Motherhood & Words

Sorry I’ve been quiet this week. Zoë has been out of toddler school and Stella has been out of her before-school program for almost two weeks now, and I’ll admit that it’s been a serious challenge to try to get all of my work done. Thank God for my parents, and especially my dad, who has come over a number of times so I can slip out to the coffee shop for a couple of hours before Stella gets on the school bus.

And now Stella is done with kindergarten, as well. She’s been counting down the days for weeks, and yesterday she was giddy with excitement. “I’m a first grader now! Can you believe that?”

I can’t believe it, actually. I have a first-grader? How did that happen?

Even though my stress level has been higher than usual lately—I’m teaching an online class, juggling two freelance articles and two book-editing projects—I’m trying to take a little time to just enjoy my girls each day. Last night before dinner, we filled water balloons at the hose and smashed them on the sidewalk, and then Zoë and I watched Stella go back and forth on her new skateboard. (I never had the guts to skateboard as a kid—I don’t even think it occurred to me to try—but my girls are something else. As Stella careened by us, Zoë shouted, “Wow, Stella. That’s cool!”)

Both of my girls are full of sass, both are incredibly strong-willed. (Now where did they get that?) And I’m aware—suddenly painfully aware—of how fast they are growing. So this summer, I’m trying to capture as many cuddles as I can.

Back in February, around the time that Zoë had her seizure, she started wanting to be rocked to sleep. And because she was sick and then she had the seizure, we started rocking her to sleep. So now, before nap and bedtime, after we have read her books and after she has “cuddled me” (“No, no, mama. I cuddle you!”) and after I have then cuddled her and we have gone back and forth a few times about it being time for nap or bed, she agrees to let me wrap her up in her soft, soft Tinker Bell blanket (“Wap me, mama. Wap me!”) and I rock her in my arms, humming a lullaby until she falls asleep.

There is nothing like staring down at a sleeping toddler. When she’s asleep in my arms, she looks so much like a baby still. I gaze down at her relaxed face, at her open mouth. I brush her sweaty hair from her forehead and lean down to kiss her cheek. And when I feel her body grow even heavier in my arms, I stand up to transfer to her crib. But then her eyes flutter and she says, “One more minute, Mama. Just one more minute.” And if I hesitate, she says, “Sit down.” So I sit back down on the edge of Stella’s bed and rock her a little more. I just can’t help it.

Luckily, D will be done with school next week, as well, so I can write and work on teaching in the mornings—I’m going to finish the revision this summer if it kills me—and then we’ll switch in the afternoon. And each day, I’m going to hold my daughters and tell them how much I love them. Because soon I won’t remember them being this small.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Kris on June 9, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    As usual, beautiful writing, Kate! And, I, too, am trying to savor the moments, as my kids are growing way too fast right in front of my eyes!!! Trying to get past the bickering and the demands to get to the cuddles.. always grateful when my oldest (10yrs) will still want a cuddle, as long as no one is looking of course.
    Enjoy the summer, enjoy your children!

  2. Sara on June 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    My "big girl" is only 18 months. We saw a new baby last night and I can hardly believe she was ever that small.
    I get cuddles when I can, because it seems we are mostly on the go all the time these days.

  3. Ines on June 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    What sweet, sweet story, Kate. This is lovely. But I prefer that the article and your work DOESN'T actually kill you. I, and many others I am sure, am much happier if you stay alive. Really. Happy Summer! May you find the time to write, read, and cuddle your girls.

  4. Anjali on June 9, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    This was lovely, Kate.

    I have three daughters — 8, 6 & 2. I cuddle them relentlessly, and am also taking this summer to get in extra squeezes.

  5. Andria on June 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Your girls are freakin' awesome. How cool that Stella has a skateboard. I have never even stepped onto one. Maybe I've tripped over one, I don't remember, but that would be about it.

    And Zoe…so I know I've only met her twice, but every time I think of her I just smile. What a personality!!! Soren has picked up the phrase "dat's cool," too, and it cracks me up — as well as "one mo' tiiime, mama" ….. it's fun to hear what Zoe says since she and Soren are so close in age.

  6. kate hopper on June 9, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you, Kris. I love that your 10-year-old will still cuddle (even if it's only when no one is looking!)

    Sara, isn't it crazy how fast it goes?

    Ines, I promise the revision won't kill me. I actually can't wait for the time to really work on it again.

    Anjali, I love the phrase "cuddle relentlessly." That's what I'm going to do, as well!

    Andria, I'm glad you don't have a skateboard in your house yet. I've already had it ram into my ankle twice! When are you coming to town again? I want to get my hands on those kids!

  7. Andrea on June 10, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Ah, so sweet…they grow out of cuddling way too fast. My two "graduate" from preschool next week and instead of being weepy and nostalgic I am so psyched for the little bit of flexibility not having to get them to and from school will add to my schedule…heartless I know.

  8. cath c on June 10, 2010 at 3:33 pm


    we still somewhat family bed toots. the only way she can fall asleep is cuddled up next to one of us, including grandma.

    i don't want it to end, because, i do the same thing, the sweaty face, the stroking hair…drink her in now, so i'll always remember how precious the wee-ness of her is.

  9. unfinishedportraitofsam on June 10, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    oh, my goodness. this one got me good this afternoon! thanks for the tenderness.

  10. Cecilia on June 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Aw Kate…I'm so happy to read this. My little guy finished kindergarten this week too and I was an emotional wreck. I agree that those times when they're sleeping are like nothing else. Why is it that our hearts feel most like bursting when we watch them sleep? I still have to lie down with him until he falls asleep…he won't let me go. I used to be annoyed by this but now I'm just cherishing it. It's not going to last forever.

    Have a lovely summer with your angels 🙂 And good luck with all your work!

  11. tekeal on June 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    i too, feel my heart expand and become nostalgic as my daughter is sleeping in my arms. there is something magical and innocent in this quiet space.

    (and i have been collecting t-shirt ideas over the years and i think "cuddle relentlessly" is one i might need to steal!)

    thanks for your beautiful writing.