My two children are both officially teenagers. At this point, the activities they participate in are fairly consistent. If you have teens, you probably understand. It’s a sport like football, baseball, volleyball or track; or maybe an instrument, Scouts or a school club. Whatever the activity, they are a little more dedicated at this age. They’ve explored different things and hopefully have found a talent or interest that they stick with. The thing is, we usually have a clear idea whether are not they will keep these activities going or if we are watching the last concert, game or ceremony. As bittersweet as these events may be, we can cherish it knowing it’s the last one of the year, season, junior high or high school.
I can’t remember what took my mind to this subject, but it occurred to me that I have lost so many of the “last times” when the kids were young. As parents, we discuss the phases children go through and all the joys and the difficulties while we are smack dab in the middle of it. The phase when they are babies, then toddlers, and on to small people who are extremely demanding, yet fun! We remember the first times when those phases change. Taking steps, tasting ice cream, and for me; the first time I allowed my son to ride his bike further than he ever had!
Every child and the parenting of that child is a little different. Some very different. These “last times” may not apply to parents who didn’t co-sleep, use binkies, or may just know exactly when they expect their child to stop an activity, ready to move on to the next.
I was not that parent. I allowed my children to sleep with me and I don’t regret it. My children had binkies, bottles, baths, miniature potties, ran around outside naked, favorite toys, and many other things I could barely keep up with during those days. However, I lost the “last times.”
I don’t remember the last time my son and daughter took a bath together, or when I helped them by themselves. I can’t recall the last time either of them drank from a bottle or fell asleep in a car seat. I don’t remember the last time they played with a water hose in the mud during the summer, or the last time I saw my son play with his Hot Wheels, or my daughter talk with her stuffed animals. When did I last see them get on or off the school bus while I stood outside to make sure they were safe? I don’t remember.
It breaks my heart that I can’t remember or that I didn’t take note right then. I didn’t know I may never do “this” again or help them with “that” again.
Those young phases are filled with hard days and if you’re there, I get it — it’s hard. You possibly can’t wait to move to the next phase. When you can go to the grocery store by yourself or the bathroom or shower. Believe me, someday you will miss little fingers appearing under the door as you sit on the toilet.
We still have many “first times” and even when they are heading off to college, the military or wherever their new adult lives take them. These first times will continue to fill those holes in my heart that are missing due to tiny moments I don’t remember. As I lose the present moments to the past — and some memories as well — I know I have so many future moments that will be unforgettable.
My suggestion to those parents still with tiny people: find tolerance. When you get tired and agitated, remember it will not be like this for very long. One day the house will be quiet, your son or daughter will be leaving home, and God willing, they will wrap their arms around you and tell you, “You did good.” You will never forget that.