The Last Time

There was a time when my oldest daughter would not go to bed unless I rocked her in my arms. I would stand in the middle of her room and cradle her, rocking ever so slightly until she fell asleep on me. My arms would ache and my back would hurt every single time, but I would force myself to ignore those pains. I would just focus on my daughter and the mission to get her to sleep. As the minutes ticked by I’d watch her eyes get heavy and eventually she would drift off to sleep. I distinctly remember the last time she wanted me to do this for her. As I rocked her, she looked at me and pointed to her crib.  She wanted me to lay her down instead this time. I put her in her crib as she wished and stood on the other side of her room waiting to see if maybe she would change her mind and want me to hold her again.  She shuffled a bit, curled up and fell asleep all on her own. A tear ran down my face as I realized she didn’t need me to rock her anymore. Where did my baby go? Even though I rocked her every night for a year, I would have given anything to do it just one last time.  I was very emotionally unprepared for it. I felt robbed.

This moment made me think back on how many lasts I completely overlooked. I can’t remember the last time my daughter woke up at 2a.m. for a bottle, or the last time I wiped drool off her chin from teething. I can’t remember the exact moment her newborn scent faded away. I know there will be many more of these endings to come, but I fear that I won’t know that they are the lasts until they are long gone. By the time I realize it I’ll yet again have little memory of when the ending actually came.  

That’s when it really hit me that these days are numbered. This time is fleeting. I focused so much on my daughter’s firsts that I rarely paid any attention to her lasts.  Her first tooth, first word, first steps. Every one of her firsts is recorded in some way and marked as milestones.  I feel ashamed to admit that I have neglected to appreciate what she has left behind as she has grown.  The scary part is that I will have no clue that it will be the last time when it comes. A last time I will wipe a dirty face or give her a bath. A last lullaby. I won’t know enough to pay attention or appreciate the moment as if it were the last time. I get scared to think of all the precious times I’ve missed from hurrying through our routine and not really being present for each moment. What if it really was the last time my daughter wanted me to carry her or hold her hand? By the time I realized it, it would be too late.

You never know when it will be the last time your child will need you or want you. The last time you kiss a “boo-boo” and somehow it makes it all better. The last time your child gets so excited to see you and runs into your arms when you pick them up from daycare or school. The last time you will carry your child from the car to the house because they fell asleep during the commute. They are only little for such a short amount of time. That is why you should cherish every moment for what it is because after all, it could very well be the last time. 

Now, let’s be real here.  I know there are going to be days where I will be frustrated and impatient. Days where I am overwhelmed and angry. There will be days where I can’t wait until bedtime because I want the day to be over. I’m not going to be this blissful every moment of every day, even though I wish I could be.  During those hard times though, I hope that I can think back to this mindset, the one I have now, and remind myself that these moments will not last forever. I hope that I can open my mind to see the bigger picture and realize how fast it all really is. I want to be able to tell myself to not take any of these days for granted because some day all of these “raising small children” duties will end and I am going to miss it. Every single bit of it.