I Cried Myself to Sleep

Posted On: 06.11.12

I’m not much of a crier. But on Friday night, I cried myself to sleep.

I cried myself to sleep because it was the last day. The big girls’ last day of school for the year. The finale of Middle Girl’s very first year of school, and the culmination of Big Girl’s preschool career. That’s right; off to Kindergarten in the fall. Hard to believe.

And it was a beautiful day. Full of an uncanny and symbolic sunshine. A day sticky with smiles and celebration. When we left home in the morning, I felt a swollen sense of meaning in my chest, an extra awareness. I trailed them, as I often do, studying the silhouettes of their small bodies, snapping away, my mind mottled with one word. Last.

I found myself desperate to memorize those moments. That simple trip down our street, the skipping of little legs, the cascade of dirty blonde hair, the kelly green of a frog backpack. At the corner, I sneaked up behind them, pulled them toward me and whispered something in their ears: last day donuts!

Predictably, Big Girl chose vanilla with sprinkles, and Middle Girl opted for pink with sprinkles. And I sat there with my enormous coffee, my hot coffee, and watched them wrestle with these big yummy things, frosting coating their lips, sprinkles scattering. When they asked me to cut their donuts into smaller bites, it felt like a privilege, a passing privilege.

And then we walked the short walk to school. And as I did every day for two years now, I let go of their hands on the corner and let them race to school. That one word still had me: Last. It would be the last morning they would race together to this school. The tears were there, behind my big Manhattan shades; I didn’t let them come. Yet.

We attended end-of-year parties in both classrooms. We said thank yous. We scattered hugs. And then, when the day was over, we came home. I took the big girls to a birthday party on the East Side where they zoomed around, and jumped in plastic balls, and swung from mini-trapezes. And then home. Again.

And then we had a few friends over for a year-end play date/dinner. The kids were extra-amped, sugared up, a swirl of chaos. And we parents lingered around the kitchen island, nibbling, exhausted. When people left, we cleaned up and we watched a Mad Men. And then before bed, as Husband and I were brushing our teeth, shredded with fatigue, we watched Big Girl’s Class of 2012 video. It was a beautiful video full of beautiful creatures, creatures who are growing, and going somewhere. And it got me.

Suddenly, there I was. In my bathroom. In my pajamas. Sobbing.

I climbed into bed next to my man and a mess of words spilled from me, along with those tears. It’s just that change is hard even when it’s good change. And I am so proud of them. And this day is big. Really big. And they are growing up so fast and I know that’s good, but it’s difficult, too. And I just love them so much and I just can’t believe this, you know?

And Husband, my good man, threw his arm around me and nodded. Listened.

There are moments, I said. There are moments when I still feel like a little girl and that I am simply not equipped for this life we have, these girls. I just feel like it’s too much, you know? And I realize something, too. This would have been a night when I would have gotten wasted. Because the emotions were there all day, just building. I would have drowned myself in wine to deal. You know that, right?

Husband nodded. Because he knew; he knew I was right. This would have been one of those high-risk evenings when I would have turned to Pinot Grigio – to celebrate, to cope – and it wouldn’t have been pretty. And this? This bedtime tear-fest? It wasn’t pretty either, but it actually kind of was in an odd way. Because it was so real, so felt, so raw. I had no choice but to feel what I was feeling. And there was some majesty in this.

I nodded off with puffy eyes and wet cheeks and that one word echoing in my tired head: Last.

Today is Monday. And another last for me. This is the last day of this version of my blog. Tomorrow is launch day. And I am so excited to welcome you all to my new place, but I’m also a bit melancholy about moving on. I guess that’s just the way I’m wired?

But first things first, I have a graduation ceremony to attend.

Check back tomorrow for some priceless shots of a certain little girl in a tiny cap and gown, and to see my new place.

Today might be a last, an end, but tomorrow is a first, a beginning. And that’s good, right?

I think so.

I know so.

{Today I am linking up with several lovely writers over at Yeah Write. Oh, and today is in fact launch day here at ADR. Click here to read my very first post. Yay!}

How often do you cry? When are you most likely to overdo things (drink, food, etc)? Do you have a hard time with lasts or are you more focused on firsts?

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Oh, and...

  • On January 16, 2012, I gave up alcohol for one year. Why would I do this? Click here to learn more.
  • Are you new to this site, or the blogging world? Say hello and/or post your URL in the comments!
  • Do you have any posts you think I'd love (about life, love, writing, insecurity, alcohol, etc?) Let me know.



