“Cherish every moment? You’ve got to be kidding.”
The sweet older lady at the grocery store had just admired my baby. “She’s precious,” she told me kindly. “Cherish every moment with her. You’ll blink, and she’ll be all grown up.”
I hope I smiled and nodded politely. I hope I understood, deep down, what she was really trying to say. But what I remember thinking was, “Please. I’m exhausted. The moment I’m cherishing most is the next one when I can take a nap.”
Now, that baby is a college sophomore, and her younger sister—our second and last baby—is a high school sophomore. My grocery-store-with-baby days feel like they were just yesterday and a hundred years ago.
As a mom, I’ve been all the way around with so many of the big firsts and lasts with my oldest. We’ve checked off her first bath and her last day of preschool and her first dance class and her last Sunday in kids’ church and her first band concert (which, in retrospect, was a squeak-fest but sounded to us like a symphony) and her last walk down the hallways of her high school. In all of these, I rode the wave of mom emotions: pride, joy, nostalgia, awe—and a longing to hang on to what was familiar colliding with the absolute certainty that it was good and right to let go.
I’m not sure I celebrated and savored these firsts and lasts enough. I gave them their due. I held them in my heart. But in the back of my mind, I always had the comforting thought that I’d probably get to do them again with our last child. I was always reassured by the idea that I’d have another chance to hit what I missed. I was consumed with sadness about being done with these beginnings and endings because I didn’t feel I was truly done with them. If our first baby is our “learner child,” our second baby is our do-over child.
Of course I know tomorrow is promised to no one. Of course I know anything could happen. But still, I always counted on the hope that I’d have another go-around, another opportunity to feel finished with these moments on my motherhood timeline.
Now, as my youngest child is already starting to talk about how she won’t be on the bottom rung of the high school ladder this fall, I’m being hit with the realization that we’re in the season of last firsts and last lasts. The sense of finality makes me feel a little panicky. What have I missed? Have I been paying enough attention? Is it too late to cherish every moment before we merge into a different season and shift into a new way of doing family and parenting?
I’m feeling a little stunned by the awareness that this is it. No more go-arounds. No more next times. No more do-overs or do-agains.
We’re long done with
The last first day of kindergarten and the last last day of elementary school.
The last first and last last day of middle school (thank God).
The last first day of high school.
And we’re staring down the road at the last last day . . . and I know that it will get here in what will feel like barely any time at all.
There are the pieces of daily or weekly life that we’ve got far fewer to go on. How many more of these ordinary moments do we have?
How many more weeknight family dinners?
How many more Sundays sitting in the same pew at church?
How many more mornings with my daughters sharing the bathroom mirror?
How many more weekends up at the lake?
How many more trips to the store when I buy groceries for three or four?
How many more nights when all the beds in the house are being slept in?
This realization makes me want to soak in every moment a little more deeply.
It makes me want to take one extra picture.
It makes me want to pause a while longer.
It makes me want to memorize another detail.
It makes me want to appreciate one more “usual” day.
Maybe the realization that I’m nearing the end of a season should make me sadder than it does, but mostly it makes me grateful. Grateful for where we’ve been. Grateful for where we’re going. Grateful that there is so much good to be a little sad about leaving behind.
I’m more glad than sad during this season of last lasts because if there’s one thing I’ve learned while I’ve been accumulating my mom mileage, it’s this: as parents, for all the places we’ve been with our children, there are still more places to go.
For all that is done, there is still more to do.
For all the last lasts, there are new first firsts waiting for us.
For all the moments that are behind us, there are still more ahead of us.
And when we get to those moments, I’ll do my best, after all, to cherish them.