Monday, January 19, 2015

The Last Time

I think this parenting poem went viral on Facebook over the summer, so all of you readers who aren't complete troglodytes please forgive me if you've seen it before.

I'm just now beginning to explore Facebook through the blog's page, and apparently I have a lot of catching up to do.

Generally, I'm not a huge poetry fan because the potential to get cheesy increases by about 500% when switching to prose form. There's a little cheesiness here, but skim it and bear with me.

(I promise we'll have a fantastic little discussion at the end. It'll be like a book club, but one where everyone actually read the book because it's only 26 lines long.)

The Last Time
From the moment you hold your baby in your arms, you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
when you had freedom and time and nothing in particular to worry about.
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before
and days will run into days that are exactly the same:
Full of feedings and burping, nappy changes and crying,
whining and fighting, naps or lack of naps
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.
But don’t forget…
There is a last time for everything.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day, and it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down and never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath at night and from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles
and it will be the last night you ever wake to this.
One afternoon you will sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and do all the actions then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate then the next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.
The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
until there are no more times… and even then, it will take you a while to realize.
So while you are living in these times, remember there are only so many of them and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.
For one last time.

You can take a moment to dry your eyes and collect yourselves if you need to. I'll wait. 

The first time I read this poem, it sort of broke my mommy heart. It's depressing to think of the adorable, squishable baby and toddler years going away, especially if I'm not even going to realize until it's too late.

The Last Time -- For every 'last' in a child's life, there's also a 'first.' And it's usually awesome.
This is as good a place as any for a food analogy.

But even though it sounds sad in theory, it actually isn't all that bad. As much as I sincerely do love the baby years, I think watching their personalities emerge as your kids get older is even cooler.

My oldest daughter is now 10, meaning that she outgrew "The Wheels on the Bus" a long time ago and I don't remember the last time I carried her to bed in a dead sleep. 

Those days are long gone.

Still, I just don't feel that aching feeling when I think about her "lasts" because they're replaced with so many "firsts:"
  • The first car ride playing music that didn't have goofy sound effects and wasn't about talking animals or recycling.
  • The first joke she told that made sense and was actually funny. (Although I was partial to "Why did the skeleton cross the road?" "Because he didn't have any bones!")
  • The first normal adult conversation we had together. By that I mean a 15+ minute talk consisting of all real words that are found in the dictionary.
  • The first book or movie we both sincerely enjoyed, and I didn't even have to fake it.
  • The first breakfast where she made waffles for everyone and cleaned up after herself.
  • The first time she asked for help with her math homework and I had no clue what the answer was. (Okay, that was a little embarrassing because it happened in like, 3rd grade.)

When she can finally babysit for us, I think my joy will be complete.

I understand that "The Last Time" is about mindful parenting and being in the moment and all that zen stuff, which I am completely in favor of doing.

I just don't spend too much time dwelling on what my daughter has outgrown. Mostly because I'm enjoying each new stage, but probably also because I'm busy organizing pet crayfish funerals and cleaning entire tubes of toothpaste off the bathroom mirror.

It could be that my daughter isn't quite old enough for this poem to really stab me in the heart like it's meant to.

It could also be that because I have younger children, I still spend plenty of time wiping noses and cleaning spaghetti off the floor. Maybe what's really going to sting is my last time doing those things, not theirs.

Maybe I'm just a young and naive mom, and I'll eat every single one of my words in the future. But right now, I'm not too worried about all the "lasts" because the "firsts" are even better.

And if not, there's always grandkids.

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Megan said...

I absolutely love this post!

normaleverydaylife said...

I have a college daughter and a high school son, as well as fifth and sixth graders. I can see the poem's perspective, but I identify more with your thoughts. I've always had younger kids (and a lot of them), so I haven't bemoaned every last. Frequently, I've cheered by the time the youngest ones have done it. I also enjoy seeing the people my kids are becoming and having more adult conversations. That said, I don't think you ever stop missing the innocent baby years. They are a very special time!

Anonymous said...

I think the poem should be posted near the mom at all times when she is ready to crazy. I mean, how many times does a mom think their child will NEVER do things by themselves. Ironically, the ways you get through those tough times now when the kids are young is you have to tell yourself they will not stay that way forever. They will change. Every day is a new experience. Child rearing is not static.

Jenny Evans said...

So funny how it really does seem like it will last forever. When my oldest was a baby she wouldn't sleep without being swaddled for a reeeeeallly long time (I think she was over a year old!) I remember seriously wondering if her roommate at college was going to have to wrap her up in a bedsheet every night!

Jenny Evans said...

I agree, there's nothing like a baby.

Unknown said...

After reading another post on this subject, lamenting the loss of the baby years, I'm so glad that you have spun it to the positives - after all there are good and bad bits to each age and stage I'm sure so let's focus on the good times! X #sharewithme

Let's Talk Mommy said...

I love this and so true. While we miss the baby years there is so much to look forward to in all the other stages of life too. You have said it perfectly here. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

Unknown said...

I love this post, and I have to agree with you. There's no need to lament on the lasts of things because there's still plenty of things to look forward to. Yes, it's sad to see those moments go, but the trade-off is far better. As long as I can watch my daughter grow, I'm fine of letting of her lasts and welcoming her firsts. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

What a beautiful post and discussion too. And I think you are right. we would be sad all the time if we thought of everything as 'the last'. 'Firsts' is a much more positive way to look at life.
All my mascara is now down my face and I need to go and wipe it!!!


heather said...

Another benefit to having a large family: postpone the lasts! We took Levi to kindergarten registration and the principal asked all parents whose child was their first to go to kindergarten to raise their hands. Then he asked all those parents whose last child was going to kindergarten to raise their hands. He never even mentioned the fact the someone might have more than two children to bring to kindergarten. My only consolation about my baby turning 1 next month is knowing that we plan to have at least one more. Well, and the fact that she's starting to say Mama. That's a fantastic first!

Unknown said...

I really struggled with 'the lasts' until I got a surprise baby and now, I am finally okay with it most days, well except for ones like today when another school year is coming to a close and my oldest just got a driver's license!

Jenny Evans said...

You mean you didn't know about the "two kids per family" law??

Anonymous said...

Great spin!!
And yes, always the grands coming!!
They take away all the pain! ;)

Anonymous said...

Cherish the baby years. They will be the only time in your child's life that you get to share every moment of before they set sail towards shores where you cannot go without invitation. Trust that if you have given them the gifts of roots and wings, all will be well.