66 Comments for: "I Cried Myself to Sleep"
  1. Jess

    I know the exact feeling. My oldest, nearly 3, just finished her first year of school. It was so incredibly bittersweet. You do want to pause time because they are just so delicious and I know the days of endless cuddling and kisses where I am her favorite person in the world are numbered. But as she grows she just gets more and more delicious. I have to remind myself of this. Often. Life is full of change. It is important to feel the transitions and the ends so that you can be ready for the beginnings. I am proud of you for staying Pinot free. Big hugs to you and your precious girls. xoxoxoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. For all of this. It is really pretty cool that we are going through so many of the same things even though there are so many miles between us. Wish we were closer, but fun to compare notes here 🙂 xox

  2. AG

    This post was full of such nostalgia. I bet this is a tough time even though it is full of happiness too. I hope you feel so proud of yourself for allowing yourself to feel that emotion Friday night becuase of the sacrifice you have made this year.

    Congrats to Big Girl on her graduation today- little kid cap and gowns are just the cutest! I had to post one last time on the old site- excited to see the new one but sad to say good bye to the old one! 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I was sad to say goodbye to the other site, but am feeling really happy to be here in the new digs. Nostalgia is so tricky, I am learning. But it is also quite wonderful. Feeling so so much these days and it really is eye-opening and amazing. As always, thanks for your words. xo

  3. As I think you know, I often feel this swollen awareness, this sudden pain at endings, this extra consciousness and desperation to memorize everything. And I cry like that, too. It was Saturday morning for me lately. I haven’t figured out how to lessen that sadness; I wish I had and could offer some guidance. But I can’t! Sending lots of love. xox
    (and can’t wait to see your new site)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It’s so interesting because even as I was in the throes of those tears, I knew they were good somehow. That it was good that I was affected by something, that I was feeling deeply, that I was aware of the transition. I can’t explain it. Obviously, I do not want to walk around crying all the time, porous to every bit of life, but I do think I want to have these tear-soaked moments of processing and acceptance. For me (and I imagine you too?) it’s far more complicated than sadness. I think it’s about humility and happiness and reality and reverence. I think it’s about being reminded about the depths of our affection for creatures and existence. I think it’s about change. And change is tricky whether its good or bad. I am rambling now, but thank you Lindsey, for making me realize that I am far from alone in all of this.

      (Hope you love the new site!!!)

  4. Oh mommy, I almost cried reading this. I know all about this feeling. I was just looking at my baby and thinking about how she’ll be TWO in a few weeks – thinking about how I’ll never have a tiny little baby again. Sometimes I want to freeze time.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Freeze time. Exactly. But then we also want them to grow and change and meet those milestones, right? Maybe this is what parenthood, or life, is all about? Simultaneously desiring pause and progress? What’s interesting is that I can sit here this morning – amid the Rowley morning mayhem – and feel okay, good even, about the fact that my biggest little girl is about to graduate. Isn’t it fascinating that at times we can be so vulnerable and at times so strong? Thx for the comment, Amanda!!

  5. I read your words and am right there with you. I often feel overwhelmed by these moments. Is it when we realize that these bits of life are what life is about, and how, so, so often, the real, hard, tough, cutting straight to the core of our soul bits of life are within the simplest moments? I don’t know.

    With change, sometimes, it is like a tightrope. You are walking along this wire. You had to be confident enough to step off from where you were, you know you must keep moving and growing, yet it is precarious and scary to reach that next platform. The idea of falling, of leaving behind the safety of where you are, of failure, or a misstep or uncertainty all are overwhelming.

    Yet, once you are on that next platform, you notice there is always that next tightrope to walk, as everything is changing constantly. Taking moments on the platform, to look back and to look ahead, digesting it all – that is when I cry the most.

    And in those times, I feel sometimes I am still 12. And I wonder how I could ever possibly help Kiddo through this life, full of changes. But I hold her hand tightly as she walks on her own tightropes. And if I focus on that, well, it makes me travel my own tightropes that much easier. Except when it doesn’t.

    Okay totally bumbling on this, but, well, to all you wrote above, can I say ditto?

