#MomLife: Milestone Birthdays

Since I have been a mom, September has been a busy month for us. Both of my children were born in September and my husband’s birthday is also this month. Well this year felt a bit different than past years because we had two milestone birthdays. Cadence turned 16 and Nathan turned 13. 

I remember my labor and delivery like it was yesterday. Cadence was eight days past my due date and didn’t want to come out into the world, so we had to force her out with induction. At that point I didn’t have anything to compare labor to so I remember wondering if all the pain was worth it in the end. 

I was in active labor with her for 14 1/2 hours. Once I heard those baby cries all the pain went away and everything in my life was different. I felt different, I thought differently, I acted differently. I was now a mom. Sixteen years ago I imagined what Cadence would be like when she turned 16. And I’m here to tell you that she has blown my expectations away. She is a kind human. She is responsible. She loves fiercely. She is one of a kind.

I always imagined what her Sweet 16 Birthday party would be like. What would she wear? Would we have it in a fancy location? Would it be a huge production? Or would it be low key with just a few friends and family? This year for her 16th birthday she wanted to go on a trip instead of having a big birthday bash. If you know me, then you know how much I love birthdays and throwing parties. So at first I was a little hesitant about the idea, but after some consideration and planning I was excited to see new places, and go on a road trip with her and her girlfriend. 

She chose to go in a big road trip circle and first visiting Tulsa, Oklahoma then Memphis, Tennessee, and our last stop was Nashville, Tennessee. I even got to experience a little bit of a dream of mine and drive down Route 66! It was a great way to celebrate her turning 16 and now that I think about it, I wasn’t really as sad as I thought I would be about not throwing her a Sweet 16 party. 

Turning 16 is a milestone because it means you are old enough to operate a vehicle, you can get a job, and you’re only two short years away from being a legal adult. I struggled with this birthday because it means I only have a short time left with her before she leaves the bird’s nest that I have worked so hard to build. Cadence is growing up guys. And I have no choice but to either embrace it or sit in the corner and cry because the baby that I gave birth to 16 years ago is no longer a baby that I can keep warm and safe, swaddled up to my chest. 


Even though I haven’t fully processed the fact that one of my children is growing up, another milestone birthday crept up on me. Nathan turned 13. Officially a teenager. No longer considered a little kid, he is now entering that awkward stage of joining the teen world.

If you have read any of my past columns then you might remember that Nathan was diagnosed with Autism and a few other things when he was two and a half years old. When we received the news of his diagnosis I remember wondering what his world would look like now that he had a disability. Would he be able to manage his Autism? How hard would it be for him to function in a society that is not always accepting of people with disabilities and what would he be like when he is a teenager and then an adult?

Teenage Nathan is so much fun and he continues to surprise me with the strides he has made to become the boy he is now. I know he only turned 13 a few days ago but the growth in him is astounding. When he was younger I didn’t know what life would look like for him. But now I can see that he is a warrior and he fights his way through life to be able to come out on top. And he is a good kid. A really good kid. He is kind, compassionate, funny and he is now officially a teenager. 

The Hightree house now has two teenagers living in it and Leif and I are in for some changes that I’m not sure we are prepared for. Soon Cadence will be driving away from us and heading to her next adventure, and then we will have to face Nathan learning to drive and becoming a more independent person and he too will want to leave our nest. And then what? What is our next move? If you think about it, we really only have five more years of childhood left before we are the parents of two adults. I can’t help but think about how fast the past 16 years have gone by, the next five will be here in no time. 

I haven’t fully accepted the fact that my kids are growing up faster than I can think about it. I wrote this column to try and help me put into words the way I am feeling right now. But ultimately time is moving, and if I don’t accept it then it will leave me behind and I will miss the next milestone birthdays we have coming up. Ready or not Steph, you now have two years to think about and digest the fact that Cadence is almost 18.

Spoiler alert: I’m not ready for that.

Steph Hightree is a hot mess mom who is fueled by stress and too much caffeine. She is a Three Rivers native who talks about the good, the bad, and well, everything else about parenthood.

Any views or opinions expressed in “#MomLife” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.