem still applies:

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!

Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,

Hang out the washing and butter the bread,

Sew on a button and make up a bed.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?

She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue

(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due

(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo

But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.

Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?

(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,

But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.

I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

(first appeared, Ladies Home Journal, October 1958)

I have a question for you. What do you consciously do to make sure you’re not letting these moments with your babies pass you by? You might have some insight or good ideas that could help the rest of us make the most of the short time we have.



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22 responses to “I’m Rocking My Babies and Babies Don’t Keep

  1. Unfortunately I can’t think on anything I’m specifically doing to ensure time with my kids is not wasted. It seems I spend too much time teaching and correcting instead of just loving. I’ll be back to read suggestions, but for now I think I’ll just take a minute to say a prayer for each of them. Thanks for the head-up.

  2. Have to wipe my eyes before I can think.

    As they get older, those babies-don’t-keep moments are fewer and farther in between. We watch a lot of Survivor or Amazing Race or Idol together on our “big, blue, bed”–named after Bear in the Big Blue House. Oh, I miss that show…


    Another thing I do is turn off the radio in the car. I cherish my car time w/both kids; and while we do sing to the radio together, the second either child starts talking, the radio goes off & my heart goes “open”. And while I have to do A LOT of driving, God has arranged it so that I nearly always have a private drive w/each child 3-4 times a week.

  3. I know it sounds weird, but my babies have yet to even be conceived, and I already dread them growing up, too. I actually get choked up when I start to think about holding my first precious newborn in my arms and then flash forward in mind a mere month later (just a month!) and see them bigger. I tear up! And it’s still all in my head, my little infant growing into a toddler!

    Frankly, I’m kind of glad I’ve heard childbirth is painful. I fear I’m the type of woman who would keep having babies because the other ones just keep growing up on me!

  4. I love that poem. I’ve heard it for years and it is so true. My son starts pre-K in the fall and already I am sad that he will have a part of his life that I won’t be involved in. He will have secrets I won’t know. And it stinks, but it is part of life. I’m going to go hug my kids some more now.

  5. Oh I love everything about this post! And we really are on the same page. You’re just much more eloquent about it! 🙂 But seriously, let me know if you figure out a way to slow things down. I want in on that.

  6. When you figure out let me know? For me, taking lots of pictures is helping me chronicle this time … I’ve been doing a picture a day album this year and I can already tell it is going to be an album I will treasure because it’s the daily stuff of life. The stuff that is helping me slow day and enjoy every single day instead of looking too far down the road and missing it.

  7. Oh, how the time does fly…
    I have shed plenty of tears over the years.
    Blogging, scrapbooking, lots of pictures and journaling are the only way I know to halfway capture and “hold on to a tiny piece” of each moment and memory.

  8. Amy

    I’ve never heard that poem! (sniff, sniff) Mom told me a couple of years ago that sometimes they just need ME. Often, I have to purposefully stop what I’m doing to give them my undivided attention.

    There’s that innate “girl” pose! Love all of the pictures and smiles!

  9. Renae

    I registered my little one for preschool today (starting in the fall). She’ll just be going 3 mornings but I have such mixed emotions about it. I know that is the beginning of the end of a lot of things that I so cherish. I realized the other day that she doesn’t sit in my lap as much & I miss that. They do grow TOO fast. So scary to send her out into this crazy, messed up world!

  10. Girl. Not good on this day where it’s rained so hard I’ve ordered some gopherwood and I had an emotional night last night w/ a precious Ugandan girl (then came home and was locked out in the rain).

    Then, sat down and read this. I want that darlin’ girl and my darlin’ girl to just spend the day together.

    Those boys are precious. So true what you said..about each of our kids. How quickly they change and all the sudden we’re not smooching squishy baby rolls and singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” any longer but we’re singing Jonas Brothers and Toby Mac (both great, but you know what I mean)

    THEN, as if all your Mama words weren’t precious enough…that poem. I’ve GOT to find a print for my house. HAVE to.

    (JuJu is making up a song as we speak…) 😉

  11. Oh Amy…you’re making me CRY!

    I have a picture of me rocking my babies (the first two were so close together) in one of our scrapbooks and I used that poem. It’s very, very sweet and very, very true.

    This is a small thing but it’s made a big difference in our after school connecting time.

    I promised them at the beginning of the school year that I would NOT be on my cell phone when they climbed into the van. I will not answer it if rings while I’m in line waiting for them (because I’m not good at ending conversations promptly. ahem.)