    (And your new site is going to be awesome, I know it.)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      If this is bumbling, I dig bumbling 🙂 So so much here, and so much to talk about. Today is going to be tricky and exquisite and we are both going to have glossy eyes as we watch our girls walk in those little caps and little gowns, but this is what it is all about, right? These deep, wild, impossible moments? See you soon! xoxo

  6. Meg

    I have an awful time with lasts – awful, awful. Knowing anything “could be the last” time I do this, see this, share this . . . the last time I experience something as a young woman, as a childless woman, as an umarried woman . . . the list of things I over-analyze is endless! But I’ve tried to shift my thinking, as you have, to look at the beginnings: the fresh starts, the new horizons. The knowledge that anything is possible and there will be more endings, too, but also plenty more beginnings. And I hold tight to that.

  7. Kristen

    I have become a bit better about crying – accepting that its ok to cry, to show emotion. I cried on Saturday 6/2, but it was for a ridiculous thing, not something meaningful like what you experienced. I cried in between my testing sessions of a big exam I was taking. I’ve been preparing for it over the last five months. I cried because I had the most horrible morning session and I was sad because all my hard work, missed time with loved ones, dedication, everything, felt like it was unraveling. It’s not the same as your moment, but to me it was heartbreaking.

    I’m sentimental at endings. New beginnings are scary; however, I always look back at those beginnings fondly when I’m at the end. Funny how that is – appreciating the new beginnings when its the beginning’s end.

  8. Kristen

    p.s. I can’t wait to see your new site!

  9. I used to cry quite often – through adolescence and into early adulthood. Lately, though, I rarely cry. Maybe at a moving passage in a book or scene in a movie, but that’s about it. And I’m okay with that. I’m keenly in touch with my life and not prone to block my emotions. But lately things are just pretty great. Sure, I feel the stresses of every day life, but in general I don’t have reason to cry, and I take that as a good thing.

    PS – Be sure to get screen shots of ILI today, so you can go back and remember what it used to look like!

  10. Laura

    Beautifully written. I often feel the same way. I am excited by the milestones met and the leaps in knowledge and understanding. It is also bittersweet to know that the children are growing up and changing so quickly. I have three little ones and they are just about the same age as your sweet crew. I have one boy (almost 4 1/2) and two girls (age 3 and 13 months). I think back to how much they have grown over the last year and am amazed. I am trying to focus on small bits of time and really enjoy them for who they are at this moment in time. Being a parent can be so complicated! I’m often exhausted and exasperated at the end of the day, yet I feel sad to think they are geting so big and want to freeze time! Hope your daughter’s graduation is extra special! 🙂

  11. My chest is tight just thinking about Lil Mil’s FIRST day this fall, preschool. I can’t imagine what LAST will feel like. Why does time move faster and faster at the exact moments when we want it to slow down?

    Can’t wait for the new site!

  12. I miss pinot grigio too. A lot. But it’s so good that we aren’t turning to it anymore. Letting the feelings wash over us.

  13. Dara

    I cried Sunday night before putting my baby to sleep. I had such a wonderful weekend with her, I didn’t want to give her up on Monday morning. Last week was my first week at a new job, and I am torn between loving my career and loving my daughter, whose life I’m terrified of missing.

  14. Cookies. In college I might’ve had way too much to drink, but now it’s cookies.

    Yes to that feeling that is both grief and joy all at once. So hard to explain, but you got it.

    And what a cool redesign!

  15. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I felt this same way the entire year my daughter was a senior in high school. I cried at the drop of a hat for six months. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for her, for this milestone for her. I was. It was just hard seeing my only child flap her wings in preparation for flight. And through it all I was reminded that I would never be here again.

    Except that two years later I had a baby and I’m going to be there again, but I find myself doing the same things. As he rolls over I think, this is the last time I get to see this milestone as a parent. And I’m so happy for him, it’s just bittersweet.

    Very nice post, and beautiful writing.

  16. Aww, how bittersweet., watching them grow up!

  17. Kids don’t seem to know that growing up so fast is hard on us parents!! They should knock it off already! 🙂 It is exciting though, seeing them grow, knowing that you were a major part of a person’s life – one of the most important roles.

    How exciting for all of you to graduate from one grade in life to another together! I hope your new blog is a huge success and that your daughter’s graduation is full of fun and cherished memories!

  18. Without the ‘last’, there’d be no firsts right? And we love celebrating firsts. 🙂

  19. Having already sent the oldest of four off to college, I can assure you there are plenty more big days ahead to enjoy!
    Just wait for HS graduation! Oh my word, THAT was awful!!!!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Emma. You know, my Mom and I had this moment the other day when she mentioned that she read this post and then she told me about the day she took me to college and my oldest sister had literally just gotten married a few days before… She said it was so so hard and that she cried these tears. It was such a beautiful and honest mother-daughter moment of affection and identification. And, yes, I am realizing that there are so many more to come.

