The last time

“You know you’re a real mom when you have peas in your purse,” I said to my friend Sarah as she opened the container of strained peas she’d brought to a dinner party to feed her baby.

We laughed for a second, but then she said something that has stayed with me ever since:

“I’ve been thinking lately about all the little things that moms do, and I wonder when it will be the ‘last time.’”

I must have looked confused because she clarified: “There’s a last time for everything. For example, when was the last time you played Barbies?”

Well, I can’t remember the very last time I played Barbies. It’s not like I sat down and said, “This is the final time I am going to let you kiss Ken.” It just kind of happened, and then I moved on to something else.

Sarah’s point was that there will come a day when she’ll put peas in her purse for the very last time, and she won’t even know it’s the last.

For days after that dinner party, I racked my brain trying to remember when the last time was that I did handstands in the hallway of my parents’ house. When was the last time I tap-danced in the kitchen or sat on my mom’s bed and told her all my problems? Can you remember the last time your dad took you on a walk or the last time your mom did your hair or the very last time you asked to borrow the car? Probably not, right?

Then I started thinking about my own children. I know there was a “last time” I put water wings on my oldest daughter, Alia, a last time that Grace asked for a note in her kindergarten lunch, a final time Ethan wanted me to watch Baby Einstein with him — but I didn’t even realize it at the time.

Sometimes I’ve wished “the last time” would come fast.  I looked forward to that final diaper, couldn’t wait until the last 3:30 a.m. feeding, and hoped I would never again have to beg the children not to take a dead grasshopper to school (because one child was screaming to keep it OUT of the car, and the others were fighting over who got to hold it).

However, there are other things I’ve lost that I never wanted to end.  My 5-year-old doesn’t make “that face” anymore that we all thought was hilarious. He doesn’t even remember what it was.  I don’t shampoo anyone else’s hair nowadays, and no one plays with our foam bath letters.  Mr. Potato Head sits in the closet, in pieces, the last set of training wheels are in the garbage, and my daughters have even packed up their own Barbies into plastic bins, to be saved for their children.

And now that I think even more about it, I realize that for all the new advancements that happen each day in our home (learning to spell, use a sewing machine, shoot a three-pointer . . . ), we’re leaving an equal number of things behind.

It won’t be long before the Tooth Fairy’s work is done.

And someday the letters to Santa will stop.

I won’t always be scrambling a dozen eggs and dishing them onto colorful plates.

Or tucking giggling children into bed for the fourth time and insisting they go to sleep.

The spontaneous cookie-baking,

Mommy-Daughter nail-painting parties,

and clever costumes

will all come to an end.

Scout camps,

trips to the ice cream parlor,

and sweet potatoes on the front porch

won’t always be my reality.

That’s just how it’s meant to be.

So I’ve decided I’m going to savor every hug, every phone call with my mom, every school pick-up, every sweet question, every scowl, and every runny nose. Because even though I feel like the challenges of motherhood will never end, these precious moments just might be here for the very last time.

QUESTION: What’s happening in your home right now that you want to cherish — in case it’s the last time?

CHALLENGE: If you start feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with your current circumstances, try to shift your perspective and consider what parts of your life you will really miss someday. Then live those moments.

3 comments

  1. Heather

    This made me tear up! My daughter is not even one year old yet and already I am getting nostalgic about things with her. Our latest thing is that she has a hard time going to sleep on her own, and I get frustrated when it takes forever to get her to sleep. But I know that when the day comes that I no longer hold her and have her smile up at me in the middle of the night, I will be sad and miss the late night rocking chair moments we have together. Thanks for the reminder that childhood doesn’t last forever and to savor the moments.

  2. Connie b.

    My two daughters are grown, one married and in college, the other away to college. Tonight my husband and I, along with our three sons, stood in the kitchen laughing about what one of my sons was texting to a friend. My boys are 18, 16 and 13. The two oldest are tall and the 13 year old is not far from hitting his growth spurt. As I watched my three boys all standing together in the kitchen around my 16 year old’s phone, laughing about a good-natured joke – I soaked it in. My 18 will leave to join his sister at college in January. I recognized that this casual togetherness will not be as common soon, but I also know that while there are “last times” in a mother’s life there are also “first times” ahead to gladden a mother’s heart.

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