When my five children were young and we ventured into public, well-meaning older women would smile at whatever delights or horrors my children were committing at the moment and almost longingly say, “It goes by so fast…”
And I, ever practical, would respond:
“Some days that’s what I’m counting on!”
In fact, on difficult days, I have often said, “Parenting is for the birds!” Because birds have got it right. As soon as those baby birds are physically able, they are tossed out of the nest, taught to fly and feed, and then forced to survive on their own. Every bird for himself. Parent birds leave no time for tantrums or temperamental teens. Their children are out of the nest and on their own almost as soon as they break in their first house. Talk about childhood going by fast…
But while I do want certain parenting moments to pass quickly, I am finding myself remembering the fonder or funnier moments with such tenderness that I am making a point to notice the “lasts” in my one remaining child’s life. (The rest are alive and well but are now adults.)
We make such a big deal about our children’s “firsts” in life: first bottle, first time sleeping through the night, first Christmas, first tooth, first birthday, first haircut, first time pooping on the potty, first night out of the crib, first lost tooth, first day of school… first day of high school … first day of adulthood…
But we often don’t recognize our children’s “lasts” until they are gone.
On Friday, I drove my son to school for the last time. Next year, he should have his license, a car, and the freedom to drive himself. I won’t miss driving Mr. I Don’t Want to Get Up, Mr. What’s for Breakfast?, Mr. I Don’t Want That, Mr. Can We Stop at McDonalds?, Mr. Make Me Late Daily, and, overall, Mr. Irritable. At all. But I will miss my son. I will miss our deeper conversations, our question/answer study drills for his various quizzes and tests, his thankfulness when we do stop at McDonalds, and his finer moments.
The same way I miss reading him a bedtime story, praying with him, and tucking him into bed at night. (Now I go to bed earlier than he does.) The same way I miss being the person he most wanted to please. (Now his friends have that role.) The same way I miss getting a hug in public. (Now he’s too cool for that.)
I had enough sense to enjoy those moments as long as I could, because I had experienced the sudden “lasts” of my older children. I remember being tired and feeling rushed but still taking the time to do our bedtime rituals–because I knew they wouldn’t last forever. I knew those moments would go by fast.
But I don’t remember the date of the last time I tucked my son into bed after a bedtime story or even the name of the book we last read (over and over again). I have no picture to commemorate his last lost tooth. Or his last ride to school with me.
But I do have a treasure box of memories in my heart–and the lesson life teaches:
Your children’s childhood does go by fast. Don’t miss a moment.