  20. Beautifully written. I’ve had a few of those late night cry-fests myself lately. I’m stuck in between wanting them to stay little and enjoying watching them grow up.

  21. I can still see my little girl running across the playground on her first day of kindergarten – her wispy pigtails, her white-white shoes.

    On her last day of elementary school I could not stop crying. I made a right fool of myself (and maybe her) as I bawled my way through all six of her previous classrooms saying goodbye to her teachers one at a time.

    On Friday, my son promoted from middle school to high school. He turns 15 this summer and my baby girl in the pigtails turns 13.

    So yes.
    I cry all the time.

    (Loved this post. Felt every word of it. Deeply.)

  22. I’ve always been more the type to look forward to the firsts. Sometimes the now can get me down though.

  23. Well, blow me away with a feather, what a gorgeous post. I am SO SO SO with you on lasts. 100%. And great change is still a loss– of the old, the familiar, the well worn path. I am going to be bawling like a baby when my kids get to school and then when they leave. I usually shop when I get sad or happy or anxious. It’s presents lots of problems, like clutter, debt and anxiety. I will keep at it. Great post.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow. Thank you, Christie! So so good to know that I am not alone in thinking that change – even the best, expected kid – is tricky and wrought. And so fascinating because these days – now that I am not swimming in pinot – I tend to get an itch to shop when I feel particularly anxious. Not fab for the credit card! So happy to have you here reading and really look forward to spending some time at your blog. Can’t get over the first line of your comment. Love!

  24. Aidan,

    Lovely post. I’d expect nothing less. And yes, you did well with the crying alone and no PG. But me? tonight I’m having both. And it’s a comfort to read about others having sad moments and emotions and open wounds. My husband seems to think I’m an anomaly.

    Sorry. But aren’t we allowed to be sad about things sometimes? I guess it’s when things are more sad than glad that’s a problem.

    looking forward to hearing about the graduation!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Erin! You are decidedly NOT an anomaly. If I have learned anything from blogging, from being vulnerable here, it is that we ALL have stuff, hard stuff, tricky stuff, and we all deal with our stuff in different – not better, not worse – ways. For me, the wine was becoming too much and was detracting from my happiness and so I walked away from it for a time. I imagine I will go back to it, but only if I can find a way to keep it in its place. I think sadness is part and parcel of life and I feel, and deeply, that it is those of us who think most deeply that often feel sadness so keenly… The upside, I feel, is that we are also maybe those who are most sliced by happiness, and joy. It is indeed a blessing and a curse to feel things so profoundly, to allow ourselves to be shaken so by the good and the bad.

      So, yes. We are allowed to be sad. I think I am going to write a whole post about this and will of course reference this little exchange.

      Thanks again!! SO happy to have connected with you, and your wonderful words, in this odd ether.

  25. Here I am. In my pajamas. Sobbing.

    Beautiful post.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much. There is something universal about this stuff, right? I think so. I think we are all porous beings fierce with affection. Thank you for reminding me of this.

  26. As someone else who’s inclination is to turn to the bottle to “numb it out” as it were, I can certainly relate to what you’re saying about a cryfest not being pretty… but in some ways, it’s kind of beautiful to be able to feel such a range of emotions.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes. Historically, I would have dipped into the wine early in the evening as a “celebratory” thing and I would have kept my glass close. And I wouldn’t have eater much. And I would have kept sipping to keep those roiling emotions at bay. But instead. I rode them. The feelings, familiar and foreign and downright tricky. And everything did bubble over before bed, but it was goodeven in its messiness because these were real things to process and I wasn’t running from them. To be able to feel the range? Absolutely beautiful, as you say. Thank you!

  27. Hugs to you for your accomplishment and for those of your little ones. Very bittersweet time you are going through. Ellen

  28. Change is hard! Especially those bittersweet moments that we have as parents. We are proud, but their milestones are reminders that time is moving too fast.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, it moves too fast sometimes, but there is something awe-inspiring about this too. Thank you so much, Adrienne.

  29. I really enjoyed this post – it was interesting food for thought for me because I’m the kind of person who is always so happy to get on to the next thing. I enjoy chapters closing and only much later look back and feel nostalgic. I’ve often thought that perhaps I should slow down and pay attention to these chapter endings, appreciate them, even cry for them, while they are still here. Beautifully written.