    I love it because I don’t miss those precious moments that they’re willing to talk about their day. I’m able to give them my complete attention.

    Last year was a rough year. You know. You lived a similar story. I can’t tell you how many times I was on the phone with my dad or sister or brother when they got in the van. This has been intentional, and it has been GOOD! I’d even go so far as to say it’s been redemptive.

  12. Just caught up on all your posts. I love you more and more with every one. Praying for you, friend!

  13. carpoolqueen

    Loved Mer’s comment, and now I feel all convicted about my phone.

    And tell my little B not to lose any more teeth.

  14. I would comment if I wasn’t a blubbering fool after reading that post. YIKES.
    Going to cuddle my boys on this stormy night.

  15. “Back in the day” when I had my first, I cross-stitched the last 4 lines of that poem while I was still pregnant, framed it, & hung it where I saw it frequently throughout the day. It was such a reminder to spend time on the important things, especially to MAKE the time to enjoy my children. One day a friend dropped by (people used to actually DO that!), & I was sitting on the floor playing with my 1 year old while laundry sat on the couch needing to be folded. She asked, “How can you play with him when you have all this to do?” She was halfway through folding it when she asked the question. I replied, “Because you are folding my laundry… & because he will grow up, but I’ll always have laundry to do.”
    Obviously we can’t just skip all the laundry/housecleaning/meals, but taking the time to sit & play, listen, admire the things they do/say, see the world with the awe that they do, giving them the best of ourselves instead of the leftovers, & recognizing they are on short term loan from God are the most important & rewarding things we can do with our lives. The investment has eternal rewards!
    Now I am in the “season” of watching my daughter experience the joy of her own children, who are growing up SO fast… & what a double joy that is for me!

  16. Geez. Thanks a lot. If I WANTED mascara running down my face I would have just….well…read this and thought about how fast MY babies are growing up. SO not okay.

    This post was sweet and heartbreaking all at once…and that poem…beautiful.

  17. Betty Boop

    It’s too late for my kids, but with my grandsons I love that they think Gammy is fun…..I shot baskets with them this week, they spend every Friday nite w/Gammy and would stay at my house forever. I’m going to print this poem for my daughter because I see her making the mistakes I made….worrying about the unimportant.
    I know that one day soon they won’t have time for me so I enjoy them now while they do….thank you Whimzi for the poem.

  18. Kay

    What a sweet poem – never heard it or read it before. So True.

    Mine are 19 and 16 now, so I think I can reasonably give a little advice here. I think you’re on the right track with just being aware that the time does fly by quickly and that they grow faster than kudzu in Georgia.

    The biggest thing I’ve done right, and there aren’t but about 3 or 4, is thoroughly enjoy every stage my kids have gone through. I loved them as babies, but I determined to never look back as long as I had my two kids still here and breathing air. I am having the biggest blast with my kids as teenagers. Absolutely, I cannot express well enough how much I love my 16-year-old drama queen and my 19-year-old college man. They are the bomb!

    Another thing I’ve done, along the same lines, is simply ENGAGE. So many parents don’t it seems. But it sounds like you definitely do. I talk with them, ask a zillion questions, listen when they talk, invite them to go fun places they like, buy them little $1 gifts (like welch’s gummies, for pete’s sake), and notice them. As your kids get older they do indeed begin to pull away from you and have other people in their lives. That’s normal. But I’ll be darned if I’m not going to be one of those people in their lives too!

    Enjoy them. I have and I do. And you will too.

  19. What a sweet poem and good reminder. I MUST find a frame for that poem. And you described every mother’s feelings so perfectly. How do you find the perfect words?! I can never find the right words so I end up blabbing for five paragraphs!

    Kay’s comment, about enjoying every single stage of your child’s life, made me commit to do the same thing. I am going to love every messy, giggly, googly stage that my baby is in, instead of wishing he were a little bit older so he could sleep through the night. And the older he gets, I will find joy in that stage and not wish he could be a baby again.

  20. I hope you don’t mind, but I put this poem on my blog too, and a link to your blog. I just wanted to share it with my family who I know would appreciate this poem!

  21. Darn it, Whimzie, now you’ve made me go and make my mascara run.

    And I’ve been holding tight to my babies this week. You just never know.

    And babies don’t keep.

  22. Mmmmmm…I need to be reminded of this. The intentional time. I loved Mer’s comment about the cell phone. I need to do the same! Your little girl and mine are kindred spirits. Notebooks for songs and poems and art…that’s all my Sunshine does. We coming for a visit soon!

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