When You Only Have 1 Year Left


My oldest son Oscar turned 17 this week. We celebrated and enjoyed the day (even though it snowed) and somehow I wasn’t the crying mess that I usually am when I think too hard about my babies getting older. But if we’re being real, Oscar turning 17 also marked a milestone in my countdown – because I’m full of all the feelings I feel “when you only have 1 year left”.

I’m not going for ‘morbid’ with this post – more like – realistic, practical, and hopefully helpful.

“1 year left….” what do I mean? No, my son is not ill. In fact, he’s a happy, healthy, athletic high school junior, who hopes to pursue his dreams of playing baseball in college and beyond.

Oscar’s future and all of his potential makes my heart swell with excitement and pride, but literal Katie is perfectly clear that, for all intents and purposes, I only have 1 year left with my oldest son.

  • 1 year left before he’s an adult in the eyes of the world (oh em geeee!)
  • 1 year left where my husband and I can raise him and prepare him for adulthood (we still have work to do!!!)
  • (Possibly) 1 year left where he lives with us full-time (all my kids under one roof!)

This ‘1 year left’ mentality isn’t new to me. I got this feeling when Oscar started high school. Back then it was obviously a ‘4 years left’ mentality and while it might seem a little unhealthy to be focused on a countdown, it really helps me keep perspective to make sure I’m not letting time slip away from me. I don’t want to look back on my son’s (sometimes moody) teenage and high school years with parenting regrets. I don’t want to feel ‘woulda, coulda’ about this age and my relationship with Oscar.

I had Oscar when I was 19 so we’ve literally grown up together. And we sure as shit know how to antagonize the crap out of each other. Good luck to anyone who gets stuck with me and O in the car if we’re at each other’s throats LOL. My husband Todd literally has to separate us sometimes, and my mom threatens to put me and O in separate corners when we get into it at her house.

I won’t lie; there are a lot of days where Oscar is in a good mood and I’m too busy with work or the little kids, and don’t make enough time for him. Or vice versa, maybe I’m feeling balanced, refreshed, inspired to do something fun and he is moping around like a ‘brown cloud’ (code word for debbie downer in our house). There are so many days where we only see each other for an hour or less and if our moods aren’t in sync a whole week can fly by without a meaningful interaction. I have been determined to make sure that feeling was the exception for peak busy times, not the norm.

Knowing that we have a limited amount of time left together, my number one priority is to not let a chunk of time fly by where Oscar and I aren’t getting along. I try to live by the advice I’ve heard at plenty of bridal showers “Never go to bed angry”. Between his practices, his homework, his volunteer work, and my demanding career, my other children, and my sleeping disorder, Oscar and I miss each other at night quite often but we’ll never go more than two days without talking through whatever problem we had.

If circumstances work in our favor, and Oscar is offered the opportunity to go to school, play baseball, and live on campus somewhere, I will be so excited for him to experience college life, pursue his education, and continue his baseball career. But to be honest, I don’t know how I will handle it. I’m far too familiar with ’empty nest syndrome’ and watching moms and dads fall apart when their kid(s) leave for college.

So while it might not be the right choice for everyone to have this countdown mentality, it has helped me to appreciate the small things and day-to-day moments unique to our family — like watching reruns of Impractical Jokers or The Office; celebrating Taco Tuesdays (and the recently adopted Weenie Wednesdays); along with the chaos of picking what kind of cereal or frozen waffles everyone wants for breakfast; randomly stopping at Dairy Queen because someone is craving ice cream; the monotonous weekly routine of cleaning up the yard to mow on Saturdays; or a relaxing Sunday night bonfire to gaze at the stars and talk about our weekend.

Knowing that I have limited time with Oscar before he goes off into the world next year helps me remember that ‘these are the days’ and a year will come and go quicker than I can imagine, and I don’t want to forget what life is like right now, while Oscar and all my kiddos live under one roof.

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.


Katie Helgesen

Katie Helgesen is the Senior Director of Business Intelligence at Dealer Inspire, a fast-growing and award winning technology company near Chicago. Katie and her husband, Todd, have 4 awesome kids and love living in a small community centered on a lake in northwest Indiana. Baseball, t-ball, and soccer schedules are just a few pieces of Katie’s Mom Hustle. Her daydreams revolve around finding more “me time” and traveling. In real life, Katie keeps herself sane with naps, Netflix and eating out as often as she can.