    I also really appreciated the honesty with which you wrote about giving up wine. We are so used to hearing these stories from the perspectives who have a “major drinking problem”. It is really interesting how people in our lives don’t really know how to process such information.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Shannon. I think we are all wired differently – to feel things now, or later, or never, to fixate on ends or beginnings or middles. I think all we can hope for is some kind of appreciation and awareness of what happens in life? And thank you re: the drinking thing. I am almost 5 months into this experiment, and feeling really thoughtful about all of it. I am finding myself more and more ready to discuss who I was when I was drinking more. I think there is so much universality at the core of my story, and my struggle, that it would be a shame not to explore it, you know? And you are right; people are disarmed by a story that is more subtle, not in fact about a Major Problem, but hey, that’s my story – a tale of more nuanced struggle, and self-reflection…

  30. Ado

    Oh you just described motherhood so well, at least my experience of it.
    It just sort of grabs you by the throat when you least expect it, doesn’t it?
    Wonderful post.

  31. It’s hard watching these babies grow up! I’ve been there so many times myself…. and there are more bittersweet moments to come as well!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I know – so many more of these moments to come. I better toughen up, huh? Thanks, Amanda! (Love your site, btw!)

  32. So well written. I get all of it. Change is hard for me, too.

  33. oh wow. this was soo beatifully written. i’m so moved by all of it.

  34. I’ve often said and sobbed the same thing…change is good, but it’s so hard sometimes.
    I love the honesty and the beauty of this post.

  35. having mixed emotions – having them, feeling them, trying to untangle and articulate them, is what makes us human. you having these feelings and talking about them with your children lets them know that it’s okay to feel, too – and I bet they’re having mixed emotions about endings and beginnings as well. we can’t be in the moment if we don’t let ourselves feel – you’re teaching them how to do both things. bravo.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, allowing ourselves to feel the mix, to muddle through, to tangle and untangle… all of this is so important. And, yes, I agree that it is so important for us to model this feeling and dealing for our kids. Thanks so much, Deborah. Btw, my beloved protagonist of my first novel LIFE AFTER YES is named Quinn. Love it!

  36. Brava. Feeling those raw emotions, now not masked by alcohol, is the hardest part of the continued living in recovery.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks. Feeling the emotions so purely is tricky and wonderful business. I am not sure whether the word “recovery” applies here as this is a voluntary existential/literary experiment, but I understand what you are saying! Thanks for visiting. Look forward to popping by your place!

  37. I don’t want to scare you, but cherish it, it goes by in the blink of an eye. Yesterday my daughters were twirling around in their princess gowns and today? They are marching in graduation gowns, high school and college graduations.

    But I think the good news is that just when I think those little girl days are over, along will come the grandchildren.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      This does scare me. A lot. I am not a big fan of time blurring by. Grandchildren!! A crazy, but also warming thought, no? Thanks for popping by, Bill.

  38. Rick

    I enjoyed your post. They really are special moments and of course, one can become emotional. My second born will be heading to school in the coming fall and although it’s wonderful, it makes me sad to know that he’s growing up. I love my boys and being part of their childhood!


  39. As my Little Dude is only 2.5, when I read things like this they seem so far off for me. Then again, it feels like he was born a month ago.

  40. Lasts, firsts… I’m right there with you. The sobbing, the emotion of it all. It IS too much sometimes.

  41. I’ve written about some difficult things, but could not bring myself to write about the last day of school. I’m holding it. And didn’t realize it until I read this. I am ALWAYS emotional on the last day of school. And it hurts. And it passes. And I love that you wrote this.

    Blessings to all of you for a great summer!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks so much. Yes, it was a good and full and hard day and I am so happy I wrote about it. I think it is important to acknowledge those overwhelming times, those times when everything feels like too much – even in a good way. I am realizing how helpful it is for me to write these things down, to process them and feel them in something of a disciplined fashion. And then to hear that I am far from alone in feeling these things? Icing.

  42. I totally voted for you for Yeah Write. You were robbed. The thing is that now I want to try again next week because I want to break into the top 5….that’s a problem because reading 50 blogs is hard ass work.

    I wanted to share these with you-



    I really love your blog. I think i am eligible for an honorary PhD in insecurity.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much for these words! And these links – cannot wait to check them out. It’s a lot of work to read so many blogs, but look at the fun connections that come from it 🙂

      PhD in insecurity? Indeed. Me too.

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