Category Archives: kids growing up

Sitting at a grade school talent show, inspired by a rousing piano rendition of Ode To Joy, skits written by fourth graders, and a boy bouncing on a pogo stick the whole four minutes and three seconds of Van Halen’s song Jump, I had a flashback. Not like a Van Halen type flashback, but a nostalgic one. As the emcee announced the ensemble of two, third grade girls on the violin and saxophone and Jackson Brawner on the trumpet, the same butterflies started flapping that always surfaced when Jason Brawner’s name was ever announced.

For Jackson, this was serious business and he didn’t miss a note of Bugler’s Dream, better known as the Olympics song. I was amazed and instantly felt that sting behind my nose signaling tears are next. Honestly, keeping it together at an elementary school program should not be a struggle. Why is it things connected to childhood stir emotions in even the most stoic adult? Something about the setting took me on a memory trip to high school. Where did all this come from?

That I was stronger than some of the guys on the real football team and could even out-run a few of them wasn’t glamorous, but it did get me the fullback position on the powderpuff team. My friend Ginny who, on the other hand, was petite, beautiful and defined femininity, shocked everyone with her throwing arm so she was named quarterback. What impressed me more than her arm was she cut off her perfectly manicured nails to get a better grip on the football. For Ginny, like Jackson, this was serious business.

Because the big game was a fundraiser, parents, teachers and the student body came out to see how much the cheerleaders actually knew about football. Trailing by a few points with just a few seconds left on the clock, Ginny called one of the secret plays we had only run in practice. Surely this was the magic. Ginny would hand me the ball as I went opposite of the flow of players and hopefully they would be fooled.

Then it happened, our semi reverse worked! I took off like never before. Now it had become serious business for me.

When I was about five feet from the goal line, the referee’s whistle blew. Confused, I stopped because no one had my flag. No one was near me so why was the whistle blown? Then a girl from the other team flew past me like The Roadrunner snatching the flag off my belt. The sidelines roared and I was still confused.

As I headed to the sidelines, John, the coach who was one of the real football players, pointed to his watch. The whistle I heard was to only signal time had expired off the clock. I stared at him in disbelief as tears leaked. I had stopped 5 feet short of victory for my team. How could the girls ever forgive me? How could I ever forgive myself?

My friend John, in all of his 17-year-old wisdom, hugged me and said what I have always remembered, “It’s OK Suzette. Just remember this: Next time don’t stop until you get to where you’re going, even if you hear a whistle.”

How many times do we stop five feet short of the goal because we are worn out, or distracted, or confused? We give up on projects, we give up on dreams, and we give up on people. What’s really sad is, if we give up, we’ll never know how good it feels to do the victory dance in the end zone, even if it’s only in our minds.

The applause, cheering and whistling brought my attention back to the school auditorium. Jackson had the victory dance going on in his smile; satisfaction of a job well done. Oh, the things you can be reminded of watching a grade school talent show.

Don’t stop until you get to where you’re going.


It’s not really part of the exit instructions when you leave the hospital with a new baby. There actually should be a warning: Don’t Blink. If you do, he will be grown. It happens so quickly, it’s like watching a time lapsed video.

Yesterday it was as if I hit rewind, in an odd kind of way. Branson hosted a K-Swiss Ironman 70.3 or a half Ironman triathlon. There were 1400 athletes from 43 states and 10 countries competing on the course which is a 1.2 mile lake swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.2 mile run. I question the sanity of that.

Jason and Travis competed as part of a 3 man relay team on different teams. One of Travis’ teammates told me yesterday in the spring when he asked him to compete, that Travis said, “Aren’t you asking the wrong Brawner brother.” Jason was an All American college swimmer. Travis was an All American college football player and had to think about it for a couple of weeks, but then decided to take it on.

I think Jason, who has done triathlons and marathons, got in the lake 4 or 5 times to get ready for yesterday, because he could. Travis on the other hand, who runs and has done a marathon, worked out in the lake with his friend Matt at 6 am four or five days a week. Endurance in the water is totally different from endurance on land.

So Jim and I were on the shores of Moonshine Beach at 6am with 1400 athletes and hundreds of spectators. My stomach forgot my boys grew up. I felt they were 5 and 7 years old getting in the water.

Jason, the director of a summer camp for special needs kids and an Army National Guard chaplain, was in his camo jammers. Travis, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, was appropriate in conservative black. Two boys, twenty-four months apart in age raised in the same home with the same parents are so different.

Jason was out of the water 10 minutes before Travis; both were smiling with a huge sense of accomplishment or maybe it was the endorphin rush. As my stomach calmed down I realized how odd it is to look into the faces of those two men and still see my little boys.

Warning: Don’t Blink.

I ran into my friend Jeanie at Home Depot the other day. She has a daughter and a son and a brand new granddaughter. I welcomed her into the grandmother world and we gushed over our babies. I used to laugh at people like me.

Just before we said good-bye she looked at me seriously and said, “OK, Suzette, now what?” “What do you mean,” I asked a little confused?

“The kids are grown and gone. All the preparation for the grandbaby coming is over. Everyone lives hours away. I suppose I’m trying to figure out what to do now,” she said looking a little concerned. “Why don’t you write about that?”

I had to think about her question for a while and here’s what I figured out … you are finally to a point in your life you actually get to choose. A mom spends 25 or so years, depending on the spacing of her kids, doing what needs to be done for everyone else. If she’s been a stay at home mom she can choose to volunteer, get a job, go back to school or do whatever it is she has put off doing to take care of her family. If she’s a career mom she can take up tennis or golf or join a book club or investment club or help with a charity she has a passion for. Her time away from the office now can be hers.

It is an odd spot to be in because for so many years everyone depends on you and now they’re off living their own lives. It really is a search for a new normal. I do know one thing for sure. We can put down the mommy guilt of not being at home enough if we were working outside the home or the mommy guilt of not having a job because we were stay at home moms. What a relief!

Because I was such an involved mom staying at home, working part time, working full time in different phases, I dreaded the thought of everyone being gone. It was like a deprogramming period for a while and the house was really quiet. But then I realized I get to make choices I hadn’t been able to make for years … like not going to McDonalds unless I want to.

It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t. ~Barbara Kingsolver

Years ago I promised myself, after my kids were grown, I would never say to a young mother, “Enjoy them now because they will be gone before you know it.” It seems older mothers are quick to offer such comforting advice when two or more of your kids are having a major meltdown in a very crowded checkout line on the hottest day of the summer. I once came really close to asking a woman if she wanted to take all three of mine home with her to enjoy them for a while.

However, now that I’m an older mother I will admit I have said those very words. I try not to, in any way, offer comfort or advice to a woman with screaming children. I clearly remember how close I came to saying ugly things in return. I have decided, though, it’s an OK thing to say if everyone is calm, dry and acting precious.

Kids grow up like water evaporating. You know it’s happening, but don’t really know how it works. The newborn and infant stages seem to last so long they should be counted in dog years. When Travis was about three weeks old he started screaming with colic. I called my sister-in-law Rayanna. She didn’t have kids yet but she was a nurse and I thought surely she would have some helpful hints. She said, “It’s OK Suz, it only lasts about three months.”

Are you kidding me? In dog years time that’s like two plus years. After Rayanna had her girls she understood the dog years theory. We still laugh about her scholarly advice.

However when kids start grade school the years get shorter. Junior high for some reverts to dog years, but then high school is like a downhill slide out the door. It’s true, before you know it they are grown, married and have kids of their own.